Programmatic Industry Insights Flow With Wine at Cannes Lions

June 21, 2019

ADVERTISING

Marketers at Cannes Lions want the programmatic marketplace to apply new technologies, strategies, and policy frameworks to pivot away from delivering low-quality, unsafe barrage-style, behaviorally targeted advertising, and toward delivering user-data free, contextually appropriate, quality creative to receptive consumers, says,  Adam Schenkel, SVP, Global Commercial Development, GumGum.

The programmatic themes I heard at this year's Cannes Lions – even louder than the clinking of glasses – were not unfamiliar. My industry peers have high hopes for a brighter new era in creative, they see identity online and marketer/vendor relationships changing, they’re seeking cures for banner blindness––and their desires are driven by data. But the way experts see these changes playing out, now and into the future, may interest those who didn’t make it to the Cote d’Azur.

One thing that was eminently clear was that the programmatic marketplace is now truly mature, healthy, and totally necessary for any major brand’s media strategy. But from all I gleaned over wine and cheese, I’d say that programmatic is already moving onto a next phase of maturity. Here’s what my time at Cannes told me about our programmatic future:

Fraud prevention and viewability are required––and ad safety and quality will soon be table stakes.

A few years ago, businesses tended to brush over the issues of spending lost ad fraud and viewable impressions, but thanks to the likes of Procter & Gamble and Unilever, whose purse power have directed the industry’s attention, we take addressing those issues for table stakes.

It’s bad ad creative—malicious, low-quality and brand-inappropriate creative—that has moved into the spotlight of the industry’s attention. It’s a natural progression for attention to turn to ensuring that ads are safe for the user and right for the experience. Some businesses have already solved that problem, but the rest will soon follow suit.

Obtaining consumer consent is now a critical layer of customer engagement. Marketers are taking more control from outside partners to drive cohesive marketing experiences.

The necessity that the industry develop alternatives to cookies has ushered in the next era of identity. Industry consortiums (Liveramp, IAB/DigiTrust) are spearheading efforts to build unified IDs out of the myriad IDs digital businesses hold.

At Cannes, everyone seemed to agree that it’s incumbent upon all independent businesses in digital to look for touchpoints—opportunities to engage and authenticate users and to ask for consent. The experts urgently want to move away from obtaining blanket consent toward more targeted consent and they’re rethinking consent as a layer of consumer engagement necessary to compete in an ID-based framework.

Programmatic in-housing is happening fast—but hybrid agency/brand media strategies own this moment.

In 2017, it was reported that 86% of brands intended to take programmatic spend in-house. It sounded like a pipe dream to me at the time. But in the conversations I had last week, it’s clearly our reality, finally.

But it’s not simple: Hybrid options are on the rise, where businesses rely on both in-house and third-party services, dividing up tasks by their core competencies. Generally speaking, brands want to own the strategy and tech pieces, and they let agencies handle execution. But I heard about a lot of collaboration, too—to a large degree, marketers seem to be joining forces with vendors on measurement and direct marketing, for example.

Cookies fueled the rise of programmatic, but now brands need alternatives to cookies to win at programmatic.

Everyone I spoke to seemed resigned to the fact that every browser will soon give users options to block cookies. That means that companies with the most deterministic data will soon have the advantage in programmatic. These are the major platforms and the absolute biggest brands and publishers. But very few companies are at that level. All the little guys were talking about how building relationships with ID consortium is their best hope.

Contextual advertising promises brands the relevancy and privacy they expect.
People seem to be taking heart in the realization that they can address issues about brand safety and positive ad experiences by addressing not just the audience, but the environment.

With the cookie crumbling, context was a buzzword around Cannes. I even heard it vaunted as an improvement over the good old fashioned barrage, because it better serves marketers’ mission to connect with audiences. Various people I spoke with pointed out how audiences are reeling from years of digital ad fatigue and how examining the context of the page can help marketers understand when their message does or doesn’t suit the environment. One idea that came up – and which interests me quite a bit – is how much mindset matters (in addition to the old line about the right user, time and place, of course).

We are undergoing a renaissance in creative, with dynamic creative and creative management providers forging a new vendor category.
Today, campaign execution and launch can take mere days and optimization happens in-flight. That short time to market raises the stakes for creative development. Naturally, vendors have stepped up to shoulder the responsibility of building quality creative quickly. Dynamic creative optimization is a data-driven evolution from direct response. Creative management platforms evolved out of brand advertising, automating production of different creative versions for different environments.

Various people I spoke with at Cannes see clear areas for investment and growth in this emerging sector—services to account for emerging channels, AI, machine learning. And self-serve or collaborative capabilities, they say (and I agree), are simply what the times demand.

Everyone at Cannes this year seemed confident that programmatic can deliver, but what clearly may believe is that now it needs to connect. That means that we in the industry need to become much more focused on both who the programmatic market is serving and why.

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