The programmatic ecosystem is growing rapidly, with the UK market, as well as the US and The Netherlands, leading the way. At this time, we would like to focus on the current state of play in the UK market and future direction for the industry as programmatic – and the technology that underpins it – continues to develop.
Nate Kwarteng, Head of Publisher Development [EMEA] at PulsePoint explains to us how the UK market is faring, the challenges publishers are facing today, and the best practices and solutions for them.
Could you explain what PulsePoint does and how its technology can benefit publishers?
PulsePoint is a programmatic ad exchange that helps publishers monetise their audiences across desktop, mobile web, in-app and video, with contextually relevant advertising, through ‘Open Auction’ and ‘Private Marketplaces’ – all of which are offered through multiple integration methods. In addition, our CMP [Content Marketing Platform] allow brands to distribute their content at scale, while driving deeper user engagement.
We sit in the middle of the programmatic spectrum so we see both sides of the buy/sell coin. We know that modern consumers have built up a resistance for ads and are using ad blocking tools to avoid them altogether. This new consumer mind-set has resulted in a far-greater requirement from brands to produce genuinely engaging content for their audiences across a diverse and growing range of media channels. The truth is that consumers don’t care whether the message they receive is sponsored or not – they care about how it relates to them and if they find it meaningful.
It’s no secret that; with the rise of ad blocking it’s increasingly more difficult, for publishers to effectively monetise content. Our publishers are adept at producing valuable, rich content – and that’s expensive. Ad-blocking can seriously diminish a publisher’s margins. At PulsePoint, we help – to expose the true value of every ad impression through contextualisation, so that’s to say; we serve highly relevant advertising, to the right consumer, in the right environment at the right time. In turn, this generates higher CPMs for our publishers. For advertisers, by adding this additional layer of targeting (that goes beyond the cookie), we provide them with enhanced user engagement, which translates to stronger conversion and enhanced campaign ROI.
If we talk about the market in the UK, what is the percentage in terms of programmatic, and where does PulsePoint see the market going in the next few years? (In Spain we talk about 16-20%).
MagnaGlobal estimates that in the UK, programmatic will be valued at $7.7B by 2017. When you look at the total digital ad spend for the UK, which eMarketer estimates will reach $14.4B by 2017, programmatic is slated to represent more than half of all brand dollars spent.
The bulk of programmatic spend is currently focusing on the desktop, but by 2019 it’s likely that desktop vs mobile device spend will probably be split 50/50. Making the most of the mobile opportunity is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK market today. Worryingly, a recent IAB survey showed that while half of buyers said that they use programmatic for buying smartphone inventory, 44 per cent reported having little or no understanding of programmatic advertising on mobile.
With this predicted growth in demand for In-app traffic, there’ll be a further shift in the dynamics of the UK programmatic marketplace in the year ahead. Publisher side, programmatic managers will very quickly need to build expertise and in collaboration with brands, define and refine the engagement metrics that matter most for In-app campaigns.
The UK is the biggest European market for programmatic but we see clear opportunities for growth in Spain over the next twelve months, while other markets such as Netherlands, Italy and Turkey also represent potentially lucrative territory for ad tech firms.
What are the main differences you can see between the Spanish and the English market?
Firstly, the similarity between these two markets is that there are many well-established publishers that produce excellent rich content. The main difference lies in the fact that the majority of UK publishers are considering programmatic or have already embraced programmatic monetisation. In the UK, RTB Programmatic without doubt has become an incredibly vital part of the digital ad stack. Whereas in Spain to a certain extent, there are two distinct groups of publishers: those who are embracing programmatic and those who simply aren’t.
Nevertheless, Spain is catching up quickly – with some publishers beginning to test programmatic. Prisa Digital is an example of one such publisher in the Spanish market that is really embracing programmatic.
The flip side of this is that we’re also experiencing somewhat of a creativity crisis in advertising, particularly in the UK market, due to the advent and quick uptake of programmatic, and as native is forcing advertisers to reprioritise content and creativity over cost-saving. Aside from ad blocking, brand safety, viewability and cross device tracking are some of the other well documented key obstacles that the UK market needs to surmount. What’s interesting is that publishers in Spain will benefit greatly from having been initially cautious in their uptake of programmatic.Spanish publishers, are in now in an advantageous position that will see them learn from the initial mistakes made by publishers in the more mature European Programmatic markets such as the UK, France and Germany. One thing is for sure – there is enough enthusiasm in the market to make programmatic adoption successful in the Spanish market.
Do you think it makes sense to talk about programmatic without data? Are you currently using data?
No. Programmatic is inherently driven by data – it is the foundation of Programmatic RTB. The question is; how effectively are publishers and ad exchanges using data and whether they’re harnessing the true value of their data, to deliver added value to advertisers. This means using more granular data to enrich impressions and make them more valuable to buyers, in-turn allowing publishers to make maximise yield on each and every impression.
It’s accurate to say the richer the data, that is provided to advertisers, the greater the revenue opportunity for both publishers and advertisers, through improved brand engagement. At PulsePoint we have the ability to extract and pass on contextual, viewability and sentiment data amongst other environmental data, from every impression served, for precisely this reason.
In your opinion, what is the best scenario for publishers to work? More than one solution?
The programmatic industry is incredibly fast-paced and the publishers who will succeed are those that continue to test, monitor and compare the performance of their programmatic partners. To reap the full advantages of programmatic monetisation, publishers should firstly define objectives and then build a strategy for monetising non-guaranteed inventory. Clarity around objectives is key – is it just about fill or is yield more important? Does your current ad-stack setup, induce latency and impression loss. Do you wish to utilise 1st party data for enhanced engagement and premium CPMs? etc.
In real terms, publishers should consider the following:
1. Dedicated personnel to manage the programmatic ad stack, including private marketplaces.
2. Continual research into technology partners, identifying and testing solutions that best fit with their objectives.
3. At an even more practical level, publishers should consider setting clearing prices that capture the full bid landscape to create competition that drives bid density, thereby achieving the full revenue potential of their non-guaranteed inventory.
4. Traditional ad stack waterfalls should kept lean, by cutting poor performing monetisation partners,and testing new partners.
5. Publishers should talk to their industry peers to find out what’s working for them, bearing in mind that it’s not a one size fits all scenario. What works brilliantly for publisher A, could be mediocre for publisher B.
6. Last and most importantly, if technical resource permits, publishers should look towards ‘Unified Auction’ technology –Header Bidding– and/or API integration (bid-on-bid) will enhance ad-stack efficiency and, moreover, elevate yield and ultimately grow programmatic revenue.
Is programmatic still described as remnant or is that history in the UK?
I cannot remember the last time in a conversation with either a publisher, colleague or competitor that programmatic was referred to as remnant. Programmatic is reaching young adulthood. There’s still some growing up to do but this formerly scruffy teenager is coming of age and is now valuable member of the digital ad monetisation family. Abstract, anthropomorphic, analogies aside, programmatic is a critical part of the ad stack today and seen as key revenue driver, as indicated by the numerous dedicated programmatic monetisation job roles. We’re also seeing more senior level programmatic roles. For example, earlier this year the Financial Times appointed a Global Director of Programmatic Sales – the Weather Channel did the same last year. Industry-wide, entire teams are being built and trained to sell programmatically. The growth of private marketplaces is further helping publishers realise the full potential of their inventory and decidedly moving the industry towards ‘Programmatic Premium’. In-short, remnant is history.