Chris Childs, TabMo UK managing director, takes a look at how the mobile programmatic platform has gone from blind faith to knowledge and transparency.
A year is a long time in… well, just about any sector. But nowhere is that more true than in mobile advertising.
From commonly being treated as an afterthought, or a channel tested on a small number of users, mobile gained ground during 2016 to become an integral element of advertising campaigns. Budgets increasingly reflected the consumption habits of consumers, who spend ever more time on their smartphones. The IAB UK reported that in the first half of the year, ad spend on mobile outstripped that on desktop for the first time.
Questions around the effectiveness of mobile as an advertising channel are starting to become a thing of the past. And to a great degree, this has been driven by the modern programmatic platform.
But for full context of the capabilities of the mobile programmatic platform we are now seeing emerge, a brief recap of the adtech industry in general is required.
In the early days, buying and selling digital media – based as it was on the offline model of insertion orders – was inefficient. Technology that automated the process was welcomed and added value, and thus programmatic was hailed as the saviour of digital advertising.
But, like many good things, it became a commodity, with driving down the price of online inventory as its key focus. At the same time, programmatic was seen as overly complex – a ‘black box’ – and its intricacies were not well understood.
Advertisers expected to pay the lowest price possible for inventory but they did not question where their ad was placed. This was coupled with an overall lack of transparency that saw many ad tech players reluctant to report on where impressions had been placed.
The result? Many ads were served on poor quality sites that did not reflect a brand’s values or attract its target audience. Programmatic advertising was, understandably, perceived as delivering poor returns for both advertisers and publishers. Eventually, programmatic and its subset, real-time bidding (RTB), became seen as shorthand for blind-buying into poor inventory, which reduced prices still further.
Just as critical was the air of mistrust that shrouded the whole ad tech industry as a result. When viewability, fraud and brand safety started to top the media agenda, it was a natural step to blame the demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs) that had played a part in the current state of affairs.
The rock-bottom prices and reputation inform how next-generation mobile programmatic platforms are developing to enable advertisers to focus on data and content. The new DSP helps advertisers to access good quality sites that reach their target audience at a time when they are receptive, and control exactly which of these their ads appear on and how often.
Mobile content has also become much more robust. Almost everyone has a mobile device, so publishers understand the benefit of optimising their websites to be viewed on a mobile screen as well as offering the content via an app. The result is a huge increase in the amount of high-quality mobile inventory.
This benefits everyone: the publisher, who can charge accordingly; the advertiser, whose content is seen in an environment that fits its brand; and the user, whose viewing experience is improved by better editorial and commercial material.
This breadth of high-calibre inventory means advertisers no longer have to sacrifice audience quality to serve more ads.
Modern DSPs can use all available content to build private marketplaces for each category in which an advertiser might want to advertise. More control for advertisers is offered in the form of brand verification and frequency capping, for example, meaning advertisers no longer face the constant risk to their brand safety.
There is also a consensus that programmatic trading cannot afford to be a complicated machine that is whirring and buzzing away behind closed doors. Platforms need to be open to showing advertisers and agencies how they target, and geotarget, the sites they use and where advertising budgets are spent, for example. This is much easier for platforms such as TabMo that own their own technology.
Having been burned once, advertisers, too, are taking responsibility. More and more are forming their own programmatic teams that have in-depth understanding of the programmatic landscape and how best to use it to meet their brand objectives.
Whether this knowledge shift from technology platforms to brands continues, though, and what the consequences will be if it does, remain to be seen. Programmatic is earning itself a better reputation, but the future will be no less interesting.
This sponsored article first appeared in the February 2017 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here