IX Perspectives Product

The Future of Programmatic Advertising Through the Buyer’s Lens

Richard siting on a chair on stage at event

As the leaves start to golden and the temperatures begin to drop, it’s natural to start thinking about the end of the year ⁠— pondering what’s ahead for the last bit of 2019, 2020, and beyond. Before we dive into the future, though, let’s take a moment to reflect on a few key trends we saw in 2019.

As programmatic is now a mainstay of digital advertising, we’ve seen personalisation become common practice, which not only improves performance but also provides a more relevant message to consumers. In the theme of constant improvement, increasing consumer trust is also of the utmost of importance for our industry moving forward. 

Although 2019 has provided great growth for programmatic, we have no doubt that the future of our industry is still in development. We sat down with Richard Nicolson, Head of EMEA Marketplace Development, to get a better sense of what’s in store.

As someone who’s got his finger on the pulse of the programmatic industry, what do you predict will be the three, key programmatic trends in 2020?

If I had to narrow it down, I’d say the three key trends will be centred around the decline of the cookie, the shift from transparency to trust, and a proliferation of Identity graph providers. 

Decline of the third party cookie

As an industry, we will continue to witness the decline of the third-party cookie. For example, with Firefox in Germany, we have seen the impact not only on the publishers, but also on buyers. Buyers have lost the ability to target and measure the effectiveness of campaigns. That leaves them in the dark as to the success of their brand strategies and performance efforts. The Firefox example is a taste of things to come, and as an industry we have to react to ensure the continuity of the ad funded internet. We have to do so in a way that keeps content on the internet free for consumers, but also has that same consumer at the heart of the value exchange.

Shifting focus from transparency to trust 

Although, as an industry, we have become more transparent, we are now seeing a shift in focus from transparency to trust. Forward-thinking participants in the industry are moving the needs of the consumer to the heart of what they provide. If you think of some of the existing services out there (such as video or streaming), users actually want to sign in, in order to have a tailored experience. This creates a symbiotic relationship, where the value exchange between user and content provider is clearly articulated. In order to experience free, quality content, users must be open to tailored advertising experiences. We believe this will lead to the creation of the “Trusted Web,” constituting premium publishers and content providers.

Greater availability of Identity graphs 

In order to realise this vision of a “Trusted Web,” I expect we’ll see an increase across the ecosystem of Identity graph providers. What’s really encouraging is that various players including Liveramp, LiveIntent, and local European consortiums are collaborating within the ecosystem to make this a reality. We want to ensure there is competition and choice in the industry for advertisers and publishers, and we need to avoid the consolidation of the industry into 2 or 3 big companies. Where I think we as a company have an advantage is with our premium publisher set, our forward thinking buyers, and the infrastructure we have built over the last 2 and a half years to support Identity.

As someone who is deeply involved in the day-to-day with advertisers, what role will accountability and transparency play for this side of our industry in 2020? 

Accountability and transparency are incredibly important for the future of our industry. Following on from the vision of helping to create a collaborative and Trusted Web, we see as a transparency central piece in building this. The user will not only opt into this value exchange, they’ll know their data is being used in a secure, privacy-compliant, and legal way. One way to ensure the success of this system is to make certain it has integrity, and in order to achieve this, we must all comply with the agreed upon industry rules. 

That’s where transparency comes into play. Achieving transparency, rather than saying the word or putting it on a slide, is a great deal of work. It took the industry years to create, adopt, and buy into ads.text, and another two years for sellers.json to be rolled out. This does, however, demonstrate that good actors in the ecosystem are willing to spend time and resources investing in building towards such collaborative and positive efforts. 

It’s up to the leaders in the ecosystem to push standards forward. One such example is making log level data available to buyers and sellers. This provides the ultimate accountability, giving those parties the certainty that companies are behaving in an agreed upon manner. This, in turn, raises the bar even higher for transparency, pushing the  rest of the industry to follow. 

Which 2019 trends do you expect to have the greatest impact over the next five years?

As the year comes to a close, we have so many amazing opportunities to look forward to. What I’m most keen to see is the development of new opportunities that premium video will bring. So far, we’ve seen a slow move of premium video to programmatic, but I expect this to accelerate in the next 12 to 18 months, largely because of Identity. As mentioned, once we bring addressability into the fold, buyers are more willing to invest. TV has been the gold standard of advertising for many decades, and it’s enjoyed the most investment. Once buyers are able to use offline and online data together in the context of TV and premium video, budgets will quickly follow.

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