Programmatic digital advertising, which leverages technology to automate the process of buying and selling online advertising space, is consistently on an ongoing upward trend. A recent forecast from eMarketer projects spending to increase to $133 billion, the media mix share to reach 91%, and notes that a growing, increasingly premium share of ad inventory will be transacted programmatically.
Despite this growth, the adoption of programmatic technology hasn’t been entirely equitable. Outside of search and social, open web programmatic inventory is primarily purchased by large brands and agencies. Even as it becomes the primary means of placing digital ads, access to programmatic buying for premium inventory, as well as the knowledge and ability to effectively use it, is limited to a relatively small segment.
We believe that this is an access issue that must change.
Programmatic for the Middle Market
The intricacies of programmatic technology are taken for granted at major brands and agencies. It’s easy to assume that as a majority of digital advertising inventory is sold programmatically, a majority of advertisers must be using programmatic tools. However, most advertisers aren’t major brands or large agencies. A majority are smaller businesses that in fact comprise the majority of the US economy. These companies have far less exposure to data-driven advertising than big brands or agencies.
That’s because their budgets simply can’t allow for the minimums that must be met to utilize leading DSPs, or demand-side platforms, such as The Trade Desk or MediaMath. These requirements automatically exclude a majority of advertisers from programmatic technology. In doing so, the industry has limited small and medium businesses in terms of their autonomy and ability to bring advertising under their own control. Without access to these platforms, the knowledge and skills developed by necessity of mastering this technology has been likewise limited to those at the largest brands and agencies. At the same time, DSPs are limiting their own access to the largest, most diversified segment of advertisers.
As the largest independent programmatic trading desk, AUDIENCEX works to support small and midsize brands and agencies by giving them access to programmatic technology and the technical and strategic support needed to ensure that these tools are leveraged effectively to help their campaigns succeed. While we are fully dedicated to being an effective partner for these companies, and appreciate the trust that they place in us, doubt remains as to whether this is the most sustainable or beneficial long-term solution for anyone.
More Options Benefit Everyone
Just as large brands have the opportunity to bring their programmatic advertising under their own control, we believe that the middle market deserves access to this same opportunity. Any brand of any size can see real performance gains through access to better audience targeting and premium placements. At the same time, their relationships to agencies shouldn’t feel like a situation they’re stuck in because they don’t have any other options available. Managed services are vital as they leverage the expertise of a digital agency’s full and diverse strategy team, but adding some self-service budget can provide balance and the opportunity to gain new knowledge, simultaneously welcoming new perspectives to the programmatic space. Each company should be able to determine what approach is correct for them.
From the agency side, we believe that this availability should be embraced and encouraged. As there is such clear unmet demand, it’s nearly inevitable that self-service will become a larger segment. There is a great advantage to bringing the diversity and experience of small and midsize business perspectives into the wide range of advertisers already benefiting from and contributing to the ongoing growth of programmatic technology. This is not a threat to any agency, as there is a tremendous amount of value that can still be offered. We consider this an invitation to find greater purpose in providing a more meaningful partnership.
There will always be a great need for the perspective of experienced agency teams beyond simple access to programmatic technology, in providing invaluable insight and direction, helping to determine the correct balance between automation and human control, empowering internal teams, providing planning, buying, measurement, creative development and execution, and a great deal more. The ability to do all of this with a thoughtful and informed approach is of incredible worth to any company venturing into the programmatic unknown for the first time, and in providing a deep wealth of knowledge and perspectives to continually support their success well into the future as an ongoing partner.
This is already the model that the biggest agencies follow with their largest clients. Fortune 50 brands have no issue meeting the minimum budget requirements to operate directly on major programmatic exchanges, and so agencies have responded by investing in their strategic teams, as well as proprietary data and technology.
Middle-market agencies have yet to do so on a large scale, as there has not yet been a great deal of pressure created by their clients having direct platform access. But, as we have witnessed first hand, when our brand clients do have equal access to this technology, by no means does it undermine our partnership – instead, it strengthens it greatly, as both sides of the equation become informed partners who can collaborate more effectively to find the best path forward for any campaign. We’re not speculating but rather saying from our own experiences – as more brands gain direct access to programmatic technology on DSPs, that greater access will benefit brands, agencies, and exchanges alike.
To learn more about how we can support your efforts to operate in the growing programmatic space, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to have a conversation about managed services, self-serve, and the support and strategic partnerships that we can provide in both of these spaces to help you develop a full-funnel, omnichannel approach for any campaign.