Real-Time Bidding: Growing Stronger, Improving Programmatic Quality

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Q: We’ve seen the adoption of real-time bidding (RTB) increase dramatically in recent years, where is there still room for growth?

A: I would say that there’s still lots of room for growth in programmatic as a whole — which is more than just improvements or movement in RTB. A number of programmatic technology providers still don’t fully support video, for example. Or a platform may offer robust reporting and analytics for mobile web traffic, but not offer the same capabilities for in-app.

If we go one level deeper on the sell side, many premium websites do not support programmatic across all ad formats yet. The consensus may be that “everyone is doing it,” but the reality is that there are still publishers struggling to implement a successful programmatic strategy. They struggle because they’re afraid to scare their biggest buyers — who may not be equipped to buy programmatically yet — but also of selling premium inventory on the open market.

Overall, the publishing world struggles because the majority of the focus and revenues are still on the desktop — or even worse, in print — while the rest of the world is moving to mobile. There’s definitely room for programmatic to grow in this regard.

Q: Over the last six months, have you seen changes in programmatic buying behavior?

A: Absolutely! After a very slow start, buyers in European countries like Germany and Spain are rapidly adapting and embracing programmatic buying. There are always new formats emerging — particularly with mobile and native — and I’ve seen a further shift of inventory and revenues moving from remnant to premium. I’m also hearing more and more about an increased interest in programmatic buying for television.

Q: Quality is always an issue for the industry. How do you ensure quality and scale?

A: The influx of premium advertisers and the focus on premium inventory naturally leads to a discussion about quality in programmatic. A quality placement is one where the advertiser is sure that the ad can be and is seen by a real person — there’s no discussion about that. So it’s right for a buyer to ask ‘why they should pay a premium price’ if they’re not 100 percent sure about the quality of the placement.

But the focus on quality also means that premium publishers have the right to remain firm about how their audiences are valued, and the price that they expect advertisers to pay. I think that third-party partners for viewability and verification can help with this tension, but it requires a consensus on standards and how things are measured first. We haven’t reached that consensus for the desktop, let alone mobile, so there is work to be done.

Q: One year from now, what does programmatic RTB look like? What will be the most predominant ad formats?

A: In the next year, I think programmatic RTB will truly become a global practice — meaning it will account for the majority of digital ad spending in almost every country. That’s the case in the U.S., but we’re not quite there yet everywhere else. I think we’ll also see more spending in programmatic TV vs. just discussions about it.

But the biggest change will be in mobile, because right now, there’s not a single ad tech company that isn’t focused on designing, redesigning or expanding their strategy around mobile. Expect growth in mobile analytics and attribution, as well as an increased focus on programmatic solutions for in-app inventory.

Q: Alongside RTB and programmatic comes the topic of fraud. What do you say to those that see fraud as a serious threat?

A: Fraud is part of the discussion about quality — and yes, I think there are areas where both buyers and sellers are rightfully concerned. But first, we have to take a step back and remember that fraud is an issue with all digital advertising, not just programmatic. (Think of how performance advertising was plagued by click farms in the early days, for example).

We’ve learned quite a bit at Fyber in recent years. For example, the realization that while you do need 3rd-party providers to combat fraud, you can’t only rely on them. Ad tech companies have to be diligent — we have a dedicated fraud team to check each and every impression, to analyze strange patterns, and prevent bad inventory from getting into the system in the first place.

Anti-fraud tools are getting better, but the bad guys are getting smarter, too, meaning you have to constantly invest in beating them. And we firmly believe that only tech vendors and suppliers who are willing to make that investment and stay ahead of the curve will survive.

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