Confidence in the ability of programmatic to deliver value for money has taken a dip since 2015, from 95% to 86%, despite a drop in the perception of associated risk.

This comes as part of a global survey of 107 digital marketing professionals by ExchangeWire and OpenX, showing that growing concerns over viewability are leading a portion of marketers to question the worth of automated media buying.

Nicolas Bidon, CEO of programmatic ad platform Xaxis, believes programmatic has fallen victim to its rapid uptake, with climbing rates of CPM enough to shift perspectives on value.

Bidon adds: “At the other end of the scale, less experienced marketers and buyers may have finally come to the realisation that cheap CPMs do not necessarily equate to value, especially with the increased industry awareness about some of the low viewability and fraud issues that unfortunately still exist in some parts of the programmatic ecosystem.”

The prevailing attitude evident in the study even expands to private marketplaces (PMPs) – often taken for granted as a route to better quality impressions – which saw a 61% year-on-year increase in respondents claiming that “poor quality traffic always finds a way through”.

‘Serious’ issue on mobile

While on desktop the perception of risk with programmatic fell within the last year, on mobile the trend was reversed. In fact, the majority of marketers consider the risk linked to marketplace quality for both mobile display and video to be a “serious” issue, whereas last year an overwhelming portion regarded the same issue as “somewhat serious” to behold.

“The findings demonstrate growing anxiety with emerging formats, with quality seen as less of an issue in the now well-established desktop market, but an increasingly serious issue in mobile,” commented OpenX’s vice president of marketplace quality, John Murphy.

According to Murphy, this may explain why viewability, an ongoing “area of difficulty” within mobile advertising, has appeared to climb up the agenda for marketers as a whole. However, he also points out that applying the “well-established” rules and best practices of desktop programmatic to mobile are “inadequate”.

Murphy said: “This highlights the need for brands, publishers, industry leaders and demand partners to work collectively on a mobile-specific solution that will improve traffic quality and increase viewability levels.”

Publisher perspective

An additional takeaway from the study is that publishers show more concern about the shortfalls of programmatic than their media-buying counterparts.

According to ExchangeWire’s head of research & analytics, Rebecca Muir, this is because publishers have “just one chance to monetise their content”, while media buyers are able to shift budget from channel to channel to optimise their investment.

To varying degrees, 63% of media owners were in agreement that programmatic is high risk compared to other channels due to “traffic concerns”, while just over three quarters of media buyers (76%) claimed that concerns over quality hadn’t caused them to reduce or halt investment in programmatic.

Confidence to “rise again”

Concerns over the quality of interactions in programmatic are highest within APAC markets. The head of programmatic at digital agency Essence, Oscar Garza’s said the outcome of the study demonstrates natural symptoms of a maturing channel following a rush to automation over the last three years.

“In my experience many participants in the programmatic ecosystem did not have the measurement or technology in place to identify the impressions of the highest quality. Many have fallen prey to fraud, unsafe brand exposure, and poor return for this reason.”

Additionally, and stemming from what could be an education issue, Bidon stated a belief that confidence “will rise again” as marketers realise the tools and processes available to them to help ensure guaranteed quality to the media they are buying.

“This should help them take full advantage of the opportunities and potential that programmatic trading offers, namely a more efficient way to purchase and less wastage in their buys due to buying the wrong audience for their campaign objectives,” he added.