We’re less than two weeks away from our Programmatic Lunch, where we’ll bring together stakeholders from across the marketing industry, gathering the entire programmatic chain in a single location to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Programmatic has grown from a simple idea to almost an entire industry in its own right, and we believe that through improved targeting, more efficient ad spend and more personalised creative, the whole marketing world can benefit.
Ahead of the Programmatic Lunch, we spoke to Andrew Morsy, managing director for the UK at Sizmek, one of our event sponsors, about the impact of AI, how programmatic can fight for brand safety, and why data is at the centre of everything.
“The biggest challenge to the programmatic ecosystem is also its greatest asset: data,” said Morsy. “We have an enormous amount of customer data available to us – and the tools to collate, analyse, process and action. Yet many brands are failing to deliver personalised advertising that reaches consumers at the opportune moment.
“Our own research shows that only 30 per cent of C-level execs responsible for programmatic marketing say they use their own data to understand the needs of the consumer. With the sheer volume of data that exists – and its variety of sources – it’s understandable marketers are reluctant to adopt a data strategy they may not have the capacity, or the technical insight, to undertake. But within this first-party data lies the key to understanding what customers want and when – providing unparalleled opportunities to deliver adverts in the moments that inspire action, and enhance ad creative with personalised, targeted messages.
One of the barriers that may be holding back marketers from making the most of the data at their disposal is the sheer volume that exists, but Morsy believes that very soon, advances in artificial intelligence will enable marketers to handle larger data loads and search quickly for patterns that can optimise campaigns or reveal underserved audiences.
“In the next few years, we’ll see AI and machine learning significantly increase their influence in programmatic advertising,” said Morsy. “Both have already achieved great things – from tackling brand safety via semantic contextual targeting to unlocking powerful data insights to maximise campaigns – and the potential of the two technologies going forwards is enormous.
“The other fundamental factor in the evolution of programmatic will be the arrival of 5G in 2020, which will result in a leap in the quality of mobile ads. As quicker speeds make mobile creative a reality, more marketers will be able to utilise advertising’s most powerful duo: data and creative. Dynamic Creative on mobile will soar. Customers will benefit from engaging, tailored ads, and brands will benefit from the resulting increase in conversions.”
Nowadays, discussions of data inevitably lead to the impact of GDPR, and while worried about the preparation of the industry in general, Morsy explained that this new legislation is an opportunity to regain the trust of consumers and strengthen the value exchange at the core of digital marketing.
“With GDPR fast approaching, all companies utilising customer data must make compliance a priority,” said Morsy. “It’s alarming to read reports that many companies are still ill-prepared – one study found only 41 per cent currently have a framework or strategy in place to ensure they comply with the new regulations.
“While many marketers may view the GDPR as a burden, it’s a much-needed advancement in customer privacy and security. As the number of data sources rapidly increases – i.e. through smartphone uptake, wearable tech and the Internet of Things – the industry desperately needs a new regulation to reflect these vast new data resources. And in addition to vetting and adapting their own internal processes, marketers must also be sure their providers meet stringent data protection standards.
“The bottom line is the brands that demonstrate respect for their customers’ need for data privacy are far more likely to earn - and maintain - their loyalty and trust. The programmatic ecosystem has long had a transparency problem with ad fraud and viewability problems dampening its reputation, but this is set to change. In the next few years, we’ll see programmatic transform into an industry where openness, transparency and trust runs through its core.”
Ad fraud and viewability aren’t the only controversies programmatic has had to face over the past year, with concerns over brand safety hitting the front pages of national newspapers and global brands scrambling to repair the damage done. According to Morsy, these problems aren’t isolated to programmatic trading, though, and in fact the technology could hold the key to solving such issues.
“Programmatic has taken a rap in the press for leaving companies open to brand safety breaches – such as placement of ads next to political propaganda,” said Morsy. “But it’s not a problem with programmatic necessarily – solutions exist within programmatic advertising that can guarantee brand safety; brands just need to make sure they’re utilising this option.
“It’s surprising easily to prevent brand safety breaches – the answer lies in semantic contextual targeting. Fuelled by AI, this tool can interpret the content of web pages at a highly granular level, using machine learning and natural language processing.
“Analysing billions of words at lightning speed, semantic contextual targeting is able to spot any content that may be inappropriate, illegal, unethical or just unsuitable for a brand. And by understanding the sentiment, or relationship between the words (rather than just keywords), the technology is able to understand the true meaning of the context.
“It’s easy to see why brands may think manual buying will reduce the chance of a brand safety breach. But with a partner like Sizmek, companies benefit from greater peace of mind, with the additional efficiency, scale and personalisation advantages of programmatic advertising.”
Scale is another keyword for Sizmek – it is one of the largest independent buy-side platforms in the industry. But in a digital ad market still dominated by Google and Facebook, we have to ask what tools programmatic can provide to independent players hoping to compete on their level?
“The industry has been crying out for an independent buy-side player,” said Morsy. “As a tech rather than a media company, we have the unique ability to connect all data components in one place across the entirety of the media plan. Our advanced data enablement means Sizmek clients can understand their data and utilise it effectively. This includes what we call the ‘five dimensions of predictive marketing’: campaigns, consumers, context, creative, and cost.
“While Google and Facebook may have reach, our clients are empowered by the visibility they gain. We are DSP agnostic – we do not limit which partners our clients can work with, nor cap how they view their data. With robust dynamic creative optimisation and predictive AI capabilities – we deliver advertising that’s highly personalised, and reaches the right consumer at the optimum moment.
“Our real-time feedback shows how audiences are reacting to ads, empowering marketers to gain vital insights from campaigns to inform future marketing efforts; ultimately driving better performance. With a fragmented media landscape, marketers need an agnostic DSP that offers a complete picture of all activity. Sizmek’s AI technology empowers marketers to capture all the available data across the media plan – unlocking a more complete view.”
The Programmatic Lunch takes place on 24 November at The Mayfair Hotel in London. We’re bringing together some of the UK’s top programmatic minds from across the whole value chain to talk through some of the big issues in the space, connect with each other, and enjoy a spectacular lunch.
Click here to book your place at the event, and join representatives from firms including News UK, Spotify, Oath, Teads, The Media Trust, LinkedIn, Havas, Thomson Reuters, Amobee, Celtra, OpenX and more.