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The Future of Programmatic Advertising: 17 Predictions for 2017

Programmatic advertising. The crunching of numerous sources of data to present the right ad, at the right time, to the right person. But with technology evolving so quickly, what does the future hold? We’ve looked at the numbers, asked the experts and analysed all the trends to bring you our 17 programmatic predictions and trends to keep on top of for 2017.

1. Data collaboration is the next stage

In eCommerce, it’s common practice for businesses to internalise data in-house. But we predict that 2017 will see companies move towards data collaboration, with audience sharing going beyond intent data to include cross-device and UX behavioural insights, for example. As Ve’s Chief Data Officer, Cyrille Vincey, asserts,

“Many businesses, especially smaller ones, just don’t have enough data points to build an in-depth user profile. There’s too much internalisation of data that’s stopping us as an industry from truly knowing and reaching users. It goes against the current industry trend, but there needs to be more data collaboration. Businesses, advertisers and ultimately, users, have more to gain than to lose from sharing data.”

2. UK programmatic spend will rocket

eMarketer predict that UK programmatic spend will reach £2.46 billion in 2016, compared to £1.8 billion in 2015 – an uplift of 37%. With these illuminating stats in mind, we reasonably expect that 2017 will see a similar pattern of growth in UK programmatic spend to follow the trend shown in the graph below.

An eMarketer graph on UK programmatic digital display ad spend 2013-2016

3. The gap between programmatic and manual ad buying will widen

With the monumental growth of programmatic and huge advancements in ad technology, we expect that the brands who continue to manually buy ads will fall behind those who champion automation. As Mark Abay, Content Director at Ashton Media, points out,

“Industry experts predict programmatic is going to drive 100% of advertising trading execution by 2020.”

4. Programmatic TV will come of age

The manual nature of traditional TV advertising is one of its primary flaws. From requesting ad time and purchasing, to displaying the ad and measuring its success – the manual processes can be slow and tedious. Programmatic TV effectively alleviates these problems, with many brands vocally expressing their “appetite for programmatic”. But as Ve Copywriter Kate Rogerson points out,

“Programmatic TV was expected to have boomed in the last few years, yet it has failed to do so. A major reason for this is the lack of ad inventory. Currently the inventory largely consists of local cable companies rather than national or prime time ad slots as the latter fears that ad inventory will become commoditised and so drop in price.”

We predict that programmatic TV will finally take off in 2017, as the ad inventory available increases and big brands (such as Sky) continue to set the TV ad standard with successful campaigns.

5. Header bidding will become more accessible

Header bidding is one of the most technically sophisticated types of programmatic advertising. It’s grown particularly popular with publishers, but the process still faces a lot of challenges concerning usability and accessibility. We think 2017 will be the year that header bidding overcomes these issues as advertisers and publishers alike fully realise the benefits of this technology.

Index Exchange's President and CEO, Andrew Casale, goes as far to predict that,

“Header bidding will have an even bigger impact on video than display.”

"Header bidding will have an even bigger impact on video than display."

6. Personalisation and targeting will grow more sophisticated

Personalisation is a word that’s been thrown around perhaps too liberally in industry circles over the past few years. But personalising your programmatic offering to individual users is, without doubt, hugely important. Whilst we’ve seen some excellent examples of personalised programmatic this year, we expect that the level of depth and targeting will only grow in 2017.

We predict that effective personalisation will be reached through strategies including geolocation, more in-depth demographics capability and dayparting, for example. And with 61% of consumers feeling more positively about a brand when marketing messages are personalised, this sophistication cannot come soon enough.

7. Brands will 'win' more micro-moments

Micro-moments have been a hot trend in eCommerce in recent years and there is no sign of this waning. From Fiat’s online and mobile search ads on category terms like “small car” and “city car” to Dunkin' Donuts’ real-time walk and line wait times for nearby locations – brands across industries are targeting micro-moments. And the way to make your micro-moments stand out? Programmatic of course, as Joshua Spanier, Head of Google Media Lab, points out,

“Programmatic—along with search—is the key to winning these micro-moments without sacrificing scale."

