Programmatic Predictions: Tom Harrison Executive Director, Head of Programmatic at Manning Gottlieb OMD

For NDA’s Programmatic Month, we’re asking some of our favourite people for their predictions for programmatic technologies and advertising in 2021. We spoke to Tom Harrison, Executive Director and Head of Programmatic at Manning Gottlieb OMD to find out what he is excited about for the technology next year.


What impact has the events of 2020 had on the programmatic advertising industry and how is it recovering?

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked prominent changes in consumer confidence, footfall, media habits, market supply chains and product availability. It comes as no surprise, that this has created significant challenges across the advertising industry. Compounded by two national lockdowns, for the wider media market 2020 has been characterized by budget cancellations and campaign deferrals. Lower funnel programmatic activation has largely weathered the worst of the storm as brands have focused on short-term acquisition-led activity, with branding viewed as a relative luxury in the time of crisis. Whether this is the right approach or not is a topic of much debate. Digital news brands have seen revenue gains as the nation has relied on quality journalism in a world of increasing disinformation. In-game advertising has become increasingly tradable via programmatic connections and has benefited in a year when more time spent in the home and desire for escapism has boosted inventory supply. Podcasts too have continued to prove popular as a viable programmatic audio strategy with consumer appetite strong for news, sport and comedy. Programmatic OOH held up at the beginning of the year as a real growth opportunity has not fared so well, with footfall and roadside traffic declines during lockdown understandably slowing market adoption. I’d expect to see a strong recovery here in 2021.


What is the biggest opportunity in programmatic for 2021, and why?

Without doubt, the biggest opportunity for programmatic in 2021 will be the industry’s ability to adapt to 3rd party cookie alternatives, offering advertisers privacy compliant solutions that continue to provide innovation and crucially deliver effectiveness. With Google’s 2022 cookie deprecation deadline just around the corner, rapid progress will need to be made across the next six to twelve months in proving the scale and viability of client 1st party data activation, second party subscription data, advanced contextual, data clean rooms and ID solutions.

We are at a clear tipping point in industry evolution and it is exciting to see what a new, improved, policy-compliant future holds. Change here can only be positive and this is why there is no bigger opportunity for the programmatic market in 2021.


What is the biggest challenge that programmatic faces in the year ahead, and why?

Whilst the answer to this question could quite easily be the same as the last, devising a post cookie future should be considered more a great opportunity, given the unparalleled positive direction it will bring. In terms of challenges, we will continue to see hurdles in the adoption of programmatic technology across the traditional broadcast television market. With online VoD and OTT serving as increasingly mature programmatic channels and the technical infrastructure to support a programmatic model in linear television largely viable, the challenge lies more in identifying where programmatic can add mutual value to the linear market. This isn’t easy in an industry where real-time ad trading can’t readily take the place of a legacy laydown buying model. There continues to be a huge opportunity in the programmatic AV space, but until tangible benefit can be guaranteed for both buy and sell-side, adoption for the linear model will be slower than for it’s on-demand alternatives.


What channels will fare best? And worst?

If we’re looking at year on year predictions, then programmatic OOH should see the most positive uplift in 2021. The combination of a severely depleted 2020 alongside rapid technological development will spur a welcome recovery. However, this is a market where we must continue to proceed with caution, avoiding shoehorning techniques and performance expectations borrowed from the online display world into the contrasting OOH market. Rather, we should embrace technology where it can help to drive workflow efficiency, smart targeting and client return on investment.

In terms of growth, digital display will fare the worst, not because it will prove any less popular but rather that success has meant that there isn’t much headroom left in a market already at 90% + adoption.


How will new and emerging channels such as TV, outdoor and audio better plug into one-to-one programmatic channels?

The definition of programmatic has moved on and broadened over time. We’ve evolved from thinking of programmatic as real-time, auction-based and bottom of the funnel to adopting a broader recognition based on platform execution and data application. We should no longer consider programmatic as exclusively one-to-one.

Programmatic disruption of markets is contingent on two main factors; the ability to build and implement a technology infrastructure and the value it drives for buyers and sellers. The speed in which we reach these answers dictates the pace of programmatic evolution in media channels. Digital display, with its inventory liquidity and wealth of data points was a natural early adopter. When it comes to channels such as OOH and TV, answering those two main questions isn’t as straight forward.

With a more expansive view of programmatic in place, we will continue to see progress in all digitally enabled media channels, with targeting evolving to include one to one, cohort targeting and one to many.


Crystal ball time: what do you most hope will happen in the industry? What do you most fear?

My biggest hope for the industry is that professional news content is once again valued correctly by the advertising buy-side. Industry onus on audience and auction-based trading has driven countless benefits but has also led to the unintended consequence of devaluing quality journalism. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that trusted news sources are crucial in society and also provide access to an engaged, attentive audience for advertisers. This renewed realization combined with an increased demand for publisher owned subscription data should change our course here for the better.

My biggest fear is around measurement. We need to see a renewed industry-level focus on championing business outcomes and incrementality, rather than too often relying on some of the less useful media proxies. Progress here is encouraging and there are some fantastic examples showing the true value programmatic campaigns can have on bricks and mortar purchases, e-commerce uplift and customer lifetime value. With the end of the 3rd party cookie fast approaching, we’re arriving at a crossroad of opportunity to reset industry measurement norms and more successfully join the dots between an ever more fragmented consumer journey.

This article was originally published by New Digital Age.

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