In terms of programmatic understanding and adoption, Hong Kong has a long way to go, while India and Singapore have graduated to a new level of sophistication in applying the technology as a tactic for spreading awareness and driving leads. This is according to Agnesia Ekayuanita, the Asia programmatic trading manager at BBC Global News, who says the appetite for risk and price sensitivity of the Hong Kong market has a lot to do with it.
"North Asia is really quite priced sensitive," she said. "There is still a misconception that programmatic should be cheap," adding that private marketplaces (PMP) are the most likely catalyst for growth opportunities.
While demand from within North Asian markets like Hong Kong, South Korea, China, and Japan is comparatively low for now, Ekayuanita shared that advertisers outside of North Asia rely on PMP's to target segments on BBC's local language sites, particularly for South Korea and Japan.
In her experience, Ekayuanita finds that the complexity of programmatic jargon has been a barrier towards its adoption in the region, rather than being a factor that draws early or late adopters in.
"As an industry, it is our job to simplify the whole thing rather than make it complex," she said. "With complexity comes fear and it is our job to educate audiences that programmatic is just another means of buying digital media and not a silo."
The Singapore market remains an untapped opportunity, asserts Ekayuanita, adding that there is still much to be done. "We see our advertisers and buyers are centralized in Singapore," she said. "Last year this [Singapore] was a test and learn market - advertisers investing just a couple of budgets to see what works for them and they saw it works. A lot of our buyers are reaching out to invest more."
The market in India is big on the adoption of programmatic guaranteed, which Ekayuanita says is a common trend among markets classified as Southeast Asia. "Programmatic guaranteed allows advertisers to shift their time [away from] administrative tasks and instead of focus on strategy and media executions," she said, adding that while technology is the enabler, the human factor is vital.
The growth in demand for programmatic direct, which includes PMP deals and programmatic guarantees, has become the new normal. "We see a 30% year on year growth when it comes to programmatic direct in Asia," said Ekayuanita. "Last month itself, we saw a triple-digit growth in programmatic direct adoption, since a lot of markets took the previous year as a test and learn period."
The conversations around trust and transparency, fueled by the trade press, have resulted in a net positive for premium audience marketplaces such as BBC, wherein advertisers are eager to deal directly for programmatic buys instead of risking deals with agencies and SSP's that may be fraudulent. "In fighting ad fraud we have been implementing ads.txt, thereby disclosing our partners on programmatic sellers," she said. "It's quite clean and we're quite proud of it that we have a clean tech-stack."