The Future of Digital Marketing – Key Insights from PROGRAMMATIC I/O 2019

Over two impactful days earlier this week, San Francisco hosted the world’s largest programmatic media and marketing conference, attracting over 1,200 marketing executives and experts from around the world (including myself!). At Programmatic I/O, I was given the opportunity to hear industry leaders share their thoughts and analysis of where the programmatic industry is heading and key factors that marketers and traders need to watch out for. Here are some of my key learnings from the two-day event.

 

Programmatic will Continue to Revolutionise the Ad Industry

If we look back at where the industry was two to three years ago, we were trying to adjust to programmatic’s existence. We wanted to emphasise that programmatic is not just a fleeting technology trend, it’s here to stay.

A key conversation from Programmatic I/O this year was how we can now expect the advertising industry not only to be disrupted by programmatic technologies, but become ever reliant on it as an operational mechanism. This occurs as more and more media channels are becoming ‘online’ and are traded programmatically. The race to the top will no longer be Offline vs Online advertising; but will come down to who can unlock partnerships, create true incremental reach and deliver cross-platform measurement and frequency control.

 

Programmatic Spend will Continue to Grow

The industry doesn’t see the growth of programmatic spend slowing down anytime soon. It’s expected to reach $81 billion in the US alone by 2021. We’ll also see “newcomer” Amazon interrupt the duopoly of Google and Facebook in the digital media space.

In other news, we’ve finally moved on from “the year of the mobile”, which has been a hot topic for the past three years or so. For 2019 and beyond, we’ll see mobile trading start to decline, with video driving growth as more offline inventories transition to online (e.g. Connected TV, Catch Up TV etc). How exciting!

 

Media Buyers and Sellers Want Fewer but Deeper Relationships

It was interesting to see this topic mentioned a couple of times this year, as programmatic has been trying to “avoid” the need of dealing with too many publishers to achieve scale (or at least, that’s what I thought). What brands are telling us is that they want to work with publishers to get them to understand the brand, negotiate rates and have a conversation to deliver the best possible results. Programmatic will then be the technology that powers the delivery of that strategy in a more efficient way.

This was also shown by the trading method volume trends. By 2021, Private Market Place and Programmatic Direct Deals will account for 81% of the overall trading volume. This also aligns with Reload’s media strategy in recent years, where we’ve naturally found ourselves working with fewer publishers who we know we can trust, but at the same time keeping an eye out for any newcomers in the market.

 

People First, Technology Second

A number of speakers mentioned the notion of “people first, technology second”, which applies to many different aspects of our industry. Firstly, we need to look at the media planning process. We need to go back to the basics of media buying and focus on the consumer/audience and the contextual environment first, before we decide how we’ll be using the ad tech to reach them; rather than letting exciting and new technologies sway our media strategies. This alignment between a businesses goals and objectives and how we can target their audience is really the cornerstone of marketing, and the technology we use should help enable that, not dictate how it happens.

Secondly, a great insight from Pete Kim of MightyHive highlighted that while ad tech is becoming increasingly powerful, it can only ever be as powerful as the person using it. For agency and in-house teams alike, finding the right talent with the right mindset should be the first and foremost priority – they will naturally unlock the full potential of any ad tech they come across and yield the best campaign results.

 

In-house vs Agency:

It’s not surprising that the in-house vs agency debate continues to be a common topic in the programmatic industry. I have attended sessions designed for both in-house teams and agency teams (yes, I was a fly on the wall trying to get all the insights!). There’s no doubt the “traditional” agency model has to change. Thankfully, some of the horror stories commonly heard about when working with agencies will become a thing of the past.

There’ll be no more mediocre media strategies that benefit the agency more than client, or taking control over a client’s first party data and never giving it back (or even worse, selling it off to other brands as “second party data” – I wish I was joking, but this is still happening now!). From the brand’s perspective, they may still need to rely on agencies to help them navigate the increasingly complex digital advertising ecosystem, but we should expect it to be more of a collaborative partnership than a supplier model moving forward.

 

“Mind the Gap”

The session by Chris Kane from Jounce Media made me truly realise how fragmented the ad tech space is, and how little of the marketing tech is being used for advertising purposes. I trust most people reading this article have had the sales pitch from an ad tech or marketing tech company that does an amazing job at solving one single issue, but lacks the ability to integrate with the rest of the ecosystem, which is far from helpful!

As advertisers and marketers, we still have a long way to go before achieving a streamlined planning, targeting and reporting process. But what’s the solution? In short, we don’t know what it looks like yet; but we do know the only people can make a difference is us – the people who work in the industry. And most importantly, we have to work together to bridge the gaps. Luckily, there are some bigger players who are starting to offer an end to end solution, with some smaller and independent tech companies actively looking to fill those gaps. I can’t wait to see what they can do and how we can bring these streamlined solutions to our clients!

Overall, Programmatic I/O was a very impactful two-day conference. I am just as inspired as I am challenged to take Reload and our clients further on the programmatic journey. If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that programmatic is no longer the tech used to buy cheap banner display advertising space. It will most likely be the preferred buying mechanism for many media formats in the future. If you don’t want to fall behind, make sure you reach out to us today and start the conversation – contact our digital marketing experts HERE