Bad use of programmatic is like ‘screaming Norwegian death metal into a consumer’s ear’

eBay’s director of UK advertising Phuong Nguyen has warned that bad use of programmatic technology is the equivalent of ‘screaming death metal into a consumer’s ear’.


Programmatic has become an integral part of trading online display advertising over recent years. It is set to account for 70% of the overall UK display ad budget this year, according to eMarketer.

However, Nguyen, who was speaking during a panel at Mumsnet’s Mumstock event yesterday (15 March), said that in the rush to target customers, too many brands are utilising the wrong programmatic technology.

He told delegates: “You need the right talent in place, you can’t just throw money at programmatic and expect it to succeed. You need real expertise and proper targeting tools.

“Good programmatic advertising should be the equivalent of singing sweet nothings into a consumer ear. Too many people are getting it wrong and, as a result, the frequency of bad targeting is the equivalent of screaming Norwegian death metal into a consumer’s ear.”

Also speaking on the panel, which was hosted by Marketing Week’s editor Russell Parsons, was Facebook’s UK and Ireland chief Steve Hatch, who acknowledged the ‘genuine challenge’ brands face around viewability.

“Typically the relevance of programmatic ads is overstated by 30% while the frequency is understated by 30%,” said Hatch.

“You could be a brand that has excellent customer service and excellent products but bad, frequent targeting then lets down all those positives. Bad use of programmatic is a carpet bombing brand killer.”

Facebook’s view on ad blockers and new emotions

Hatch also acknowledged the rise of ad blockers, which he said must result in better advertising and collaboration between publishers, brands and agencies. “It is forcing the industry to make better ads,” he clarified.

“Mondelez ask all of their agencies to show content to them on an iPad and mobile first. Ad blockers are making marketers think more of their role in a mobile world.”

Facebook, he said, was currently working out how to make its new expressions – which includes ‘love’, ‘sad’ and ‘wow’ emoticons alongside the usual ‘like’ option on posts – work for advertisers by running tests with General Motors.

However he was hesitant to overstate the impact of the changes. He concluded: “Those who like and share Facebook posts still represent around 1% of those who actually go on to buy something.

“The new emotions have a lot of potential but we need to unpack exactly how they will work for marketers and not rush into anything.”

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