Programmatic ad spend in the UK will increase by 24% and reach some £3.39 billion by the end of 2017, accounting for 79% of total display spend, a new report from eMarketer has found. The word programmatic is used commonly across most digital buys now, having become an umbrella term for digital automation or data-led decision making – so, as every digital screen quickly becomes connected to centralised platforms, what will this mean for advertisers?

Programmatic (as we all know it) started in 2007, with the first Demand Side Platforms coming on the market. This allowed agencies to access inventory and own the buying decisions across display (banners, native, video, audio), utilising machine learning to optimise display buying, focusing on buying audiences not impressions.

The teenage years weren’t pretty though. With more and more spend pushed into programmatic platforms, we have seen some big topics arising: hidden media inflation, transparency, viewability, ad fraud, and brand safety.

Thankfully we have fixes in place as the tech world catches up with the growth:

  • Ads.txt combats fraud through an agency-publisher buying confirmation code.
  • Viewability is no longer a major issue as publishers have adapted to demand, and agencies continue to advance their measurement techniques.
  • Fraud and brand safety measures are all there, but media owners still have to remain vigilant with any monetised UGC inventory.
  • The solution of header bidding has allowed for access to a more agnostic supply for programmatic.

New solutions such as blockchain also have the potential to change online ads forever, further solving fraud whilst allowing website visitors to be part of the transaction through crypto-currency.

Now that programmatic has matured, with more connected supply sources and having the ability to connect all digital channels, we’ve seen increased discussion around innovations using AI, machine learning and automation.

So, what does programmatic now mean for buying media? It looks as if almost all digital inventory will be accessible programmatically, meaning that buyers can decide where to buy, ad-by-ad, across digital display (banners, native video, audio), broadcaster VOD, addressable TV and the scale of outdoor. This will ultimately mean more
advanced holistic planning, less media wastage, more relevant/dynamic ad content and will lead to better
real-time measurement and optimisation of ATL media.