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Programmatic budgets rise as brands seek greater control: Study

Brands are continuing to increase their ad spend via programmatic channels, despite widely publicised concerns about brand safety and transparency, a new study from the World Federation of Advertisers has found.

The Future of Programmatic found that budgets are expected to be up by 11 points from 17 per cent of total digital media investment in 2016-17 to 28 per cent in 2017-18 on average globally with further increases due this year, with mobile (up for 87 per cent of respondents) and video (up for 68 per cent) due to benefit from increased investment. There will also be an additional focus on new programmatic channels such as ‘Advanced TV’ and Digital OOH (77 per cent will increase spend in these areas).

North America is the region where programmatic is most established with spend expected to hit 31 per cent of digital budgets in 2017/18. Latin America and China are the least established at 20 per cent.

Transparency is key
As the programmatic spend increases, marketers have also been pushing for changes to address their concerns around transparency. The study highlights that now it’s not uncommon for clients to have ‘disclosed’ contracts and 45 per cent believe they have a fully transparent relationship with their programmatic partners. A further 41 per cent of respondents say that increasing transparency with programmatic partners is a major priority for 2018.

Data transparency is also moving up the agenda with 62 per cent reporting that addressing segment mark-ups and data arbitrage is a major priority for 2018, up from 14 per cent in 2017.

About 83 per cent of respondents also see compliance as a priority for 2018, with GDPR coming into effect in May 2018. Only 10 per cent say they have already ensured their programmatic activity is fit for purpose post GDPR.

“In terms of its public relations with the wider marketing community, it’s fair to say that 2017 hasn’t been a great year for programmatic. But there’s too much momentum now, and in spite of the issues, clients do generally see the benefits – brands will spend a growing share of their digital ad budgets in programmatic in 2018. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take action to improve the ecosystem in which they operate. There will be continued pressure on contracts, greater in-house understanding and on-going efforts to make better use of data in attribution models in 2018. The major priority for the short-term is preparing for the arrival of GDPR, for which the clock is ticking,” said Matt Green, Global Lead – Media and Digital Marketing at the WFA.

Attribution, in-house staff & ‘walled gardens’
According to the study, seven per cent of respondents have a robust multi-touch attribution model at the moment but this is a key priority for 2018 with 69 per cent saying they are focusing on this issue.

‘Walled gardens’ of media giants remains an issue and concern as the report also found that two-thirds of advertisers are looking for further changes with them this year. Only 10 per cent believe they have already addressed walled garden and data access issues and 66 per cent see it as a priority.

The study, which was conducted alongside the WFA’s marketing software partner dataxu, is based on responses from 28 companies spending in excess of USD 50bn globally on marketing communications. The research was carried out in November and December 2017.

The marketers have also been aiming to deliver internal ‘media transformation’, as 24 per cent of respondents feel they have already brought their internal staff up to speed on programmatic. Forty-five per cent are prioritising internal capability this year and nearly 28 per cent of respondents are looking to recruit programmatic specialists, the report shows.

Eighty-seven per cent of the respondents model data for best customer ‘lookalikes’ and target these segments (up from 38 per cent in 2015), as advanced data usage is becoming common now. Meanwhile 74 per cent of respondents use programmatic approaches to target specific customers and segments (with relevant in-context messages).

“It’s no surprise that marketing budgets devoted to programmatic are slated to be up in 2018. With the laser focus on transparency and cleaning up the supply chain from brands, agencies and technology partners, I think there’s more confidence in the ability of programmatic to deliver true ROI than ever before as we as an industry continue to tackle the top-of-mind challenges facing marketing,” said Mike Shaw, VP EMEA at dataxu.


Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.