Lessons from the Summit: Programmatic

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Programmatic marketing: Debunking the hottest buzzword and recognizing its limitations

 During the first week of November, 20,000 technology and marketing professionals descended upon Dublin, Ireland for the Summit – a conference that has quickly become the largest of its kind in Europe. Pilot was there to capture notes, impressions and ideas from this year’s speakers, which included Bono, Peter Thiel and John Sculley. Here, with an eye trained on all things tech and marketing, is the first instalment of our three-part series covering the event.

Jimmy Kimmel called programmatic the “gluten of advertising,” but a recent survey declared that more than a third of Canadian marketers have never heard of it. On the Marketing Stage of the Summit, several high-profile experts weighed in, giving their views on this hot new term.

So what is programmatic? It can be divided into two camps:

Highly appealing because of its automated and scalable nature, programmatic can turn a campaign on its head in a number of different ways. Before programmatic, a human would analyse data and cue a program to run a campaign or buy media. With programmatic, the software determines when human insight is required, which, despite some innovation, is still a missing feature of most digital marketing tools.

To understand how programmatic works and its limitations, however, we first need to understand the tools it relies on – namely, data. Today, every platform, channel, or program you use, as well as every interaction you have with the online world through your computer, tablet or mobile is being monitored for data. Some studies say that every day the average person is exposed to between 3,000 and 20,000 messages. Data is systematically matching people with messaging, all with the help of a sophisticated algorithm that is constantly expanding.

While this may seem like the perfect solution for an increasingly connected and digital landscape, Chief Digital Officer for global advertising firm CPB, Ivan Perez-Armendariz, notes that 66 per cent of the world wants to be inspired by advertising, stating, “This is bad news for the big-data algorithms, and great news for storytellers.” Ultimately, programmatic has its appeal, but it does not signal the death of the creative. More importantly, it calls for agencies and brands to make the most of new technological innovation without losing the human creative and strategic oversight behind strong communications.

The following three principles lay down the groundwork for how that’s done:

Programmatic technology is a natural progression for complex digital campaigns to reach mass audiences over fragmented channels. Marketing’s latest buzzword has proven itself to be highly valuable to publishers, ad buyers, and the marketplaces that service both. But the effect of excellent creative work on a marketing campaign does not come down to big data or instantaneous ad-purchasing capabilities. In the world of communications, man still wins over machine.


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