Michel de Rijk, CEO of Asia-Pacific for Xaxis, began by dispelling some common misinterpretations around RTB and explaining what his company is not—a trading desk. “We use data to build assets for advertisers,” he clarified, adding: “There’s a misassumption that programmatic makes life easier. It’s the opposite. Media is a lot more complex these days than it was previously.”
Marketers are of course not interested in the technology itself, but in what it can do for their brand. Representing the client perspective, Elle von Dierer, senior director of procurement in Asia-Pacific at Johnson & Johnson, said “the important element from programmatic is visibility and how we can optimise budget across all channels in real time”.
That sounds straightforward, but there are a number of obstacles to overcome. For a start, all stakeholders need to get out of their comfort zones. While programmatic should make it easy for advertisers to move between publishers, von Dierer complained that publishers were still failing to make the best inventory readily available. “If it’s there, you’ll get the investment from advertisers,” she said.
De Rjik agreed that there were “some premium publishers holding back” but noted that there was actually “an over-supply of inventory so for an advertiser who wants to do everything programmatically, they can do”. But he admitted that at this stage, shifting budgets completely to programmatic was not necessarily in an advertiser’s best interests.
The discussion then turned to ways to break the tradition of buying from a single publisher and to bring both sides around to this new approach. Mark Prior, VP of international for Rocket Fuel, said it all came down to measurability and metrics. Going into “the scary world of programmatic levels the playing field”, he said.
“It gives you the ability to do what direct response advertisers have done for decades — to measure efficacy at a very granular level. There’s no reason you can’t quantify audience penetration among key demographics and apply specific numbers to improving KPIs,” Prior said.
Von Dierer agreed that digital was an extremely measurable medium, but said it was necessary to develop a “common language” so as to gain a better understanding of programmatic’s reach, and to “aggregate data to be meaningful for us”.
De Rijk was rather pessimistic about the current situation with regard to measurement, which he said was still focused on clicks. Prior added that optimising towards clicks decreased the ability to drive core brand metrics.
“It’s the worst measurement invented and we should do something with the person who invented it,” De Rijk said. “We as an industry can talk about measurement, but we need to get the basics figured out first and in a lot of markets we haven’t done that. A lot of markets tend to buy low frequency and high reach — the old strategy. Bringing programmatic in and having the ability to cherry-pick impressions based on audiences is the direction we should go. We’re still too focused on techniques that are 10 years old.”
Publishers have an important role to play in moving things forward. Von Dierer noted that they see programmatic as a challenge to traditional sales models, but urged them to “embrace technology across businesses … to make it for advertisers a safe environment to move investment into”.
Prior added that publishers had a vast pool of data they could use to augment their offering and encourage advertisers to be more proactive. “Publishers know a lot about consumers,” he said. “If you’re a publisher you own that last mile and view of that person. All that data can be offered to create additional value to the buyer to enrich their inventory.”
He went on to describe RTB as an à la carte menu as opposed to a buffet. “If you’re running the buffet, it’s a scary change,” he said. “You’re selling food at the value it’s valued at in real-time, but ultimately your restaurant is going to be better quality.”
Von Dierer concluded with a simple yet powerful statement. “The reason we invest in media is to achieve business objectives. If these are met, it’s not about price, but [whether] a piece of inventory meets our needs as a business. Will it get consumers to buy our products? How can you deliver an environment to allow us to engage effectively with consumers and convert into sales? Make it easy for us.”