Mark Pritchard’s comments on stage at the IAB Leadership Meeting in the US in January have had a lightning rod effect and shone a light on a number of hygiene factors that gave people plenty to ponder. He took the stage again at dmexco, but now with the genie out of the bottle, the knock-on effect for verification providers, viewability vendors and cross-industry bodies such as JICWEBS, with their brand safety initiative, the DTSG, has been galvanising. We can finally have the right conversations about the issues that hold us back with a view to achieving our shared goal of building a sustainable future for digital advertising.
With calls for greater transparency it seems like everyone is hot on this right now and doing whatever it takes to satisfy their buyers that their traffic and processes are fair and open. The agency model is under pressure from their brands to justify digital in a way that we just don’t see in other media and I suspect this is by our own reliance on measurement metrics and the quest for greater data. Data has been the fuel behind programmatic adoption and the key players have known for a while that data makes the difference between effectiveness and flying blind. Throw the challenge that GDPR promises to bring cresting on the horizon and the ad tech industry feels like people preparing for a natural disaster. We’ll weather the storm together though and come out stronger on the other side.
Conversations around programmatic by insiders has shifted from using the term 'programmatic' as a catch-all magical placeholder that will solve all problems to an almost blasé attitude where the term is all but redundant. As our own research demonstrates, UK adoption has been swift and comprehensive so display is for the majority traded programmatically and even recent innovations like Header Bidding were qualified as 'in the rearview mirror' as most premium publishers have assessed and adopted it where relevant. Programmatic has come of age and it seems that ad tech has a thirst for innovation and is already seeking the next big thing, could it be…
This time last year it took me an entire afternoon to explain what it is and how it is used for cryptocurrency and smart contracts. I have that down to about thirty minutes now, involving a pen, a notepad and a pack of multi-coloured Post-its. I worry that the term will become the new magical black box cure for whatever ails adtech; the technology just around the corner that will solve everything. Realistically I know that it can’t be deployed for individual impression tracking yet but the technology is being included in the upcoming OpenRTB 3.0 protocol and could see application in other areas too, including compliance with the GDPR. If you encounter anyone claiming to understand Blockchain who doesn’t break out props to explain it though; take what they say with a pinch of salt and check out our jargon buster for help.
There’s a similar situation with Artificial Intelligence, AI has quickly become a buzzword that is bandied around as shorthand for things that are going on behind the scenes and used as a market differentiator. Adtech has always had algorithms and filtering, search indexes rise and fall on the success of their algorithms, what’s changed though is that a lot of the grunt work has been taken away from human traffickers and optimisers and turned into smart equations that seek out the optimal bidding strategy or creative composition. When it comes to defeating computers at chess the best solution is known as a centaur – a combination of human and machine learnings, leveraging the unique properties of each. The best solutions out there will be the ones that capitalise on this.