Programmatic – It Was Never About Technology But Changing Human Behavior

I have for long maintained how as marketers and technologists, as brands and agencies we are all struggling with either a channel obsession or a capability and technology obsession. It’s a mindset that is often distracted with the possibilities and the shine of new technology; the root cause for creation of great technological solutions that come short of meeting the human needs and desires both at an emotional and functional level. A gap that I tried to highlight with one of my posts on “Finding the Human within Marketing Technology”. There is a need to address this gap sooner than later to avoid this era of digital transformation to become yet another “BUBBLE” that we all are too familiar with.

This is where the potential and promise of PROGRAMMATIC is critical. I for one have never believed in this artificial separation of “AdTech” and “MarTech”, these are barriers we have created for a very simple reason — if you look at a consumer journey or a human journey if I may call it, it does not see those barriers. It only cares about the ultimate experience that enables her to explore and buy the best product at the best price at the most appropriate time and location of her own choice.  At that point she does not care if it is AdTech or MarTech that is enabling that experience but as marketers and brand builders, we know we CANNOT enable that immersive experience unless AdTech and MarTech was really one, connected her journey across channels and touch points through the various data signals and everything she is telling you about herself that is relevant.

I recently had a great opportunity to speak at the iab Australia’s and Ashton Media’s Programmatic Summit in Sydney, Australia on how Programmatic was never about technology (even though it is being perceived as such) and the impact of programmatic needs to be way beyond just efficiency and optimization of your paid media efforts. This is where programmatic in many ways is leading the effort to bring the “human” back at the center of this ecosystem.

Here is a brief summary of that talk and the presentation that I shared with the group:

From the first clickable banner ad on Global Network Navigator to a world of real time bidding and programmatic buying, the ad tech industry has gone through an evolution that will be difficult to match. From managing a sleuth of publishers, venues and placements within the world of direct buying to having an ability target personas and humans with specific behaviors, habits, needs and desires with almost real time decision making power and precision, the media landscape and paradigms have dramatically shifted. But from a larger context, this shift in the advertising and media landscape is a reflection of something much broader and more fundamental; it is the quest to find the “HUMAN” within the broader world of marketing. It has brought a mindset shift that goes beyond the cost efficiencies that come with programmatic, instead it is an effort to respond to consumer needs and expectations that demand an ability to share the right content to the right consumer at the right time at a device and touchpoint of her choice. It’s the need to identify consumer behaviors that need to be changed through inspiration and engagement by using data and technology in a way that has never been done before, eventually delivering a seamless and frictionless consumer experience. The ultimate goal is not how far we go with advertising, media, mobile, social or data for that matter but more importantly how well are we able to connect these dots to deliver the most immersive and relevant experience for the consumer, taking her towards a better life.

I am yet to see a better illustration of the programmatic ecosystem than this one from iab Spain:

Programmatic Ecosystem

A peak into some of the questions asked during the summit and post the event:

Why is the concept of programmatic buying important to a CPG brands and what are the underlying benefits?

The concept of Programmatic Buying is or will be critical for any marketing organization and brand builders who want to drive consumer engagement and participation. We at Kimberly Clark were one of the pioneers in the adoption of this technology as a CPG and have grown ever since. Programmatic is the first AdTech/MarTech capability that tries to bring the human at the center of a rather disruptive and fast evolving technology landscape. It’s a culmination of innovation in data and technology and addressable media ultimately to drive a connected, seamless and an omni-channel consumer experience.

To really understand the benefits and potential impact of programmatic, you need to look at what’s above the water but more importantly what’s underneath. While optimizing the media buys, driving higher addressability and reach and an ability to target consumers and personas as opposed to publishers and venues are some of the obvious benefits, a bigger impact however is through the power of data and insights collected through programmatic with the evolution of DMPs especially as you start to connect this data with rest of the data landscape including 3rd party data sources. That level of data harmonization is the foundation for a true omni-channel experience.


What is your strategy around the management and use of data? Do you use a DMP?

Data is extremely critical to our marketing vision and efforts at all levels. Whether it is collecting, measuring and analyzing our data to optimize our marketing spend through mix modeling or optimizing our eCommerce initiatives or creating a universal profile of our consumer across channels and touch points, data for us is that wiring that connects our ecosystem. The DMP capability as part of our Trading Desk is a critical asset and while we started that journey a few years back, we are still in “walking” mode and are yet to start the sprint. We have a well-established roadmap for where we would like to take our DMP as part of a broader data harmonization strategy that fits with our overall marketing vision.


Will the DMP become more important going forward for big brands, moving away from a just store of cookie data to becoming a multi-channel media and advertising optimization platform?

Absolutely yes but with a caveat that the true impact of the DMP is not limited to delivering multi-channel experiences which are isolated to specific channels but driving a connect omni-channel experience which is channel agnostic, that’s where the bigger opportunity exists. It is in the ability to stitch her journey across channels and touch points which is only possible when brands are able to harmonize the data across sources and establish a universal view of the consumer; ultimately to give her the right experience, at the right time, at the right location and touch point of her choice.


What are your plans for programmatic going forward? Will there be increased activity in premium programmatic, DOOH, television and mobile?

This is a natural progression. Predicting the future is always challenging but the easiest way to gauge the next 2 years is to look at the last 5. The evolution of media buying from the first clickable banner ad on Global Network Navigator to this world of real time bidding and contextual buying is a simple proof of the pace and expansion. What started with display has already evolved to online video. Certain providers and DSPs like TubeMogul and Cox are already making strides to replicate and pilot programmatic for television. While nothing concrete has happened across those channels beyond the baby steps, it is only a question of time when the blueprints are defined and laid out. It certainly is the next evolution of programmatic now.