According to the recent IAB Media Owners Sales Techniques study, between 70 and 80% of UK display ads will be traded programmatically by 2018. Only four years ago this figure was under ten per cent! The technology, designed to power data-driven audience buying and previously pointed largely at direct response advertising, has now evolved to support branding objectives and it’s this part of the mix that will drive growth in the medium.

Research conducted earlier this year by WBR revealed that 92% of marketers within the US retail sector are using programmatic for branding objectives – making it the number one reason for adopting the technology within this group.

This is a stark contrast to the earlier days of programmatic, kicked off by the paid search market and banner ads 20 years ago, and then evolving to offer audience segmentation, prospecting, personalisation and retargeting across a variety of channels such as display, video and mobile.

It’s clear that new programmatic technologies and marketplaces are providing automation that streamlines the once paper-driven, manual process of buying inventory for branding objectives or otherwise.

However, one of the barriers to the movement of branding budgets to programmatic has traditionally been a lack of understanding over how and why programmatic works to raise brand awareness.

It’s not the same as direct response where you can simply count the conversions, but more about filling the top of the funnel, building the awareness and consideration for your brand to ensure you have a strong pipeline of prospective new customers. As such it’s an instance where robust attribution is essential so marketers can confidently say that, yes, retargeting helped that new customer convert, but we can see attribute a number of other touchpoints that drove that consumer to the site in the first place.

The emergence of measurement solutions such as Nielsen’s Online Brand Effect (OBE) and Digital Ad Ratings are beginning to measure what matters to brand advertisers. They demonstrate how brand metrics can be measured accurately and at scale.

As a result, industry figures indicate brand advertising budgets moving towards the programmatic sector and a corresponding slowdown in growth for more traditional channels such as TV.

However, I’d caution that there is still work to be done in terms of developing increasingly accurate measurement techniques that are suited to a variety of branding and business objectives.

The adoption of programmatic will only be driven upwards if we advance the methodologies surrounding, not just execution, but measurement too – because it’s this that gives marketers the granular control over their marketing investments that they desire.

Alongside this, brand marketers that are new to programmatic are likely to have further reservations over the control they cede, and will naturally question issues such as data privacy, viewability and brand safety.

It’s up to us as an industry to operate on a level of transparency that helps alleviate these concerns, and educate as often as possible so that the opportunity afforded by the innovative use of data becomes clear.

If we do this, increased efficiency and scale, reduced overall advertising costs, the ability to optimise in real time and the opportunity to leverage first-party data should be top of mind when marketers think of programmatic branding.

After all, the proliferation of addressable channels that can be accessed programmatically, along with newly evolved reporting functionality, makes it possible for ambitious marketers to justify putting budgets into digital channels where programmatic efficiencies and real-time delivery can increase lift at lower costs.

While the movement of brand budgets to programmatic is indeed a signal the rules of advertising are changing at the same lightning speed at which consumers are adopting new tech – we can all stand ourselves in good stead by not only focusing on how we work, but how we measure our success too.

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