Despite marketers lacking confidence in it, spend on programmatic advertising throughout 2016 is expected to reach £2.67 billion, representing a 44% hike on last year.

That’s according to eMarketer, which also points to automated media-buying to account for a landmark 75% of all digital display bought by the end of 2017. Currently that figure sits at 70%.

As programmatic continues to mature, we could also see a change in the balance of which attributes are seen to be most effective. Real-time bidding (RTB), currently the favoured option, looks to be outrun by programmatic direct – a pre-negotiated approach which doesn’t involve bidding.

This year marketers will spend £1.33 billion on each solution, however eMarketer reports that by 2018 programmatic direct will account for over half (52%) of total spend, reaching £2.03 billion.

“Much of the programmatic direct total is accounted for by social media ad impressions, which are predominantly traded this way,” explained eMarketer UK analyst Bill Fisher, adding that it’s now increasingly offering advertisers more certainty outside of social.  

“Even within the RTB total, private marketplaces – small, invitation-only auctions – are becoming increasingly prevalent as people seek more control over the programmatic trading function,” he added.

Mobile booms, video lags

The same report found that mobile advertising, an ‘offspring’ of the programmatic era, is estimated to take almost three quarters, or £1.99 billion, of total programmatic display ad spend throughout 2016.

“The story here isn’t surprising,“ said Fisher. “Eyeballs have moved to mobile and ad spend has followed. All the while, programmatic has been around in the background, so it’s little wonder we’re seeing mobile programmatic taking off in such a big way.”

Despite rapid investment into private video marketplaces, the portion of this medium traded programmatically this year will sit at just 51%, victim to lacking supplies in premium inventory at present, while forecasted to overtake growth on mobile within the next few years.

Despite the growth across most areas in programmatic, confidence in the ability of programmatic to deliver value for money has dropped this year, from 95% in 2015 to 86%. Many, however, believe this is only a symptom of a channel maturing.