Programmatic IO 2016
By Tom Burg Apr 20 2015 Blog

5 Takeaways From AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O Conference

Last week was a marathon of programmatic immersion: from AdExchanger’s Programmatic Essentials workshop to their Programmatic I/O conference. Both events were held in downtown San Francisco, where the programmatic community unites every year.

AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O is a highly respected conference for ad tech insiders and it continues to grow every year, especially as programmatic media buying continues to achieve mainstream acceptance. With respect to the conference content, there were patterns and themes in the subject matter – such as the interplay of challenge and opportunity – that are worth highlighting:

  1. Control and transparency are finally getting props as a major programmatic benefit. According to AdExchanger’s State of Programmatic report from 2014, marketers cited “ROI” and “audience targeting” as the main benefits of programmatic.  This year, things have changed. Today the top benefits of programmatic are “control” and “transparency”. Transparency is meant in the broadest sense: pricing transparency, inventory transparency, value-chain participation, how the agency is making money, whether the agency is using any third parties or not, and so on. The unprecedented control that programmatic offers has empowered marketers. That power has, in turn, spurred many questions, driving the inevitable march towards complete transparency.
  1. The number one challenge that our industry faces is “too much complexity”, according to AdExchanger Research. Many industry leaders at the event not only agreed, but also amplified this sentiment. One went so far as to say that complexity is inherent in ad tech and it will only get worse. Agencies don’t seem to mind though: Jonathan Nelson from Omnicom believes that “complexity is our friend as an agency” and that “it’s our job to make sense of it.” In his view, it’s the job of the agency to “ride the innovation curve” by working with a broad array of vendors, finding those who are best of breed, and normalizing everything in the service of its clients.
  1. The consumption of context across multiple devices is exploding, but we haven’t caught up. According to Sean Downey from Google, there has been a 500% increase in multi-screen consumption and 90% of customers move sequentially between devices. This presents an incredible opportunity, but at the same time a massive challenge. Marketers and ad tech vendors are now tasked with measuring everything in a standardized way, creating a single view of the customer, and trying to make sense of attribution in an increasingly complex ecosystem and customer journey. Two things are for certain: (1) no silver bullets exist today, and (2) lots of people are trying to tackle this challenge.
  1. Data, measurement and attribution are described as “brutal and horrible and hard”. When it comes to measurement and attribution, Scott Ferber of Videology believes that “we don’t have to have perfect vision” – kind of like that saying about the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Many of those on stage agreed that even marginal improvements in our attribution models could yield significant returns, but that creating good attribution models involves a ton of hard work. Rudy Grahn from ZenithOptimedia described the do-it-yourself process as “brutal and horrible and hard.” To which, many people chuckled (in a tragicomic sort of way). There is simply no one-size-fits-all data management solution at the moment. Some speakers believe there will never be a common measurement model or yardstick that is ideal for everyone. Ultimately, or so the thinking goes, what P&G views as success, for example, is very different from what GM views as success, which makes it hard to share generalized prescriptions. That’s probably why Cathleen Ryan from Intuit shared overarching principles around implementing an in-house DMP solution, as opposed to the details behind Intuit’s specific setup. Ryan also reminded everyone that “first party data is gold” and that it’s your most valuable asset.
  1. Programmatic TV is incredibly nascent and unpredictable at this point. According to Joanna O’Connell from AdExchanger, the traditional TV space is very different from digital and programmatic. There is massive entrenchment in traditional TV processes, systems, and measurement. And now, programmatic is once again disrupting and competing in a mature and inefficient space, but with a high degree of uniqueness. Yet again, with great challenge comes great opportunity. According to Dan Salmon from BMO Capital Markets, video is the most effective medium for brainwashing and propaganda, and, therefore, the amount of video advertising dollars will only continue to grow. Furthermore, Salmon believes that the “TV vs. Internet” debate is a false choice: at the end of the day, it’s all about looking at ad spend by format. Then, there is the question of whether we will see the “retrofitting” of programmatic technology into traditional TV systems first, or whether traditional TV content will migrate to digital platforms before that ever happens. I would bet on the latter. Needless to say, at this point, maturity in programmatic TV is still many years away, but it will be interesting to see it blossom.

There were many more insightful topics from the conference – including fraud, viewability, and native mobile – but for the sake of brevity, we must save those for another time. It’s always valuable to learn from other folks who speak the same language – the language of acronyms and buzzwords, a dialect only insiders can decipher. If you belong to the programmatic community and want to connect with over 700 other members of the programmatic tribe, then this event is for you.

Click here for more on AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O conference.