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2013: RTB and What we Can Expect in 2014

Kirsty Styles

GrahamMarketers have already spent the best part of this year grappling with what many are certain is a real-time future. Graham Wylie, marketing director at AppNexus, examines this year's industry moves towards real-time bidding and explores what marketers, agencies and brands can expect next year.


The Oreo 2013 Superbowl tweet ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ marked a coming of age for second-screen audience engagement.  A single tweet, one of 24m during the game, showed the power of real-time engagement and asked significant questions of the marketing industry. How do marketers, agencies and brands accelerate decision-making into real-time for owned, earned and paid media?


In 2013, the enabling technologies for real-time marketing through paid media saw dramatic growth. UK online display spend through Real Time Bidding (RTB) was $100m in 2010; by the end of 2013 eMarketer reports this rising to $395m. In every major advertising market RTB growth forecasts are being revised upward almost every quarter, and by 2017 IDC predicts that it will account 26 per cent of global online and mobile advertising spend.

RTB is leading a wave of innovation around the ‘programmatic’ buying and selling of media, boosting advertising effectiveness for both buyers and sellers across platforms. These programmatic technologies enable advertisers to target specific audiences, wherever they may be on the web, by dealing with each advertising opportunity on a page impression basis. That’s several hundred billion ad-impressions a day; to which publishers, advertisers and data providers can add context and insight and on which brands can then bid to serve their advertising. This entire process takes place as the page loads, typically in 100-200 milliseconds.

This scale and complexity can only be handled by automated systems, which have developed quickly as RTB has grown. First used only for display advertising in performance and direct response, the technology is now shaping the mobile landscape (in-app and browser advertising) as well as multi-screen brand-building campaigns. RTB is evolving into a broad set of programmatic tools that are empowering newly-dynamic relationships between media and agencies.

So as we go into 2014, we are on the cusp of a more dynamic and real-time way of marketing through paid media and by better integration of campaigns with owned and earned media. One year on from the Oreo tweet and its likely February 2014 will see the first fully real-time Superbowl, so what else will we see in 2014? Here are three predictions:

1. Mobile will break through into the mainstream, programmatically

For consumers, there’s no question that mobile is the future, so, naturally, it will continue to drive the evolution of advertising. In the UK, eMarketer predicts that mobile will grow from 7.2 per cent of spend to 23 per cent in four years. The bulk of this growth will be programmatic, as the industry shifts focus from media to audience. As the category matures, the complexities fade into the background and RTB will drive better monetisation for the app developers, which in turn drives higher-quality audience engagement and greater advertiser appeal. Recent IAB research shows a growing level of demand from brands and greater mobile confidence from agencies. Programmatic technologies will remove the last obstacles to growth by integrating mobile into everyday media planning and execution, allowing ads to be bought at scale and in real time to meet campaign objectives.

2. Agencies will adapt and add new value

Advertising technology has driven a revolution in media buying that has challenged existing agency ways of working. Led by the major agency holding companies, 2014 will see a change in operations as they innovate to add value in audience targeting and real-time engagement. The agency stars of the future will be those embracing programmatic to leverage data and creative into real-time multi-screen experiences that go far beyond a single tweet. Already, we are seeing second-screen advertising campaigns that adjust in real-time depending on what is being watched on TV, 2014 promises much more.

3. Marketers will move from awareness to understanding of programmatic 

While marketers will be aware of the growing buzz around programmatic advertising, the majority has not yet needed to fully understand it. In November 2013, The CMO Club published research that showed fewer than half of the respondents were sufficiently confident with programmatic to consider direct engagement. In 2014, as programmatic grows, marketers will need to make informed decisions about the most appropriate model for their business and understand how real-time paid media complements their other activities.