WTF is programmatic?

Mar 18th, 2016

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Creative Programmatic conference in London due to a ticket becoming suddenly available at work (poor Clare broke her tibia in an unfortunate snowboarding incident). After a very early morning flight, a couple of rail rides, and a short jaunt to King’s Place I found myself shuffling in late to the first presentation of the morning. It was then, sitting in the very front row staring up at the two speakers from O2, that it dawned on me – I had no idea what programmatic actually meant.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I realised that I actually did know but just wasn’t familiar with the title before (despite it first entering the digital lexicon over a decade ago). What I didn’t realise however was just how powerful and important it was. And not just for marketers and business owners, but for anyone working in digital.

In essence, programmatic marketing is a way to deliver a personalised and relevant creative experience at scale by automating ad trading. Or put simply:

A way of using an individual’s online behaviour to decide which ads to show them.

Most people upon hearing about programmatic have the knee-jerk reaction of “that’s creepy”. People are forever weirded out by the thought of their internet browsing being ‘studied’ or ‘recorded’, but the truth is – it is. Tech companies already know a tonne about you, but it only ever gets weird when you’re made aware of it.

Like when you visit a web page and you see an ad for another site suggesting you purchase that realistic-looking penguin mask you were looking at the other day. Or when it knew that you had recently purchased said mask and was showcasing a rather dapper-looking top hat to go with it. Personally, I don’t find one part of that analogy creepy and love the fact that we’re moving towards a more personalised marketing experience for the web.

I’m of the opinion that if I’m going to see ads on a website, I’d much rather they were relevant to me and who I am as a person – in fitting with my personality traits, my beliefs and interests – and for there to at least be a chance of me interacting with them. A programmatic marketing strategy will make ads more engaging, responsive, enjoyable, helpful, enriching, emotive, maybe even wanted. And can you imagine that? Actually wanting to see ads, and for those ads to perhaps be just as valuable as the content on the site itself. What a time to be alive!

Good at creative solutions, collaborating and thinking of a third thing he's good at.