Guest Columns Programmatic

Publisher direct and programmatic are aligning; what does this mean for digital?

Over recent years, the allocation of digital ad dollars has largely been targeted towards programmatic trading – now accounting for almost four-fifths of all UK ad spend. At first, programmatic came with the acceptance that while the quality may not live up to that of dealing with a publisher directly, the efficiencies it drove outweighed the performance gap.

Now, with a rise in transparent and accountable inventory, programmatic and – the historically-superior – publisher direct deals are starting to align. In fact, recent analysis shows that in H2 2017, UK desktop video ad viewability levels rose from 66.5% to 68.2% for publisher direct, while programmatic viewability saw the greatest increase from 53.9% to 63.7%.

So what does this trend mean for the publishers and advertisers trying to get the best possible value out their campaigns?

No need to ‘mind the gap’

Brands want to understand the consumer journey, as well as achieve outcomes – no matter how they purchase inventory. It is access to data and insights into the consumer journey that give both advertisers and publishers the chance to see what’s working – and what’s not. Whether this is for specific campaigns, enabling brands to then make informed decisions over future buying options, or for particular ad placements, allowing publishers to price accurately for the impact their inventory will provide advertisers.

Both programmatic and publisher direct have their benefits, and advertisers have been choosing between these inventory routes for years. From viewable and brand safe environments, to ad fraud levels, it’s no secret advertisers look for transparency when it comes to ad spend. Consequently, an increase in focus on these transparent metrics has enabled the gap between the two buy types to steadily decrease.

Now publishers have built an understanding that this data also helps them to establish a baseline from which to cost their inventory efficiently, they are no longer shying away from providing these insights. And it’s by providing these inventory proof points that publishers are able to assure a brand that their ad will appear against safe content, and be delivered to and seen by a human – whether traded programmatically or directly.

As the industry continues to see this gap level out, the focus instead will intensify on securing the most effective placements and opportunities.

Utilising data to ensure effective programmatic and publisher direct strategies

Publishers are now confidently relying on a combination of transparent metrics when it comes to pricing, maximising revenue, and how to support this with third-party verification. So by employing this data-driven mindset, publishers can refine the process of delivering relevant ads to their audiences – and thereby effectively increase content monetisation via programmatic. Plus, with 84% of advertisers looking for more control over their programmatic advertising, the access to precise data from programmatic sales means publishers can also strengthen relationships with advertisers.

The responsibility falls to advertisers to determine, and access the ideal slot for an individual campaign’s messaging and objectives. Brand safety, ad fraud, and viewability have historically been considered the three most important verification data points for brands. When the hygiene factors are monitored both parties can understand how inventory and budgets can be optimised – ensuring every impression has the opportunity to be effective.

But as publishers know their audience better than anyone, only they can provide premium content, environments, and audiences for advertisers. It’s about understanding which of these coveted ad slots will be the most effective and profitable for every business and campaign – this will make the difference moving forward. Publishers and advertisers need to make the most of the option to set custom metrics that measure performance, as well as any correlation with increased brand awareness and sales. This way brands can make budgets work harder for them. It’s these metrics – that can cover everything from exposure time to ad recall – that provide the insight to truly drive results, such as brand uplift.

The industry must work together to continue to achieve transparency by curating brand safe environments, preventing ad fraud, and improving viewability. Once an acceptable level is achieved, publishers will have greater control over their inventory and maximise its potential, this in turn will allow advertisers to optimise their results whether via programmatic or direct trading.

A data-driven and methodological approach from both parties’ means relevant ads are delivered to valuable consumers; no matter the trading route, while being able to access reliable indicators of success to measure effectiveness. Only then can all parties protect and grow their respective brands, and make sure digital dollars work harder.

Lee Moulding, Head of Platform Solutions, Northern Europe, Integral Ad Science (IAS)

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