Trading desk tug of war shows need for programmatic expertise

ISBA, which represents British advertisers, is to issue guidelines for brands on how to structure media agency contracts around programmatic advertising, so that data ownership is clear.

Michael Barnett

The fact that brands need this assistance from a trade body shows that marketers have been too hands-off in their approach to the burgeoning programmatic discipline. When Marketing Week published its essential guide to programmatic advertising recently, it didn’t come as a great surprise to learn that a full quarter of marketers still haven’t even heard of programmatic, according to research by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

But even the majority, who by now have seen the case studies and drunk the ad tech companies’ Kool Aid, still seem to leave everything to the agency trading desk or a specialist provider when it comes to execution.

There is no question about programmatic that requires a more immediate answer from brands than ‘who owns the data?’ It should be the first thing any marketer asks and if you don’t like the answer, the chances are you’re talking to the wrong provider.

From an agency point of view, there’s obvious value in being able to use data relating to client campaigns to demonstrate the effectiveness of programmatic buying to prospective customers, and to improve their own knowledge and performance. In fact, there’s a strong argument that it would be better all round for the industry if this were more routinely possible, because it would lift up best practice across the board.

But, of course, the counter-argument to this is that brands that have taken the time and put in the investment to develop programmatic strategies should be able to reap the rewards of competitive advantage. A successful campaign automatically becomes half as successful the moment a rival learns how to replicate the results.

Some of the bigger advertisers have prevented the problem of competitors’ seeing their data by setting up entire agency trading desks dedicated solely to their media buying. Clearly not all will buy the volume of ad impressions to justify this and the rest should benefit from ISBA’s advice, garnered from the best sources in the industry.

But even so, more important than this is that every brand that advertises online must make it a matter of urgency to take an active hand in their programmatic campaigns. Only then will they appreciate the implications of who owns what data and, moreover, who gets to see it.

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