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May 12, 2017, Article

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3 Ways Programmatic Can Graduate From Adolescence

As programmatic advertising hits its 10th anniversary, it represents more than 50 percent of all non-search digital ad spending. What began as a quirky set of technologies and protocols for monetizing long-tail display inventory is poised to become the dominant framework for all of digital advertising.

The initial disruption is behind us, we’ve clearly reached the end of the beginning and the future is full of promise. But it’s equally clear that, in order to deliver on that promise, we need to make some fundamental changes, as the status quo is satisfying neither the marketer nor the consumer.

The rapid adoption of programmatic has demonstrated that marketers aren’t willing to settle for mere automation—and why should they? Consumers have been very clear that they expect control and relevance . I believe that, if accorded this respect, they will respect the business model that supports the internet.

This is the crucial year in our adolescence in which we begin taking responsibility for our actions. There are three urgent tasks the ad tech industry must address if we are to make it to full maturity without alienating our clients and consumers in 2017. Indeed, there are three promises unfulfilled that left ignored, will stunt our continued growth if we as an industry do not address them now.

Provide true addressability

Marketers were promised full addressability across all channels, and consumers were promised a personalized, customer-centric experience online. Marketers want to communicate with people, not “users” and “users” want to be treated like people. Strong, reliable identity solutions needs to go hand-in-hand with strong privacy, data governance and a consumer “bill of rights.”

Pull the curtain back

Marketers are demanding an experience that is reliably fraud-free and brand safe, with transparent and rational economics. Consumers deserve absolute protection from fraud and malware. Quantification will set us free here. There’s no retreat from granular, buy-side measurement of advertising effectiveness, and publishers deserve an equally rigorous toolset for quantifying the contribution of advertising to consumer experience.

Stop our own infighting

True interoperability and transparency will require a strong partnership between marketers and publisher with regard to business outcomes and consumer experience. Antagonistic, arms-length models won’t get us there, nor will closed, monolithic systems.

We’ve talked this talk for a long time, but if we continue to fail to deliver on this, then we are going to lose the faith of consumers and marketers, and we will have lost the opportunity to shape the internet. Luckily, I already see a burst of activity in meeting all of these challenges. Holding companies are holding Google accountable for lack of control and transparency over where their ads appear. DSPs are beginning to draw the line against fraud by refusing to pass the cost on to marketers.

And on Thursday, several of the largest independent companies that have traditionally competed with one another banded together to launch a “standard identity framework that enables buyers and sellers of programmatic digital advertising to create more relevant campaigns and improve consumer experience.”

It might take us another decade to get to the ultimate vision of digital—one where consumers are opting into an experience that empowers brands and publishers alike. It’s in our power to build the programmatic experience that marketers and consumers deserve, and it’s time to get started.

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