Programmatic Transparency and Self-Driving Media

Oh how the ad business has changed.  Not so much the creative element, although I would argue that advertising was far and away more creative in the last two decades of the 20th century. And now the rush to embrace a digital cascade of data and social media that waterfalls into an ocean of swirling confusion is impacting the CMO's ability to perform. 

When did it all start?
Could it have been with AOL when it first appeared on May 24, 1985?  After all, it was simply a communication tool and an online social gathering place. 

There was no useful search engine until 1990, when Archie (originally Archives) appeared as a database of searchable web file names.

By 1994, Yahoo (short for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle") launched to cobble together and categorized the community of searchable websites.

On September 4, 1998, Google (originally called “BackRub”) made its debut.  Today, Google argues that it has the “right to collect your most sensitive data, as long as it flows across an open WiFi network”

MySpace launched on August 1, 2003 as a more sophisticated social networking site.  But a fickle audience and the debut of FaceBook less than a year later, on February 4, 2004, contributed to its tortuous decline.

Then, the CEO of FaceBook declared “the age of privacy is over”.  And today, Google knows what you’re looking for and Facebook knows what you like and they both know where you are. 

The volumes of data that are collected via the digital pipeline we call the Internet, stretches the imagination.  According to SINTEF, a Scandinavian research organization, 90% of all of the data in the world has been gathered over the last two years, now classified as “Big Data”. 

What is Big Data and how does it act and integrate with programmatic media platforms?  

Big data is simply trillions or records of billions of people from a variety of sources to include the web search and surfing, sales, customer contact points, social media, mobile data and more.  It is a massive volume of structured and unstructured data that can be manipulated to predict the needs and wants of individuals. 

What is programmatic buying? 

In its simplest form, programmatic technology platforms allow for automated buying and selling of digital advertising via real-time bidding, akin to financial market trading.   

There are pros and cons to this emerging discipline, not the least of which is a seeming lack of transparency that tends to obfuscate the process. 

A recent study by Forrester Research for the Association of National Advertisers suggests there is deep concern and confusion by marketers with respect to cost, quality and real impact.   

But much like the unstoppable advancement of the self-driving car, self-driving media decisions will, in its early stages, suffer the cries of skeptics who mistrust the system to provide promised value.

The root of the problem is lack of trust …. not necessarily unwarranted as marketers and procurement officers pressure ad agencies and media buyers to reduce costs and service fees.  In turn, agencies consolidate into holding companies, utilize technology to reduce staff and increase productivity and, in many cases, act as intermediaries to purchase media and data in bulk, acting as resellers. 

As market evolution begins to demand the placement of enforceable standards for programmatic procurement , quarterbacked by contract guarantees, both marketers and agencies will win.

But both parties must come to the table with the knowledge that a fair and understanding view of business process for each will provide a rising tide to the benefit of all.