Conceptually, it is easy to understand the potential of programmatic media buying. It is obvious to most that using technology to supplant what is a manual, labor intensive process to drive efficiencies and improve media investment decisions could be a plus for advertisers, agencies and publishers (not to mention ad tech vendors).
The only question to be addressed is “when” will the benefits of programmatic outweigh the costs and the risks to advertisers?
Proponents of programmatic will argue that this buying tactic has already generated economic benefit for advertisers when it comes to digital media buying. After all, streamlining the processes related to the issuance and completion of RFPs, buyer/ seller negotiations and preparation of insertion orders clearly saves time and reduces labor costs for all stakeholders.
No one would argue this premise. However, reducing labor costs associated with traditional buying is but one component of programmatic buying costs. Consider the broad array of programmatic buying related fees and expenses currently being born by advertisers:
- Data Management Platform (DMP) fees
- Demand Side Platform (DSP) fees
- Data/ Targeting fees
- Pre-Bid Decisioning/ Targeting fees
- Ad Blocking (pre/ post) fees
- Verification fees
- Agency Campaign Management fees
It should be noted, that there are “other” non-transparent charges and fees linked to sell-side platforms (SSPs), bid processing, real-time bidding auction methodology and principal-based buys (media arbitrage) that are born by advertisers and limit the percentage of their digital media spend that actually goes toward inventory.
In a recent Ad News article by Arvind Hickman, the author referenced studies conducted by both the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that demonstrate the magnitude of these programmatic fees and expenses. The WFA study determined that $.60 of every dollar spent on programmatic digital media buying goes to cover “programmatic transactions and fees.” The ANA study suggests that advertisers could be paying between $.54 – $.62 of every dollar on digital supply chain data, transaction fees and supply side charges.
Bear in mind that neither of these studies addressed the impact of media arbitrage or ad fraud. Industry studies, focused on assessing the level of digital ad fraud, fielded by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and WhiteOps found that fraudulent non-human traffic in the form of bots was “more prevalent in programmatic environments.” According to the research, display ads purchased programmatically were “55% more likely to be loaded by bots” than non-programmatic ads.
And yet, in-spite of the challenges still being faced with programmatic digital media buying, this media investment model is being rapidly rolled out to out-of-home, print and television.
Who do you think will bear the learning curve costs and risks associated with expanding programmatic to other media categories? The answer, is primarily advertisers and to a lesser extent, publishers.
We certainly understand that programmatic is the future of media buying. That said, rushing headlong into this arena, without satisfactory levels of transparency and or fraud prevention, combined with the upfront costs of the industry’s investment in technology, that are ultimately passed through to the advertiser, are both risky and costly to advertisers.
Is there a need to reach and take risks in order to secure positive progress? Yes. But, it might be best to follow the approach advocated by one of this country’s greatest military leaders, General George S. Patton:
“Take calculated risks, that is quite different than being rash.”