Rise of the machines: Acquire Online’s Zane Furtado delves into programmatic ad buying

The buzz phrase ‘programmatic ad buying’ has been picking up momentum in recent months, and is now commonly heard in discussions on the state of modern media. And despite the frequency with which the word is used, it still carries enough uncertainty to motivate ad tech company Chango to recently run a sponsored web series on Adweek explaining key concepts to the US market.

Similarly to the US, New Zealand is also coming to grips with programmatic ad buying. And to find out a bit more, StopPress recently chatted to Zane Furtado, the programmatic director at Acquire Online.

StopPress: What are some of the biggest problems facing the automated media buying market?

Zane Furtado: One of the biggest problems facing the automated media buying market is ad viewability. Publishers and advertisers are spoiled for choice with many tools available in the market, making it harder to choose the most effective one.  Lack of standardization and ad fraud are also pressing issues.

SP: How important is it to educate media agencies and marketers on automated media buying?

ZF: Without the right education, no agency or marketer is equipped to convert to programmatic. The pace of technology development is only increasing with a new technology released every seven minutes. Education needs to be a priority for all programmatic vendors.

SP: Does ad fraud have the potential to derail the market?

ZF: While ad fraud definitely deserves our attention, it doesn’t necessarily have the potential to disrupt the market. Most demand-side platforms have in-built ad fraud protection. A way to prevent ad fraud is to buy active view impressions on above-the-fold placements or TRAQ scores. We use third party solutions like Integral ad science and Moat to track the activity on the ads served. We also manually maintain an extensive blacklist and monitor inventory sources for excessive impression frequency per users. No inventory source should have a greater frequency than Facebook’s FBX

SPDo you think that it might be necessary to standardise automated media buying (through the IAB, for example) to make it easier to track campaigns independently?

ZF: The IAB is definitely taking a stand to standardise certain elements of programmatic buying. The ‘State of Viewability Transition 2015’ paper has listed seven principles to reach 100 percent viewability. Setting standards will not only assist publishers and advertisers in protecting their investments, but will also encourage the digital ecosystem to play by certain set of rules.

SP: Some estimates suggest that 80 percent of all media buying will one day be programmatic. Is this accurate or inflated?

ZF: The slow decline of the print publication sector and a sudden increase in programmatic TV and radio are strong indications that all media will eventually be bought programmatically. I strongly believe that the market should dictate the price of the media. That being said, floor prices will definitely be assigned to protect the interest of the sellers. I am excited about the day we will be bidding for ad space on the digital billboards, radio and TV airtime in New Zealand.

SP: What are the advantages of TV going programmatic? Do you think this would work in the channel’s favour or expose the fact that viewers actually change channels during ads?

ZF: In the US, TV spots can now be bought to reach an exact audience rather than all viewers of a TV programme. In the future, media buyers will achieve more reach with the same budget, resulting in less wastage. In the meantime, we have a TV SYNC analytical tool which measures the impact of each TV spot on web traffic in real time so advertisers can learn which channels and individual TV programmes deliver the most effective online response. 

SP: What are your thoughts on magazines, such as Time, experimenting in programmatic ad buying. Is this a smart move for the mag industry?

ZF: With the prices of print increasing and the demand for the print medium decreasing, I think it’s a great move. With six audience segments to target and the possibility of demographic targeting in the future, it gives buyers a different avenue for targeting—something that print lacked in the past.

SP: Does programmatic render creativity irrelevant? If you can just buy an audience, doesn’t this open the door to shouty retail-styled ads rather than creative pieces that really catch attention? 

ZF: Programmatic actually encourages creativity. With the enormous wealth of targeting options available, developing targeted
and customised creative not only appeals to the audience but also drives curiosity. Media/creative agencies should work with their trading desks to truly understand the creative optimisation process and help develop creative assets that work in harmony with the targeting. Agencies can no longer operate on a one-size-fits-all model and settle on one headline, call-to-action and messaging for the creative. 

SP: Is programmatic a threat to media agencies? Do we need a media agency if you can place an ad with a specific audience with the simple click of a mouse button?

ZF: Programmatic buying is considered more of an opportunity than a threat. It is there to boost the media planners’ capabilities by equipping them with the tools and ability to use granular-level targeting to reach the right audience and to successfully measure the campaign  KPIs.

Media agencies not only strategically plan the buy, but also look after the overall traditional media buy of the advertiser – TV, radio, print, outdoor and digital. However, by 2017, programmatic is expected to be the only way that media is bought in advanced markets, which opens up a whole new chapter that the industry is incredibly excited about. 

SP: What does the future hold for automated media buying? 

ZF: The future of automated media buying looks good. Advertisers are finally waking up to the true value, reach, targeting capabilities and ROI of programmatic buying across desktop, tablet and especially mobile devices. With wearable technology likely to be the next big thing, we can only start to imagine the future targeting capabilities to reach people at the right time with the right message.

  • Click here to read more stories in the ‘Rise of the Machines’ series. 

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