There is a scary knowledge gap in the digital marketing industry. Despite being a multi-billion dollar technology, programmatic media buying remains a mystery to a huge number of digital marketers and advertisers. Adtech isn’t going anywhere, and if we expect it to improve, understanding and adoption must also improve. It’s time for marketers to educate themselves.
A 2015 study by Forrester Research found that 41% of marketers are either unaware of or don’t understand programmatic, 36% understand it but don’t use it, and a mere 23% feel comfortable executing programmatic campaigns.
More recently, eMarketer published a study where “complexity/newness—not enough education” ranks as the third highest fear when it comes to programmatic technology—a result that increased from 22% in May 2015 to 31% in August 2016. How is it that as the technology matures, the number of uneducated professionals actually increases?
It’s a classic catch-22: fears around inventory quality and transparency are exacerbated by a lack of education, and a lack of education decreases the likelihood of improving quality and transparency. Any technology that is only known to a select few will necessarily be slow to innovate. While programmatic is not perfect, only widespread understanding and adoption can pave the way for a more intelligent, accurate and transparent programmatic landscape in the near future.
The less brands educate themselves on the technology that drives more than half of all digital advertising (“by 2019, programmatic ad outlays will reach $45.94 billion, accounting for 84% of all US digital display ad dollars” – eMarketer), the more their fate is sealed by companies who may or may not be acting out of self-interest.
Of course, understanding exactly why so many marketers have been slow to approach programmatic is integral, but until the research is in, here are 5 resources for the many marketers attempting to catch up:
1. Digiday’s WTF Programmatic Series
Digiday has done a stellar job at breaking down everything from Programmatic and RTB to Supply Path Optimization and Attribution Modelling. According to Digiday: “The programmatic landscape continues to confuse newbies and vets alike as jargon spreads and clings. Our WTF series puts the nitty gritty of programmatic and advertising into lay terms everyone can understand.” If you ever find yourself asking “WTF does that mean?”, simply google it and Digiday is sure to pop up.
2. IAB Training
The Interactive Advertising Bureau “empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy”. They are the Godfather of programmatic education, providing in-depth courses on all kinds of digital ad operations.
Although StackAdapt is a digital advertising platform, we still hold regular in-house IAB courses on Programmatic Trading. There is so much information to take in, our staff has a lot to learn (header bidding, anyone?). Even those of us that strategize campaigns on a daily basis benefit from a refresher on how advertising technology functions. The IAB breaks down industry jargon into digestible definitions with clear examples, we highly recommend!
There are a lot of flashy digital marketing conferences out there, but many of them focus on big names, social media, and sexy tech trends rather than need-to-know, hands-on, practical technologies that marketers should be using day to day. If you’re just breaking to the ad tech arena, there are a number of summits to help kick start your journey:
- AdExchanger Programmatic I/O in NYC & San Francisco
- Ashton Media Summit 2017 in Sydney
- Digiday Summit 2017 in Arizona
- IAB Canada Digital Marketing Summits 2017 in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto
These conferences may not be Cannes Lions, but they’ll end up being a heck of a lot more useful in the long run.
eMarketer doesn’t teach you how to use programmatic technology, but it will give you a holistic view of the industry through new reports daily. Keeping up on this stuff will keep you abreast of large-scale industry trends so you can make the right decisions for your company. eMarketer will also inform you of how your own struggles and fears relate to the wider community.
5. Vendor Resources
Despite what cynics may think, ad tech vendors have a genuine desire to educate. Our goal is not only to sell products, but to improve the state of technology. We recognize the deficiencies of programmatic today (sub-par placements, ad fraud, and transparency to name a few) and are working tirelessly to eliminate them. But it takes educated marketers to implement these improvements. The more people use technology, the more data and use-cases we have, the smarter and more intuitive that technology becomes.