Staff Writer
Jun 10, 2020

Rubicon Project and Campaign Asia report: A deep dive into programmatic ad buying trends in Asia

OMP is thriving, OTT is on the up and up, although a bias for direct buying is still preventing wider adoption of programmatic.

Rubicon Project and Campaign Asia report: A deep dive into programmatic ad buying trends in Asia

Zenith’s Programmatic Marketing Forecasts 2019 Report predicted that programmatic ad spend would account for 69% of all global digital ad spend in 2020. While buyers in Asia recognise the immense opportunity that programmatic presents to digital advertisers, the region has been slower than others to move budgets to programmatic.

To uncover the barriers to adoption and assess opportunities to accelerate programmatic ad spend growth across different markets in Asia, Rubicon Project and Campaign Asia paired up to survey 185 marketers across nine countries. The report is an interesting look at the current state of play for programmatic, showing which markets are ahead of the curve in programmatic adoption, what might be preventing marketers from adopting programmatic at a greater scale, and what programmatic buying methods are most popular in this fast-evolving region.

While the original research for the report was conducted at the end of 2019, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, a recontact survey was completed in April 2020. Interestingly, this additional research found that the uncertainty of the pandemic has caused buyers to lean towards programmatic due to its inherent targeting, measurement, and optimisation capabilities. Indeed, 88% of respondents reported they expect programmatic budgets to remain the same or increase despite the impact of the pandemic on overall advertising budgets.

Campaign Asia X Rubicon Project's Programmatic Ad Buying in Asia report: download here

Here are some of the key findings:

Overall, the future is bright for programmatic in Asia, with 76% of respondents reporting ‘high’ or ‘medium’ levels of adoption in their market. Singapore, Hong Kong, and India identified as mature programmatic markets; Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia identified as ‘medium’ adoption markets; and the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all identified as ‘low’ adoption markets. Respondents in all markets, with the exception of a small number of buyers in Vietnam and Malaysia, said that they expected programmatic advertising budgets to decrease.

Clients in the Driver's Seat

The report found that client mandate is playing an increasingly important role in the shift towards programmatic, with media buyers reporting their clients were taking a more active role in programmatic decision making and giving media buyers more freedom to allocate a greater portion of digital ad budgets to programmatic.

Yet despite this positive instruction from clients, 36% of survey respondents reported they were still hesitant to move budgets from direct IO to programmatic, noting a bias for direct buying underpinned with what they considered to be well established relationships with publisher direct sales teams.  

The report recommends media buyers question the value of this practice, and instead look to selecting the transaction method that will deliver efficiency and a return on investment (ROI) for advertising budgets. It also suggests agencies should familiarise themselves with the potential competition presented by programmatic in-house buyers and by consultancies entering the media buying ecosystem. 

Be Curious and Question

Buyers across Asia indicated that they believe the single biggest challenge hindering further growth of programmatic advertising budgets is a lack of understanding and  a lack of adequate skills to effectively plan and execute programmatic ad campaigns, particularly outside of  walled gardens.  

The industry is in a constant state of change and there is a critical need for continual education of the buy-side, regardless of seniority or market maturity. This education will help the industry keep pace with the newest technologies and best practices, while in turn help drive further adoption and unlock larger programmatic budgets.

Media buyers already engaging with programmatic cited data, measurement, and optimization as the top factors driving programmatic spend, while pricing and budgets were less influential in the decision making process. 

Buying Behaviours

The Open Marketplace (OMP) is thriving across the region and forming the foundation of buying strategies, with 74% of respondents saying OMP is their preferred programmatic buying method.

In the recontact survey, the appeal of OMP saw a further uptick, as media buyers looked to data to inform their budget decisions and sought deeper insights and increased efficiencies. Programmatic offers a much more efficient approach compared to direct IO buying during uncertain times. They also expressed a preference for the flexibility offered by OMP because it requires less commitment to publishers on volumes and pricing than Private Marketplace or Programmatic Guaranteed. 

Programmatic’s Future

The report also found that while mobile display formats still reign supreme, Over-the-Top platforms (OTT) are moving to the forefront, with respondents reporting OTT will receive the most signficant budget increase in 2020, in part accelerated by the impact of the pandemic. 

In several ways, Asia is primed for OTT growth as the region benefits from the fastest growing OTT subscription rate globally, along with high rates of online video consumption. Yet, the report uncovered some interesting anomalies between geographical areas, with buyers in India reporting their intention to buy digital audio formats more than any other of the markets surveyed. India will also lead the buying of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH), while The Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan will be the most prolific buyers of mobile app inventory.

For more insights: Programmatic Ad Buying in Asia report 


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