Is the programmatic revolution over?

By Wayne Morgan


Norwich, United Kingdom


Is programmatic advertising a boring phrase now — another digital flash in the pan and yet another distraction for publishers?

Back in August 2015, I wrote about the potential benefits afforded to regional publishers as a result of programmatic advertising. I touched on our ability to compete, at a local level and in person, with the big boys.

Programmatic may not be making headlines anymore, but it remains a viable opportunity for advertisers.
Programmatic may not be making headlines anymore, but it remains a viable opportunity for advertisers.

Back then, I wrote about the basics, the role of data, the technology stack, and the increasing competition in the local marketplace. None of that has changed: Publishers are still working on their data plans, the tech stack is still evolving, and local penetration is still rather low.

A lot can happen in 15 months. However, one thing is for certain. Advertisers who are exposed to programmatic advertising for the first time are fascinated by the opportunity it presents.

I’ve spoken to many SMEs about Archant’s programmatic proposition, GoTarget Display, and have been surprised at how many already understand targeted advertising — be it social, search, or display.

The thing that really stands out, though, and the big opportunity for regional media is they haven’t had a serious conversation face-to-face with a human about the best way to go about it. They haven’t had a consultation about their needs and how programmatic advertising can help solve them.

We are able to fill that void, the gap in the market.

It’s evident that customer retention is a challenge for most publishers. The fragmentation of the digital advertising landscape naturally results in businesses “trying” new things.

Our programmatic solution is starting to drive that for us. We are having conversations about the longer-term benefits of strategically planned media campaigns, working with advertisers’ digital assets to drive the return they need.

One problem publishers have suffered over the last 20 years is “shiny new toy syndrome.” When new digital platforms, ideas, and opportunities come along all the time, it can prevent any real traction to material, core, growth, and sustainable sources of income.

Publishers are bombarded with the message they must diversify their revenues to remain relevant. But this can be distracting — throw too much mud at a wall and eventually the mud that sticks is hidden by fresh mud.

Our regional magazine business has a good display business, with lots of engaged sales people selling good and engaging campaigns across our portfolio. The question is will programmatic advertising simply cannibalise what we already have and leave us treading water again?

So far, the opposite has been true. It has taken us only two months to build an outbound programmatic revenue stream larger than our traditional direct revenue, which took 20 years to build. As a result, our display business has increased exponentially, series bookings have increased, and conversations with customers have become deeper than ever.

But, and here is the most important bit, our advertisers genuinely trusted and learned from us, and they are thankful for it.

Who knows? Programmatic may still be another fad, but as national advertisers turn increasingly to a purely programmatic environment, the lag to SMEs will surely follow that trend.

About Wayne Morgan

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