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IAB H1 Programmatic Day: three key takeaways

IAB H1 Programmatic Day: three key takeaways 

“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

Maya Angelou’s notable quote may not seem an obvious fit for digital advertising, but as the industry deals with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sentiment is surprisingly apt. That kernel of ‘hope’ was a key takeaway from the recent IAB H1 Programmatic Day webinar series. There was an unmistakable undercurrent of optimism and opportunity flowing through the event’s sessions – a marvelling at the resilience of the industry, and a hopeful outlook for the future.

A recurring theme throughout the panels was the opportunity the digital advertising industry has to re-evaluate standard pre-pandemic processes and innovate new approaches. This premise extends from business decisions – such as adopting a particular post-cookie means of identification – to baseline practices like interviewing potential new hires.

The year of programmatic 

Throughout the event, much was said of the resilience and flexibility of the programmatic ecosystem. These attributes allowed it to weather the COVID-19 storm relatively unscathed and to adapt to changes in industry practices and consumer behaviour.

IAB Europe’s Chief Economist Daniel Knapp discussed how initial predictions were all doom and gloom, foreseeing “the worst ad recession in the last 100 years, worse than the Great Depression … but this didn’t happen”. Knapp acknowledged programmatic was one of the first mechanisms to be impacted by the pandemic due to its switch on/switch off dynamic, but that this was later a strength. It allowed cautious buyers to safeguard budgets when local lockdowns drastically changed consumer behaviour and gave them the confidence to reallocate media spend and ‘switch on’ when lockdowns eased.

Knapp’s presentation flagged potential big concept changes for the industry. These included converting the supply chain into a value chain and widening the traditional marketing funnel into a marketing cylinder through more effective targeted spend and wider media scale.

It was the industry’s adaptability and reactivity, where companies increasingly leaned towards automated ad buying and drove a strong Q3 bounce back, that led Stephen Wing, SVP head of EMEA at Magnite, to dub 2020 the ‘year of programmatic’.

Tuning in to the rise and rise of CTV

When attendees were polled on which channels they expect to propel future growth in programmatic investment, a resounding 55% identified connected TV (CTV) as the main driver.

CTV was a hot topic throughout the webinar series, mirroring its place at the forefront of discussion throughout the wider industry. The channel was part of the response from Andreas Dooley – head of agency Sales at Oracle Data Cloud – to the question of why programmatic performance was better than expected through 2020. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gregor Fellner, director of business development, DACH for Rakuten Advertising, also flagged it as an area to watch for increased programmatic investment.

This current and future interest in CTV was a key topic for the panel titled ‘Programmatic trading – What it means to advertisers today’. Zaid Roberts, director of advertiser solutions EMEA, PubMatic said CTV is a format many are currently testing and looking to invest in. He suggested everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and declared CTV represents “one of the biggest opportunities we’ve seen in a long time … buyers are keen to shift budgets into CTV because they can see it’s where audiences are migrating to, and people are combining CTV viewing with linear TV. This has impacted how buyers are planning for CTV, viewing it as a complement to linear TV which will always be the best means for mass communication.”

Omar Velazquez, lead associate trading director at The Trade Desk, had one of the best soundbites of the day, neatly summarising why everyone is talking about CTV by referring to it as the digital fireplace when describing its position as a central hub in the home.

The cookie has crumbled – now what? 

No discussion around digital advertising since that Google announcement can be had without addressing the ghost at the feast – the demise of the third-party cookie. The IAB dedicated a panel to the discussion, charting what programmatic advertising might look like in a post-cookie landscape. A key takeaway from the session was the industry coming together to address the problem ahead of the 2022 deadline and uniting behind workable solutions to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Rachel Gantz, GM of activation at Comscore, highlighted how the interoperability of solutions will be key in allowing measurement and targeting information to be shared across the industry. Gantz also emphasised that big questions remain around proposed solutions such as contextual targeting and hashed email addresses, including how they will scale and their viability with GDPR restrictions. The emphasis is currently on a test and learn period to establish best practices.

While companies are rushing to establish which solution fits their business model and place in the programmatic pipeline, Tanya Field, CPO of Novatiq, served a timely reminder that user experience and transparency need to be prioritised by providing mechanisms to supplement logged-in, authenticated IDs. “People won’t want to log in to every website or app every time they visit. Many users want to just consume content without exchanging that level of information. Figures show between 20-30% will want to authenticate. We will end up with ‘survival of the fittest’ – those offering the most value in exchange for logging in will win out.”

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