3 Programmatic Buying Myths


While some big brands are familiar enough with programmatic buying that they are taking the process in-house and creating private trading desks, mid-sized brands are still in the process of applying programmatic buying to their media plans. As a result, it’s important to dispel some of the more popular myths that have emerged. Applying a larger brand’s scenario to a mid-sized brand can create issues that impact the adoption of programmatic buying. Here are the ones heard more frequently:

Myth #1: There’s no transparency in programmatic buying.

Based on how programmatic campaigns are executed, many marketers cannot confirm their agency is efficiently targeting audiences with the most relevant brand message. As a result, they’re not certain if their online spend is being spent efficiently and effectively.

This level of uncertainty is why marketers remain wary of and intimidated by programmatic buying.

In March, the Association of National Advertisers released a study that concluded half of surveyed advertisers are concerned about the level of transparency with their media agency. This means that advertisers do not have access to the details and data behind their campaigns—from cost, margins and where ads are running to performance optimization efforts and detailed reporting about how consumers interact with the brand.

“42 percent of advertisers expressed increased concern about the level of transparency with their media agency.”

And these concerns are rising—42 percent expressed increased concern in the past year, with only 13 percent experiencing a decrease. It’s also important to note that 40 percent of these advertisers claim low to no awareness about programmatic buying.

But as the programmatic buying landscape expands, some media buying agencies are taking steps to allay the uncertainties surrounding inventory, audience and optimization transparency by developing proprietary programmatic buying solutions. It’s critical to confirm if these solutions are transparent and to what level of detail.

Myth #2: Programmatic is just for online media planning.

The automated buying specialists use to execute and optimize programmatic advertising can be utilized across channels like display, social, video, audio, mobile and out-of-home. Less than 10 years ago, this was impossible.

To facilitate the use of programmatic for mobile advertising, app developers are looking at how the consumer data they collect can be used for better ad targeting.

One example of how programmatic buying is successfully expanding to mobile platforms is the Twitter acquisition of MoPub in September 2013. The ability to use someone’s Twitter user handle to collect browsing information across devices, instead of a cookie, is a definite breakthrough. Cookies can easily be deleted, thus removing a consumer’s interest history from the browser.

MoPub serves up ads that are relevant to interests across devices without relying on the ever-unpredictable cookie. Antonio Garcia, the creator of Facebook’s real-time bidding ad exchange, describes the importance of the Twitter-MoPub partnership beautifully in his post: “Why Twitter Buying MoPub is a Very Big Deal.”

And Twitter is just one example of how programmatic buying is expanding to the mobile platform. Similar innovations are taking place across television, video and out-of-home.

Myth #3: Standards have evolved enough that the future of programmatic is clear.

While brands and their media buying agencies help evolve programmatic buying, there are still vast amounts of processes and structures that need to be standardized.

According to a Winterberry Group White Paper, managing security and access to the data that provides audience insights is one of the most important reasons to create strong strategies and management platforms. This is not entirely easy because continued data availability is threatened by government regulation, Internet browser privacy standards, lapses in data security and other factors. As a result, marketers, publishers and third parties need to work together and:

  • Maintain an evolving map of customer information and how it’s handled;
  • Develop a unified data strategy that includes best practices and regulatory guidelines;
  • Build an infrastructure of technology and personnel to support marketing data use;
  • Value and promote the growth of the data culture through continuous learning and improvement.

These are just some of the myths that consistently pop up when discussing programmatic buying with clients and the marketing industry. As time and processes evolve, myths will dispel and programmatic buying will continue on its path of being a critical component to a broader media plan.

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Ryan Derrow
Ryan Derrow

Ryan is Vice President of Media at Empower MediaMarketing, one of the largest independent media agencies in the country. His team plans and executes integrated and programmatic media for clients like Bush's Beans, Dremel, Famous Footwear, LasikPlus, and Rust-Oleum.