Still using a media buyer?

Programmatics has transformed advertising and the digital model is taking over.

I was around when the Internet became a thing (yes Victoria, I am that old). At the time, the marketing establishment tended to measure the web through the lens of traditional media, and it scored pretty poorly. My boss at the time looked at the pixeled, grainy, monochromatic graphic interface and declared it a passing fad. For him, the internet was a poor second-cousin to television for the quality of the message it could deliver and the number of people it could reach. His evaluation wasn't wrong, but the criteria by which he conducted his evaluation would eventually be proven to be out of date.


What you need to remember is that, in the early 90's, interactivity was non-existent. Coaxial cables delivered network television shows, copper wires delivered voice conversations and computers were used for doing math and playing Pong. The only way you searched for something was to go to the library. Given that context, it was tough to predict that the rules were about to change. Ten years later, we began clicking on ads – who knew?


Fast-forward a couple of decades and I find the same dynamic when it comes to evaluating digital media. Some people get it, but many don't. Attitude's Market Intelligence team recently presented programmatics to a potential client. Afterwards, their web specialist declared to the room, "Yes, we tried banner ads in the past and they don't work." Again, I believe her evaluation came from a place of truth, but the standards used in her evaluation are already out of date. Programmatics goes way beyond placing the odd banner. We find ourselves, once again, on the precipice of monumental change and programmatics is about to become the yardstick by which all future advertising will be measured.

This summer, Google launched it's Digital Marketing platform, which recognizes three important trends.


First generation digital – same old hit-or-miss


First generation web advertising used the exact media model created for television and print. Publishers created content that attracted an audience and then sold access to that audience to advertisers via a procurement middleman called a media buyer. The number of people consuming the publisher's content on a regular basis largely determined the price. The more readers or viewers I have, the more I can charge. Digital measurability gave it a leg up on television because it could give you some analytics like click-through rates, but it was really no more efficient than any other media. Advertisers were still forced to pay through the nose for 100% of the publisher's viewership – regardless of the number or quality of people they actually wanted to reach. From this perspective, our client's web specialist was quite correct. Banner ads were just as hit-or-miss as the rest.


The arrival of the ad server


With a growing number of publishers managing ad space on a growing number of digital properties, the complexities for media buyers became unmanageable. Centralized ad placement servers began popping up. Today, they are the norm. Publishers focus on creating content and provide ad space that the ad servers populate. Advertisers enjoy that they no longer have to buy 100% of a publisher's audience, paying only for the viewers they reach. Real-time bidding has become the norm. Much like a stock market trading desk, advertisers can now bid on a particular audience and pay a competitive rate for the individuals that they wish to target.


Add Google's database, machine learning and voom!


This summer, Google launched it's Digital Marketing platform, which recognizes three important trends. Trends that are now converging and bringing about a fundamental change to the way we go about advertising, digitally and otherwise.


Trend 1: Optimized advertising. As discussed, the way we purchase digital media is much more efficient, affordable and measurable than ever before. Ad servers and real-time bidding take much of the waste out of buying media today.


Trend 2: Everything is digital. More and more content is being delivered and consumed via a digital format. Don't believe me? Put down your e-reader and have a look in your family room. That screen on your wall no longer receives broadcast signals, so stop calling it a television. It is a monitor connected to a set-top box, which is basically a computer.


Trend 3: Targeting through data. Lead by Google's massive database, machine learning and artificial intelligence are exponentially growing our capacity to target the right people with the right message. Programmatics essentially allows us to target the appropriate consumer profile, regardless of the publisher or content they are consuming.


Digital Media will soon be just Media


The rest is inevitable. The data and tools that have been so effectively refined on-line will now naturally extend outwards towards other media as they become more digital. Why should Mary see the same ad as Ralph when they each watch the Grammies on different televisions? When Sam reads the newspaper on his tablet at work, should he see the same ads as when he is reading it on the beach? Why can't the instructional video at the hardware store deliver its message in French when François and his mobile phone preferences are standing in the aisle? What we call digital media today: targeted banners, pre-roll and native ads – are preparing the way for all media going forward. The more programmatics become the norm, the more numerous the benefits to advertisers, including:

  • less waste
  • better targeting
  • more engagement
  • more control

Early adopters are enjoying huge success with programmatics as their more traditional competitors continue to treat media as a commodity to be purchased.


Certified content delivery strategists are replacing the old media buyer, as advertisers look to actively manage their first party databases, target messaging and refine campaigns using analytics. Campaign management becomes more hands-on, but the relatively low cost of the media itself more than makes up for the cost.


Programmatics has indeed transformed advertising and the digital model is taking over. Still using a media buyer?

Still using a media buyer?