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Don’t Be Spooked By The Fear Of Programmatic Ad Buying



Change brings about fear. Whether it’s your first day at a new job or your first time watching your child ride their bike without training wheels, we experience this natural human reaction: a fear of the unknown.

As our industry evolves and produces faster and smarter ways to work – such as programmatic ad buying – it’s only natural that some of us respond with fear.

We fear for our jobs, wondering if we’ll soon find ourselves no longer needed to make direct buys and sells. We fear that our expertise and proven track record will be rendered useless and antiquated next to data-driven programmatic buys and sells.

We wonder if programmatic will show just how much we’ve missed the mark in the past, and if we can keep up with the changes ahead to have a future.

The psychology of fear around programmatic buying is similar to the fear that many people have about outsourcing. In both instances, one fears allowing something or someone else to do their job will cause theirs to be dissolved.

Embrace The Change

However, it is necessary to embrace programmatic, just as it is necessary for businesses who want to remain competitive to outsource.

By welcoming programmatic, buyers can focus more on strategic decisions associated with ad buying rather than the routine aspects of buying that can be calculated by algorithms.

This transition is critical to the evolution of the digital marketing industry. Yet, there is a distinction: the transformation we see now does not translate to a loss of positions. Actually, it means quite the opposite.

As the business of digital media buying and selling becomes more efficient and easier for marketers to embrace at scale, the bigger the slice of the pie will be on digital’s plate.

That might not mean you get to keep the same job you have today, but it does mean that if you keep abreast of the latest changes in this dynamic ecosystem, there will be a role in the interactive industry workforce for you tomorrow.

A Shift, Not A Termination

Eventually, the role of an ad buyer will shift, not completely diminish. Just as new jobs are opened as some are outsourced, new jobs and roles will be created and work will change as programmatic becomes more prevalent.

In Europe, the fear around programmatic varies as the focus shifts from not only fear of being replaced, but a desire to protect rich data and respect the privacy of the general public.

According to ExchangeWire’s March 2014 article by Ciaran O’Kane, “The German programmatic system is set up for big agencies” which “in a system like this; independent trading desks are likely to suffer.” O’Kane goes on to note:

“Presently most of these German ITDs are doing basic retargeting, but can’t get access to premium sales house inventory. If they are, it’s likely to lack any domain transparency with a non-guaranteed delivery. Google’s AdX and Facebook’s ad exchange, as a result, are attracting a lot of this independent spend.

Agencies will ultimately look to encroach on this client base as they strike wide-ranging deals with the big sales houses, giving unique access to the best inventory in the market. It will be interesting to see how the independents fare then.”

The chance that independent trading desks may crumble under the present situation is of concern. What we do know is the current German landscape will have to evolve.

In Asia, the fears around programmatic vary. In China, for instance, dealing with governmental regulations only adds to the already complex programmatic landscape.

American AdTech has a particularly long history of battling the Chinese political economy and proceeded to battle the issue of censorship on the part of Chinese government while maintaining its core mission to provide information to the public.

The digital landscape has evolved, but the underlying issues remain the same. As reported by Robert Andrews on Beet.TV:

The Chinese government steps in pretty frequently when it comes to TV. You’re not allowed to show too many entertainment programs around prime time. They haven’t done that on OTV (online TV) yet- but the expectation is that they’ll step in there pretty soon.” Mr. de Rijk goes on to explain that platform players will “suffer” from this, having to show a larger amount of local content, which is “less premium for advertisers.

Xaxis Asia-Pacific MD Michel de Rijk

Players in the programmatic landscape can’t always plan for the politics of doing business abroad, creating uncertainty and requiring personnel to have the skill and foresight to anticipate future government regulations based on historical rulings.

The More Things Change…

It is normal to fear the unknown, but in order to remain competitive, it is important to remember that change is the norm. Ad buyers can best secure their future in the business by accepting change, learning as much as they can and developing their skill set to include programmatic competencies.

The goal of any business is to make money. Programmatic will support this basic purpose of doing business by creating a more fine-tuned way to complete the task of ad buying while freeing up the buyers valuable time and resources to focus on the less predictable, more human areas of the job.

Letting go of control makes room for letting in new possibilities and greater profit.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from

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