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Will 2019 be the year we programmatise traditional channels?

Despite numerous concerns over brand safety and transparency, the promise of programmatic has been hard to deny when it comes to personalisation and convenience in the marketing mix. As such, it should not come as a surprise to see that digital media investment in programmatic has been rising over the years.

A study from the World Federation of Advertisers found ad spend on programmatic channels rose from 17% of total digital media investment in 2016-17 to 28% in 2017-18 on average globally. The study titled “The Future of Programmatic” also highlighted there would be an additional focus on new programmatic channels such as “advanced TV” and “digital OOH” with 77% of respondents stating they will increase spend in these areas.

Meanwhile, eMarketer said that traditional TV advertising spend is expected to hit US$68.39 billion in APAC by the end of 2018 alone, while out-of-home spending is expected to reach US$19.79 billion in the region. As for radio, a report by WideOrbit last year said the percentage of ad buyers that purchase radio and digital audio advertising with programmatic technology will nearly triple in the next 12 months. Ad campaigns purchased with programmatic will also increase, with 100% of ad buyers saying their programmatic spending on audio advertising will either increase or stay the same in the next 12 months.

With marketers continuing to consider TV, radio and OOH as a big part of their marketing mix, it’s hard to deny the efficiencies and benefits of marrying programmatic with traditional. As NTUC Income CMO Marcus Chew explains, having programmatic offline channels are an “expected and a natural progression” – following in the footsteps of desktop, social and mobile ads.

Manisha Seewal, chief marketing officer for Carro and former marketer at Tokio Marine, says the “programmatisation” of traditional channels will no doubt drive efficiency and campaign performance through data-driven media buying. She sees the programmatisation of traditional channels as a “game-changer” for online to offline brands especially for e-commerce businesses.

She explains that programmatisation of traditional channels will also be effective for brands which need to follow customers through an “online-offline-online-offline” purchase cycle, through multiple devices and varied content. For example, in the car industry, a customer starts by doing online research on the car’s make and model followed by a visit to a showroom to test drive the car. This is followed by even more thorough online research, comparison on features, performance, financial commitments and family and friends’ recommendations before going offline to make a purchase at the car showroom.

“With automated buying and data-driven targeting, brands can truly offer a 360-degree experience to the customer and push content that is relevant to the purchase milestone they are at,” she says. She adds that since traditional TV inventory is expensive, it is out of reach for most midscale advertisers. As such, programmatic TV can potentially provide cost efficiencies through automated buying and real-time optimisation, especially when reaching niche segments.

Growth, at the end of the day, will be driven by ease of transactions and the ability to target ads with cross-screen measurement.

Where are we at?

In 2017, in a conversation with Marketing, Shamsuddin Jasani, group managing director for South Asia at Isobar, said the agency debuted programmatic radio buying in India – an industry first. “We know the connected customers of today expect consistent, intelligent and personalised online experiences – be it when shopping, consuming content or when being served advertising,” he said.

“We understood that digital radio advertising needed to deliver just that, and across multiple channels. It was increasingly important to create a platform that could reach out to individual consumers at various touch-points.”

For programmatic radio to take off, he added that global players such as Spotify must embrace the mechanism. Since then, Spotify, as has been widely reported, has been ramping up its programmatic efforts and drew in revenue up 94% year over year in 2018 as part of its Q1 financials.

“Digital radio is an important piece and an effective digital radio buy completes the storytelling for the brand across various mediums and channels,” Jasani added.

Meanwhile, zooming in on TV and OOH, Robert Woolfrey, Amobee SVP of Asia, says that significant growth is expected in both areas across the region over the next five years. This comes as data-led automation of media buying starts spreading to every channel. But currently, Australia is leading the TV space given the pace at which data and technology has been embraced by the major TV broadcasters such as MCN’s Smarthub and Seven and Nine.

Consumers are also driving the market today, with many Australian households (46%),according to Think TV, being equipped with aconnected TV, and the consumption of premium video increasing exponentially.

Jourdan Tan, performance director at Omnicom Media Group Singapore, echoed the statement of Australia currently leading the space of programmatic TV, explaining that it is because of its switch from analogue to digital TV before the end of 2016. This provided the necessary infrastructure to deliver TV ads through audience targeting, measuring performance, and most importantly, addressability.

Zachary King, vice-president of commercial for Asia at MediaMath, says while programmatic progress is evident in the region, the firm has yet to see programmatic TV take off in the same manner as the US. However, as supply increases and brands start to think of TV “as yet another format for programmatic”, programmatic TV is expected to scale rapidly, he explains.

But generally, across Asia, experts said the term “programmatic TV” is being used loosely. It’s not your traditional television that advertisers know and are used to.

“We’re already buying inventory on OTT use digital data to better learn about competitors, audiences and media strategy.” This is perhaps the most untapped area of programmatic value – how to use data to generate better insights, and then to make those insights actionable,” Woolfrey says.

