Despite the hype around the automated-buying technique, research by digital agency Theorem found programmatic to account for just 8% total media spend in the UK. As part of overall marketing spend, that figure falls to sub 1%.
So what’s putting the brakes on programmatic’s adoption and implementation?

A survey by PerformanceIN found that behind a lack of understanding among advertisers, and concerns over viewability and ad fraud, a programmatic skills shortage is another factor restricting programmatic’s uptake in the UK. 

PerformanceIN spoke to Renzo Dipasquale, vice president, self-serve and enterprise at AcuityAds following the launch of its ‘Hybrid Programmatic Program’, who suggests how marketers can make steps to overcome the education gap around programmatic buying, and how they can maximise efficiency and negate the need for middle-men by bringing the technology under their own roofs. 

Firstly, what about programmatic technology makes it such a complex learning curve for the marketing industry as a whole? 

Renzo Dipasquale: As with any new technology, there is an implicit learning curve as users become accustomed to new tools and tactics. Over the past six to seven years, as RTB [real-time bidding] and automated methodologies of media buying have become more common, marketers have been forced to adapt to remain competitive. 

The layers of intermediaries, targeting vehicles and media quality assurance practices that comprise programmatic platform technology make them very complex systems. Couple this with a lack of sufficient onboarding and training on the part of the technology providers and the learning curve can appear to be quite steep. 

A report by Turn last month found that on the creative side, just 11% of small agencies were “confident” in their understanding of programmatic. What are the consequences of not everyone in the supply-chain being unified in their understanding of the format? 

RD: Programmatic marketing acts as a well-oiled machine when all components work together and operate with the same understanding of appropriate practices and regulations. It’s important to consider that the execution of digital programs via technology platforms impacts the publisher as they do the advertiser and everyone in between. If marketers don’t have a confident understanding of programmatic technology, they risk running campaigns that aren’t delivering the right value, wasting time and money, degrading existing publisher relationships, etc. That could come as a result of targeting the wrong audiences, running the wrong content, or not having the insight into their results that would allow them to keep campaigns running effectively. 

Companies are now actively seeking to educate themselves around programmatic, in order to negate the need for agency middle-men. What’s the advantage of bringing it in-house?

RD: Bringing programmatic in-house gives marketers total control over exactly how campaigns are run, and real-time visibility into performance. This means they can react immediately to successes and failures or pivot should need be, with the freedom to make quick decisions that support business objectives. Beyond control and flexibility, cost transparency and savings are very important elements in self-serve programmatic. Self-serve eliminates high margins on media and exposes a direct line between the campaign and its ROI. 

Is it not just simpler and more cost-effective to leave it to the professionals, who know what they’re doing? 

RD: As time goes on, digital marketing and the execution of digital programs will become just as commonplace as any form of advertising ever was or will be. Owning the skills in-house to effectively operate the technology that makes digital advertising possible will become a necessity and not a nice to have. This being said, those brands that can afford to allow agencies to conduct this work on their behalf will likely continue to do so, although we believe that a team member proficient in programmatic marketing will become standard fare in all brand marketing departments. 

As the Association of National Advertisers’ report on media transparency pointed out, marketers should have greater control over their programmatic platforms, even if they are ultimately in the hands of their agencies, to ensure better transparency in media spend. 

How can companies make steps to educate themselves and their employees around programmatic? 

RD: Ensure they’re signing up for a platform that provides not just training, but custom onboarding tailored to exactly where the marketing team sits in the spectrum of programmatic understanding.

Select a platform that has an intuitive user interface and offers the right level of customisation to match the needs of their campaigns. The right technological fit will aid the marketing team’s adoption of programmatic by providing them with exactly what they need. 

Ensure there is access to real-time, in-depth reporting and analytics. Marketers need to know exactly how their campaigns are progressing at any given time, so that they can ‘learn by doing’ and improve their campaigns on the fly. 

Are we likely to see a younger breed of ‘programmatic-ready’ marketers enter the fray, as the format continues to mature and digital marketing degree courses and training adapt?

RD: Most definitely. As mentioned previously, digital advertising is on a steady and consistent rise. Just as social media has become a degree of study at the university and college level, programmatic marketing and advertising technology is following suit and professionals qualified in these specific realms of marketing study will become increasingly more common.

Broadly, what will be the medium-term impact on digital marketing as a result of a wider understanding and education around programmatic?  

RD: As industry players, we believe a wider understanding and education around programmatic will spark more consistent brand investment in programmatic programs and the establishment of best practices that make marketers more comfortable using the technology.