Programmatic Advertising in 2014

by Caroline Watts on January 8, 2014

In the ad tech trades, the dust has largely settled on the 2013 recaps and the 2014 predictions. Unsurprisingly, trends in programmatic advertising have been a key element of both last year’s overviews and this year’s forecasts.

Trends in ProgrammaticLooking back at 2013, programmatic deserves the attention it received, as it did make huge inroads. Programmatic buying grew so rapidly last year that eMarketer’s ambitious August estimate  had to be revised upward again in November, in part because of the growth of programmatic direct.

Looking forward to 2014, it’s a safe bet that programmatic buying will continue to grow, and that the landscape will change dramatically. New trends that emerged in 2013 (the best example of which is programmatic direct), will come into their own in 2014.

Still skeptical about why programmatic deserves such a big role in both backward and forward-looking pieces? One reason for its persistent status as hot topic is that, despite rapid growth, a lot of publishers and advertisers still don’t really know what it programmatic means for them (or in some cases, what it means in general).

Understanding “Programmatic”

The pervasive misunderstanding of what programmatic means came up in more than one 2014 prospective, with some more optimistic than others about publishers and brands’ ability to get on board in the coming year.

One of Digiday’s projections, courtesy of an anonymous agency veteran, was a little more pessimistic:

Lots of people will talk about programmatic buying in the same way that they talked about Big Data: without having a clue about what it really means.

And in the unlikely event they do understand it fully, they won’t know how to implement it or have the time or energy to figure it out.

It’s certainly a possibility that programmatic traction will be waylaid in 2014 by execs who know they’re supposed to focusing on programmatic, but don’t actually know what focusing on programmatic is.

But with the right partner in place and the the right pressures to make programmatic a reality, many organizations — buy and sell side — will be able to figure out what their needs are in 2014 and find the right technology to meet them.

Programmatic’s Clarity Problem

The biggest reason for the buzzword paralysis that’s all too common in this industry (see: big data) is that the hype machine is always on–whenever a new topic gains popularity, everyone company is suddenly a provider of that hot new thing, leaving ample room for confusion and little for clarity.

That’s what happened with programmatic. Fortunately, vocab standardization is emerging. The IAB’s recent outline of the programmatic landscape (definitions and all) is a particularly salient (and helpful) example.

Once we stop equating programmatic with RTB, and give stakeholders a change to understand the fundamentals of automation, there’s no reason programmatic can’t have a spectacular 2014.

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