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Programmatic faces threats

News, 08 October 2015

LONDON: Opaque trading desk practices, an addiction to jargon and the ad blocking revolution threaten the growth of programmatic advertising, a panel of experts has suggested.

Speaking at an event organised by Mediatel, the online media information source, members of the panel said that automated buying faces many serious challenges, despite its recent rapid advances. (For more, including discussion of publishers' walled gardens, waste and future predictions for the sector, read Warc's exclusive report: Seven big issues shaping the programmatic sector.)

Media agency trading desks came under fire, with only Sacha Bunatyan, COO of Amnet UK, a programmatic network owned by Dentsu Aegis, broadly positive on their impact. "We now have the pipes in place to get better value for our clients," she said.

But Brian Jacobs, Founder Director at Enreach, pointed out that many clients "don't trust" trading desks. "They think something's up," he added. "I think that trading desks will evolve... they can do a great deal to add value for clients. But that's very different to driving value for agency holding companies. They are profitable as silos. But the game is up."

Fellow panellist Bob Wootton, Director of Media and Advertising at ISBA, a client trade body, suggested that ad blocking would prove a particular headache for the sector.

According to research issued by PageFair and Adobe earlier in 2015, almost 200m people worldwide have installed an ad blocker to their desktop web browser, a 41% annual increase.

More concerning still for advertisers is the influx of mobile ad blocking solutions, including those permitted by iOS9, the latest iteration of Apple's mobile operating system.

"People are blocking ads on mobile because they can't get around them on such a small screen," said Wootton.

Meanwhile, Bunatyan talked of a "broken trust" with consumers that needs to be rebuilt, while her fellow panellist Phil Macauley, EU Managing Director of Quantcast, an audience measurement company, suggested that "we need to push things through at a legal level" if ad blocker usage is to decline.

The sometimes confusing acronyms and jargon beloved by many in the programmatic sector were also criticised by Wootton.

Few outside the ad tech space know their DSPs from their PMPs – including those who actually spend ad dollars. Clients understand attribution, not tech, Wootton said. "They're not interested [in talking about tech]. Just like you're not interested in how they make their chocolate bars."

Rupert Staines, managing director of RadiumOne, a digital insights provider, also raised this as an issue. "We are drowning in techno-babble," he said. "Clients don't get it – they don't care."

Data sourced from Warc