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The Future of Real Time Bidding

By: MarketingJul 13, 2017

Martin KellyMartin Kelly, CEO and Co-founder, Infectious Media, explains why the future of real-time bidding lies with improving the advertising experience, not just the buying process

Since its emergence in 2010, Real Time Bidding (RTB) has been one of the most over-hyped technologies in advertising. I wrote an article recently where I talked about RTB actually being a huge disappointment and this struck a chord with a number of advertisers that we’ve spoken with who can’t see what all the fuss is about. These advertisers are generally seeing RTB as just another line on their usual media plan, shuffling money from one supplier to another with very little benefit to them.

And, this is the main issue with RTB/ programmatic trading in 2013, we fundamentally don’t know what to do with it yet. We’ve witnessed the creation of an amazing infrastructure that has the ability to deliver so much and yet to-date has delivered little for advertisers beyond making it easier and potentially cheaper to do exactly what they have been doing since the late 1990’s when display advertising was born.

So what’s next, what can we expect and what do we need to do? Firstly, education is key, not only for advertisers but also for the people that create and implement campaigns on their behalf. Instead of thinking of RTB as a method of doing the same thing slightly better, we need to look at what the technology enables us to do. To be clear, the endgame is about making the advertising experience, rather than the buying process, better. When we get there we’ll start to see a real shift plus excitement from advertisers. Two technologies stand out for us as areas that are going to be key to facilitate this shift, the widespread adoption of the Data Management Platform (DMP) and dynamic creative technologies.

It seems obvious but what makes the real-time space conceptually better is that we can use actual audience data to make buying decisions rather than using panels (TGI, ComScore etc.). This is great in theory but in practice getting data is difficult. Third party data has proved itself unreliable and a red herring. Ultimately the real change, and competitive advantage for the advertiser, comes from unlocking the value of their own first party data. Again, great in theory but in practice it can take up to six months to even get a pixel on an advertiser’s site! DMP’s are platforms that allow advertisers to take control of their own data assets, storing them somewhere that’s secure and giving the flexibility to analyse and cut segments, and finally linking this to the real-time buying space to action those audiences.

‘What does a real-time advert look like?’ This is a question I was asked recently by a big advertiser and it summed up one of the most fundamental current problems we have as an industry. We have all this amazing technology that allows us to pinpoint our audience and bid solely for them and yet we generally show them the same ad we show everyone else. This goes back to educating everyone in the industry, we’re so used to not being able to target media buys very well that we’ve become accustomed to producing creative that has to appeal to millions of people. So when the opportunity comes to target smaller audiences more precisely our existing ways of working are not sufficient. Think about search advertising, when the ability was introduced to build ad copy dynamically, the increase in response rates was dramatic compared to when generic copy was used. When we target an audience because they live in Manchester or it’s a sunny day, or because they have been to our site, then let’s personalise the creative based on that, the technology is there to do it, it just needs our planning processes and creative agencies to catch up.

There’s been a dramatic shift over the last two and a half years and there is nobody left denying that RTB/programmatic trading is the future. However, if we’re really going to fulfil the potential on offer then we need to change the most analogue function, how we are thinking about it.

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