The path to programmatic success is complexity made simple

Posted by IAB Australia On October 07, 2014

In the world of corporate technology, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms are dominating in the growth curve stakes, and the winners are those devoted to simplexity.
Simplicity and usability of the platform is turning out to be a key battleground as more data, metrics, performance reports, and media optimisation features are added to the trading desk and brand tool kit. That is both an opportunity and a challenge. Advertising executives are busy and time-poor, and want to use branding tools that make their own customers happy. Brands want results that are easy to extract from the platform, and not overly technical, as they need to report up the line. 
The move from selling ad space to delivering self-serve platforms for media buying is gathering pace and with this development comes the need for platforms to deliver simplicity and complexity at the same time.
Why is SaaS winning in the business world? The main benefits of SaaS are reduced time to benefit, lower costs, scalability and integration, easy platform upgrades, and fast testing of new proof of concepts.  
The principles of SaaS are becoming even more apparent in the advertising world, where software platforms for media buying will dominate. In the hyper-fast digital media trading world, the ability to move quickly will become more invaluable.
The middlemen will disappear and the fading out of old practices, such as the bundling ad inventory for resale, will accelerate. In its place, will be a single platform used by brands and agencies in tandem, enabling them to automate their ad buys at scale.
It’s worth pausing to consider how far we’ve come. Before programmatic, ad buying was one of the last frontiers untouched by software and technology. 
Million dollar deals were made over cocktails, and campaigns were managed through faxes and phone calls. Then along came ad networks and real-time bidding, which introduced automation, and delivered better branding results for advertisers.
However, brands wanted more control over inventory and data and have adopted new modes of delivery, such as programmatic direct. At the same time, and programmatic providers realized they could scale their operations if they handed more control to the brand and advertiser.
And by self-serve software, I mean not just focusing on buying programmatically on behalf of advertisers, but building software to enable them to do it themselves and retain all the control.
Some people have tried to question the value of programmatic media buying, suggesting it’s too complex and the risks are too high. However the new generation of young digital executives are accustomed to working with web software and actually prefer to move swiftly and use software to get the job done quickly.
They don’t accept third-party integrations, legacy IT systems, or any technical barriers to getting the job done. People want to log-in, and plan, optimise and track the performance of a campaign in real-time. They want reporting embedded into that one platform. 
It’s true that many managers do not fully appreciate the complexity in many jobs. No matter how streamlined a system gets, it can be threatened by the demands of customers. The complexity arc gets steeper, and productivity is lost. Users abandon the platform.
Software is becoming the friend of digital people. It’s happening quickly too. The term ‘trading programmatically’ will soon be like saying ‘I am driving my mechanised automobile to work’. Automation and optimisation of digital campaigns will proliferate. The winners in the ad tech world will be those that deliver consistency of products across all screens.
Brands are definitely taking control of their media technology decisions. Agencies can play a major part in this new ecosystem if they innovate, and work closely with both the technology players and their brand clients.
We are seeing point-solution providers being bought by full stack platform providers. Those programmatic industry acquisitions will only work if the user experience is seamless, enjoyable and delivers powerful returns from media investments. The opportunity exists for the software experts to de-clutter the digital media buying process, and explain clearly the value they are providing. That starts with building and improving a platform that is easy to use. 
Sam Smith is Managing Director of TubeMogul Australia & New Zealand

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.