Putting Programmatic Gripes into Room 101

Published: April 17, 2013 

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Marc Galens, VP of International at TubeMogul, offers a round up of some key themes that emerged during the IAB’s second annual Real Time Advertising Conference.

The final session of the recent IAB Real Time Advertising Conference was designed to engage both the audience and speakers with a light-hearted end to a day full of discussions and workshops centred around getting the most out of programmatic trading.

Greg Williams, VP Business Operations EMEA at MediaMath moderated the Room 101 themed panel comprised of Tim Webster, Founder & COO of The Exchange Lab; Hugh Munro, Director of European Sales at TubeMogul; Peter Bell, CTO at Microsoft; and Steve Hobbs, UK MD of AMNET.

Williams asked panellists for their biggest “gripes” when it comes to real-time bidding and all things advertising technology. Throughout the panel, a number of themes emerged that panellists touched upon in some way or another. The top gripe of the group turned out to be “transparency” or rather, the lack of it. The main frustration concerned the fact that everyone claims to be transparent – but in reality may not be. Another common concern was how technology platform providers make life hard for themselves by talking in acronyms which confuse more people than they help. Despite these common themes, the panellists each had unique spins on their gripes to share.

So let’s look at what the audience voted to throw into Room 101, never to see the light of day again…

Tim Webster from The Exchange Lab kicked off proceedings. His choice of “gripe” voted into Room 101 by the audience was the use of “smoke and mirrors” to baffle people with over-complicated explanations and acronyms. Panellists shared the sentiment, with Peter Bell later stating that geek-pop culture was to blame for the pervasiveness of words like cookie synching, DMP, SSP and the rest.

Next it was Hugh Munro’s turn to put myths and frustrations against the wall for scrutiny. The audience’s top vote went to Hugh’s choice to call attention to video networks and seeding companies who claim transparency when it comes to revealing where video ads run – and yet cannot deliver on this claim. The reality is that so many platform providers simply offer up a list of “possible” websites where an ad “might” run prior to a campaign and position that as a site list. However, when it comes time to reviewing post campaign reports, brands and agencies are often left in the dark with regard to what they’re actually paying for. The kind of transparency and accountability that the industry needs will only come when companies adhere to a widely accepted standard of accountability – and this is what we want to see.

In a week when big data was hailed by BBC’s Horizon as the all-encompassing, scientific method of understanding everything from crime to a mission to Mars, Peter Bell of Microsoft shed some light on his number one frustration: data inaccuracy. His discussion focused on the misconception that “all data is created equal”, and how in fact companies are not basing campaigns on the best data, and therefore make big mistakes when it comes to targeted online campaigns. As someone who’s been targeted as a female under 30 years old, Bell’s plea to advertisers was to take heed of the fact that first party data gives insight based on customer behaviour rather than their age or gender, making it radically more accurate than third party data.

The final panellist, Steve Hobbs from AMNET, focussed on the misled belief that online advertising is only effective in direct response campaigns, and not branding. This topic came up repeatedly throughout the day. Earlier in the afternoon, MoneySupermarket shared their belief that branding does work well digitally, and TubeMogul of course shared how real-time video advertising can be a branding powerhouse. If advertisers take into account the entire customer journey – how television, online video and display advertising are working in tandem, each with unique goals – online branding would be attributed a lot more success than we currently give it.

In all, the IAB hosted a thought-provoking day of discussion around the present and future of programmatic branding. As Steve Chester, Head of Data and Programmes at IAB UK pointed out: "What a difference a year makes. This was the second IAB annual conference dedicated to Real Time advertising and the audience attendance spoke volumes about the significance and interest in this growing area of the industry. In 2012, 10% of delegates were brands. This year, 40% of the 330 attendees were brands! Many topics of discussion were raised and debated but common themes included how RTA works for Branding (not just for Direct Response); how RTA is now mainstream and will continue to see strong growth over the next few years; and, although dominated by complex automated technology, human analysis and decision-making will continue to play a vital role in the sector.”

Hopefully the audience votes to exile bad ideas into Room 101 translate into real-world action, and we can finally say goodbye to smoke and mirrors, a lack of transparency, and inaccurate data in 2013.

You can view photos from the conference here.