I remember very vividly back in 2013 when I was asked to speak about the next up-and-coming trend in digital media buying at the Internet Summit. We had begun testing programmatic media buying back in 2011, but really – we were using MediaMath’s full service DSP when we started, so I didn’t really count that as “running programmatic”. It was more like placing an insertion order for someone else to run it. But by 2013, we were completely self-service in Terminal One, and we were truly “doing programmatic” – so I was anxious to talk about it, and anxious to see who else was doing it. Upon asking for a show of hands for who was running programmatic, from the 700-some people in my audience, I got 7 hands in the air (5 were from Media Two employees). My heart sank, as I was prepared to have an engaging conversion, yet here I was, next to nobody in the audience even knew what I was talking about.
Fast forward almost 4 years to the day, and I can tell you with great conviction, that nothing has changed, people still don’t know programmatic. I have been speaking with some very high level media people at large agencies and marketers alike this past month, and not one of them actually manages their programmatic offering, and several wouldn’t even know where or with whom to speak with in order to get a self-service platform. They do programmatic by simply placing an insertion order with a DSP. So when I saw today’s MediaPost headline that read “32% of Marketers To Bring Programmatic Media Buying In-House” – I thought – “Hell yes! You can sign that insertion order just as easy as your agency can.”
As I read through the article, the reasons people want to bring them in-house are much the same: fraud, brand safety, verification, etc. All very valid concerns, however, when I read that the order of programmatic preference from brands had Amazon listed first, followed by Google’s DBM and then Rocket Fuel. Two of the top three preferences ARE NOT SELF-SERVE options – they are insertion order based! What’s worse, is that Amazon, the “top choice” of the 700 firms interviewed was only thought of as a DSP by 18% of them!
Look – programmatic media buying is very complex, but it’s made even more complex by the amount of agencies and clients faking it. I’m not saying allowing a DSP to run your automated media buys isn’t programmatic – but I am saying that it’s nothing more than allowing an insertion order backed by AI to drive your entire marketing campaign. That is not learning and understanding the programmatic space, that’s signing your name on a piece of paper. Where is the strategy, and the audience targeting? Where is the testing of RTB versus preferred/direct programmatic? Where does digging into the data to buy smarter, or spin off to direct sponsorships go? Agencies MUST learn. They MUST test. They MUST be a resource to their clients, or yes – you run the risk of a third of your clients bringing the services in-house. If all you’re doing is placing an insertion order, then I say let your clients do it and quit faking it. If your agency specializes in media buying, and is willing to do the heavy lifting – then you have so much more to gain!