Editor's note: If you missed the first three articles in the series, check them out here.
Programmatic media buying is poised to drive significant change in the digital marketing space. While many might say this prophecy has already been fulfilled, I see us still in our infancy, with the longest lasting effects yet to be fully realized. In this series of articles, I have previously covered the status of programmatic, some of the "hottest" topics related to it, and even offered advice on implementing a programmatic strategy. As a final piece of the puzzle, I offer a number of predictions on the future growth and consequences of programmatic.
More advertisers (with greater budgets) in the mix
The programmatic landscape offers advertisers the same precision targeting, premium inventory, and high-quality creative opportunities as more traditional "IO" models. Programmatic also enables exponential reach at considerably lower costs, combined with lower barriers to entry. This will continue to attract new advertisers and larger budgets, as those who might have been previously shut out by resource constraints or lack of reliable technological partnerships begin to explore automated digital possibilities at a substantially greater pace.
Publishers will more fully engage programmatic
More diversified advertisers dollars (both performance and brand) flowing through the pipes will inherently lead to more rapid publisher adoption. These publishers will come to see the massive value in allocating larger portions of their inventory monetization to trusted programmatic partners. They will begin to see programmatic as a way to free up internal resources, significantly broadening their reach and revenue streams.
Media markets will become more like financial markets
Already programmatic trading mimics many aspects of the financial markets. Inventory is now transacted in bundles, much like mutual funds, and traded via upfronts similar to the way financial investors buy futures. This arc toward commoditization of inventory will only become more pronounced as automation technologies increase prominence and focus on differentiation moves away from media buying.
Expanded media targeting and emergence of programmatic creative
Because programmatic offers greater buyer insights into past inventory performance, media research and targeting can also be extended beyond algorithmic analysis to deliver deeper campaign insights, at scale. All of this rich first- and third-party data will ultimately allow how we message an individual to be much more customized. One outgrowth of these newly available insights has already been the rise of programmatic creative -- allowing creative iteration to keep up with programmatic media buying.
Programmatic will bridge the gap between online and offline channels
Perhaps the best example of this is television. TV is still the great advertising juggernaut, but the TV of today is not the same as the TV of even a decade ago. Programmatic strategies and capabilities can give marketers the ability to inform TV spot buying in order to make it timelier and more relevant. As programmatic technology continues to mature in its use, we can expect to see TV's use of media buying automation grow. We will certainly see it find its way increasingly into radio, print, and other media.
The concept of automation for purposes of scale and efficiency is not, in itself, a revelation. What is impressive is the degree to which the digital advertising industry has only dipped its toe in the automation sea. Programmatic has already begun to infiltrate all aspects of the media transaction sphere and will only continue to do so in the next couple of years. Buying and selling, creative, research, and measurement are already benefiting from the scalability, reach, and accuracy of programmatic in digital. In the next months and years, we can expect to see many new technologies emerge that bring the promise of programmatic to other areas of the media process. We have already seen the rise of programmatic creative and should expect to see a similar evolution of things called programmatic analytics, programmatic attribution, etc.
In many ways, programmatic is the culmination of the previous decades' tireless work to hone the digital advertising discipline. It includes the most recent innovations in automation while honoring the current industry-wide focus on data analysis and consumer insight-driven targeting, all at unprecedented scale. We can reasonably expect to see programmatic not only take its rightful place in the marketing mix but also become one of the key influencers of industry innovation and overall evolution in the coming years.