Everyone involved in the digital media industry knows the positive impact that programmatic buying of display ads has had on online campaigns. And it is only going to get bigger. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted that spending on real-time bidding (RTB) for display advertising will accelerate at a growth rate of 59% up until 2016, making it the fastest growing area of the digital advertising market over the next few years.

A recent report from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) further cements the role of programmatic buying within the industry, showing that within the next two years 91% of advertisers and 83% of publishers expect to be using programmatic. But what is next? Undoubtedly, we will continue to see the adoption of programmatic across multi-channel platforms, but we are also going to see advertisers becoming more interested in dynamic attribution. Media channels do not work in isolation, we are seeing advanced advertisers acknowledge this and are using third parties to analyse the ways in which different media channels impact one another. Moving away from a biased last touch attribution model. 

It is interesting to see that the adoption of RTB for branding has been slower than I had expected. But this is starting to change. There has been a mind shift amongst brand marketers which has seen them stop focusing on where the content is, and instead focus on who is looking at that content. They are now buying audiences, rather than placements. Traditionally, brand marketers would have purchased TV slots based on the guarantee they received as to who their ad would reach. This idea has now come across to video and online ads with an audience guarantee as to who will see what. Our job is to continue to demonstrate to brand marketers the effectiveness of audience targeting.

What has brought on this change towards RTB and why can brands no longer ignore the benefits?  

Firstly, high quality inventory is now widely available and as more ad tech companies work closer with publishers and exchanges, more options will continue to become available and strengthened, such as Facebook Exchange (FBX). With more options constantly becoming available, the benefits of RTB are now even easier to take advantage of.

Secondly, and probably of most significance to marketers, brand safety requirements are constantly being updated to ensure that ads are not shown on inappropriate sites. Leading companies have technologies in place that use keyword filtering to block sites in real time that are unsafe or potentially offensive before a bid is placed.

Finally, RTB can help improve various aspects that contribute to the performance of a campaign. Take, for example, audience optimisation. In previous campaigns, target audiences would be defined and the objective to deliver as many ads to that audience at the best possible price would be set. However, utilising Big Data and Artificial Intelligence means that companies are now able to optimise the audience in real-time. Big Data and AI enable brand marketers to gain instant insights into their potential customer base so that they can see which audiences are being more receptive to an ad campaign, and which creative and messaging is performing strongest. They can then apply these insights across other channels, which allows the goals and objectives to be updated as the campaign progresses, which in turn increases ROI and provides better insights to the advertiser as to who is seeing and responding to the campaign. 

We are seeing that marketers are starting to think differently about how their campaigns can be executed on a programmatic level. The creative element of a campaign now needs to be able to adapt to complement the environment it appears in. The next big step is that we are going to be seeing ad variations which are personalised for each consumer through prospecting and re-targeting based on the person’s web browsing behaviour, past purchases and location. Previously this has been a manual approach, but the innovative machine-learning algorithms will open a number of new opportunities for marketers to reach their consumers.

2014 has already been a breakthrough year for the programmatic industry, with marketers starting to think more about the opportunities available to their brands and beginning to develop innovative campaigns to be run in a programmatic context. I think towards the end of this year we will see a significant increase in the level of understanding marketers have towards the power of programmatic in order to drive brand objectives. We will also see an increase in audience guarantee technologies and dynamic attribution and how brands with intelligent media partners are driving an increased performance across other channels. When used to its full potential, RTB enables marketers to scale their activities and engage with a wider audience.