Isabel Castro, trading and operations lead for programmatic at Mindshare’s FAST Hub  is of the view that buying linear TV programmatically is “still very nascent in APAC” even though it has been discussed for years. As for programmatic OOH, she says the industry may see more of programmatic as more OOH media owners start partnering with DSPs. Currently, technological developments are already transforming this space with more inventories being converted to digital.

While programmatic OOH is still in its infancy stages, outdoor media owners are already able to offer real-time dynamic creative and near realtime inventory bookings.

“Since OOH is essentially just another screen, with content that can be delivered digitally over the internet, it might be easier for media owners to enable them for programmatic buying,” she says.

Allaying fears around programmatic

Sean O’Brien, CEO of Posterscope APAC, explains that currently the air around programmatic, in general, needs to be cleared and there should ideally not be a fear surrounding programmatic. Advertisers and agencies should explore how all parties can help one another, he says. This is to create a programmatic ecosystem which is brand-safe and adds value.

Specifically for programmatic OOH, clients have yet to approach it with concerns as the opportunity “has not been realised on a large enough scale to warrant concern”.

In fact, clients are often more excited about the possibilities programmatic can bring to a mass medium such as OOH.

One of the huge benefits of OOH is being located in a very public and physical environment, eliminating most common issues of brand safety or ad fraud.

This has demonstrated how digital has enabled rather than disrupted the medium.

“It is not necessarily the case that programmatic in traditional channels needs to follow the digital mould, in fact there is a big opportunity to learn from the past and take what works well,” O’Brien says. The industry also needs to improve on areas which have added less value and create an environment that is truly more efficient and effective for all sides of the equation.

Agreeing with O’Brien, Woolfrey says media owners should engage with clients and provide insights and transparency into the technology and the data that is being leveraged.

“Our view is that you must carefully invest in the best advertising and marketing technology to ensure you keep pace with the market,” Woolfrey says. This means connecting to programmatic media buying engines that have the sophistication to add advanced TV buying and OOH to the mix.

Divya Acharya, director of product for APAC at Xaxis, says that agencies should lead the industry conversation around how the lines between traditional and digital are merging, and to move away from planning in silos. Agencies and marketers should play a pivotal role in educating clients on the opportunities to bridge the current gaps between the traditional media, buying and planning currencies and programmatic media.

Damien Crittenden, vice-president of client strategy for APAC at Xaxis, adds that agencies must continue to push measurement partners and media owners to improve access to quality data.

Mark Halliday, CEO of performance at Omnicom Media Group Asia Pacific, adds that eventually advertisers will start to have the ability to control/change out ads based on time, date,weather and sport results. “The challenge for this is how additional data can be captured through mobile devices, thereby enhancing the audience offerings through the ability to profile,” he says, adding:

With the case of GDPR and strong data privacy in some countries, it may prove to be a challenge.

The data issue

The success of programmatic depends on the quality of data which is backing it. For marketer Seewal, she believes markets such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok have a better chance of success because of more organised data and hyperconnected populations. Content wise,video will remain a key content driver for brands, she adds.

The efficacy of programmatisation of traditional in Asia Pacific also currently remains untested, says Income’s Chew. This includes the underlying challenge being a “lack of trusted data that is accessible to brands, agencies and media partners”. As such, for programmatisation of traditional mediums to take off, having robust data that supports success measurement is essential.

Amobee’s Woolfrey adds that along with the “considerable lack of reliable data” for brands in developing markets, fragmentation in various markets with a steady influx of new programmatic players is also an issue. On top of this, there are also legal and regulatory considerations, as well as a language barrier with multiple languages spoken throughout the region.

Content and customer

Programmatic players and marketers we spoke to all said that with the programmatisation of traditional mediums just around the corner, the focus of marketers should be on audiences and the content message. To be ready for that, brands and marketers need to be agile when it comes to creating a myriad of content variations that can be specifically served up to customers in different circumstances.

To motivate consideration and purchase at different points of the consumer journey usually requires an immense appetite for creative adaptations and seamless media planning, Income’s Chew explains.

Meanwhile, Seewal says key performance indicators of programmatic TV, radio and OOH also need to be closely aligned to digital programmatic as much as possible.

Developing a consumer-first strategy is also vital as consumers don’t care about what channel they are interacting with a brand on. Instead, consumers care if a message is relevant, consistent and valuable, MediaMath’s King says.

Of course, having a unified omni-channel approach is easier said than done. A robust tech stack that supports omni-channel is generally needed to ensure the ability to integrate touchpoints across paid, earned and owned, while activating this with a unifi ed platform that allows one to ingest, analyse and activate audiences across the full spectrum, King says.

And while the technology layer is a key piece, it also requires that your marketing and sales activity is co-ordinated and driving towards true business outcomes. “It is easy in concept, but hard in execution,” King says.

Read the full story on the November print issue of Marketing magazine.