The Heroes of the Programmatic Takeover: Market Researchers

When you go to sleep at night, how far away is your phone? Under your pillow? A foot away? Maybe across the room? The honest answer for most, is that it’s within arm’s reach.

People now carry their phones constantly, and while their bodies recharge overnight, so do their phones, nearby at all times. Mobile phones are estimated to create a massive opportunity for programmatic advertising spending in the coming years. And this is a big deal for marketers, and market researchers. By using programmatic advertising, the use of software to purchase digital advertising has reduced or even eliminated the need for many traditional processes, reinforcing the idea now more than ever that digital advertising is crucial.

Digital advertising is important, of course, because the reach of traditional advertising methods alone can no longer compare to the connectivity and resulting reach of digital methods. Nearly every consumer in every possible segment you can imagine is engaging with products, services, and brands as a whole via (often multiple) digital platforms. If that isn’t motivation enough, digital advertising is the most flexible form of advertising across multiple channels. With digital, brands are no longer confined to a single newspaper page or a 30-second spot on MTV. Not only is their content accessible across numerous platforms, but it also has instantaneous “share-ability” and invites instant engagement with consumers. And related to all of those benefits is one of the most important reasons to capitalize on digital advertising: it is easily measurable.

According to Marketing Week, programmatic ad spending grew globally from $5 billion in 2012 to $39 billion in 2016, growing at an average rate of 71% per year. As such, market researchers need to devote attention to the reality that mobile will be used on a wider scale than ever before and the demand for increasingly sophisticated technologies will only grow. And beyond that, market researchers need to be ready for what’s next, as programmatic moves into other mediums of media.


The Takeover: Programmatic is Making Moves

Soon mobile with overtake desktop computer as “the first screen”, and programmatic technologies will certainly capitalize on this. Major players, like Facebook, have a significant role to play in the rise of mobile programmatic. The continued emergence of tools and methods for monitoring and measuring relevant data on mobile devices is making the future bright for programmatic professionals, even as few as there are. Beyond Facebook, almost all of the other major social platforms offer some sort of programmatic advertising option. The benefit of this to marketers of course, is that they can run highly effective campaigns through automated buying, and they are reaching a precise audience with highly relevant messages through social media.  By using technology and data to automate the media buying process, brands can now reach their target audience more easily and at a lower cost than other methods. However, there are major problems with this, keeping the skills and expertise of market researchers in high demand.  At the top of the programmatic problems list is the fact that there is a general lack of knowledge on programmatic methods as a whole, often leading to misinformed decision making. Equally problematic is the reality that it is incredibly difficult to know where programmatic ads end up. In other words, there is no sure-fire way to know if they show up when, where and to whom they are intended for.


Becoming the Solution

While the promise of programmatic sounds great, there is a long road ahead before programmatic advertising actually targets the right people, at the right time, through the right medium. Here are some things to think about:

  • Programmatically purchased ads don’t always appear when and where they should (In response, when programmatically purchasing advertisements, it is a good idea to have an actual market researcher and/or marketer follow up on these ads and report all findings to inform future strategy and programmatic decisions)
  • Programmatic advertising is a jargon-heavy topic, making it less approachable
  • There is an unbalanced focus on price over quality, causing advertising quality to suffer
  • Many organizations lack the technological infrastructure to support in-house efforts
  • Marketers and market researchers often lack the necessary expertise on programmatic

Those are just a few of the issues surrounding the programmatic advertising industry. However, there are some bright sides and several solutions that make an excellent opportunity for market researchers to step in and be heroes for their clients.


Market Research to the Rescue

As programmatic is creeping its way from mobile into other commodities of media, it is important for market researchers to educate clients on how big this piece of the pie is becoming. Market researchers understand the landscape of media, have long understood advertising effectiveness, and have made countless recommendations and suggestions rooted in sound data. That doesn’t have to change just because programmatic seems confusing. The reality is that only 1 in 10 marketing professionals, including market researchers, understand programmatic advertising sufficiently. This paired with the constant increase in demand for skilled individuals needed to meet the rapid growth of programmatic creates an opportunity for market researchers to become front runners. The following are some solutions to dealing with the programmatic approach –

  • As the advocate of the consumer’s voice, market researchers should always advocate the balance between price and quality. At the end of the day, quality advertisements will win share of wallet, share of voice, you name it – in ways that the cheapest advertising option can’t always do the same
  • Market researchers can work with their marketing team counterparts to eliminate the jargon. Set up a meeting, sit the expert at the head of the table, and start talking. Collaboration and communication are key ingredients for success here
  • Follow up with ads – if you are a market researcher that tests an ad and know that it is to be run, follow up with that ad. Conduct post-tests and measures to ensure that ad is showing up where and when you planned. And if it isn’t, get with your marketing team ASAP to come up with an action plan to not only fix the current problem, but to prevent it in the future


The Takeaway

Programmatic is on the rise, and the pace of its growth can be intimidating. However, market researchers are not known to back down from a challenge. When you stare at it in the face, programmatic isn’t the big bad wolf it can be made out to be. Small steps to educate ourselves as market researchers will only help us navigate the future of programmatic. By taking those steps, we will remain relevant and knowledgeable, even in the face of automation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Brown
A passion for learning and a natural sense of curiosity led Caroline into the marketing research field. She holds a degree from the Terry College of Business, and will soon complete the Master of Marketing Research program at the University of Georgia. When she’s not managing research projects through the MMR program, she can be found at her local hot yoga studio, camped out at a coffee shop with a good book, or planning her next travel adventure."