8. Digital disruption will affect ad tech

Uber has revolutionised the world of transport, Just-Eat has disrupted the food industry, and we predict that we’ll see the same level of digital disruption with creative use of programmatic in 2017. As Jon Buss writes on Web Analytics World,

“The competition is real and the fight is only just getting started. As the land of ad-tech continues to expand, technology advances and spend increases it will impact all facets of the industry. New contenders are entering the ring every day while existing heavy weights are fighting to make their presence felt.”

9. Ad creative will catch up with ad tech advancements

The technology that powers programmatic develops at a rapid pace, but can the same be said for the creative itself? We predict that 2017 will be the year that ad creative catches up with the delivery of the ads themselves. As Ve’s Creative Director, Adam Hindhaugh, asserts,

“Programmatic creative is essential in supporting the customised delivery of content to the consumer, thereby enabling messages to be extremely relevant in order to capture the recipient’s attention and increase campaign results.”

10. Programmatic storytelling will become a thing

Storytelling has been a favourite keyword in the marketing vocabulary in recent years, we even dedicated a blog to some of the best examples of storytelling in eCommerce. But programmatic as an advertising strategy has sat somewhat separately to the traditional elements that make up brand storytelling.  Ve's PR and Outreach Manager, Graham McEnroe, however, explains that programmatic might just be the thing that takes storytelling to the next level,

 “Programmatic provides the platform to reach the right audience, but it’s still the content that resonates. This is where programmatic storytelling can really take off. The modern customer expects a journey, an experience and, above all, a story from their advertising, and by harnessing the near pinpoint accuracy of programmatic there’s now greater potential to deliver this.”

11. Traditional advertising will see a renaissance

Trends work cyclically, and just like fashion, certain types of advertising go in and out of style. Whilst we ultimately predict that programmatic advertising will grow in sophistication and adoption, we also expect some businesses to look to traditional advertising, such as print, radio or billboards as a reaction to advancements in modern advertising technology and formats.

12. Programmatic mobile will become more fit for purpose

Articles across the internet have been declaring it the year of mobile for years now. But we predict that 2017 will be the year that programmatic mobile finally comes of age.

According to Econsultancy, smartphones accounted for 71% of all mobile programmatic transactions across Europe in Q1 of 2016, up from 59% in Q4 of 2015.

13. Omni-channel programmatic will reign supreme

Users demand a consistent experience across channels and devices. As a whole, the user journey needs to be more connected so that it’s omni-channel. Plenty of companies use programmatic and aim to create an omni-channel experience, but these two elements need to be brought together to be used to full effect. As Tom Clark, Head of Digital at Ve, says,

“Programmatic advertising is the most effective way to reach people with the best content at the best time. But businesses need to work to integrate their programmatic and omni-channel strategies more closely in 2017 to achieve better results.”

14. Ad viewability will improve

Ad viewability is central in programmatic discussions, with many advertisers rightly concerned as to whether their ad impressions have actually been viewed by human eyes. The viewability industry standard is loosely estimated at 50%, but we expect this to improve over time. In an ideal world, we would see programmatic ad impressions have 100% viewability across the industry, but this might take a bit longer to achieve.

15. Ad blocking issues will plateau, then decline

This is perhaps an aspirational prediction of ours, but we expect it nonetheless. Ad blocking has dominated news stories in 2016, with many advertisers and brands concerned about what this means for their ads. We outlined why ad blocking is not as terrible as many think and even debunked the adpocalypse, but the main way to make it a thing of the past is to tackle the source of the problem itself and create better ads. As Ve’s Director of Digital Strategy, Charlie Ashe, says,

 “With ad blocking we know users have actively said ‘make it relevant or don’t say it’. We need to continue to educate, consult and learn from and with brands to keep pushing programmatic further. Only then will ad blocking abate.”

16. Last touch attribution will be a thing of the past

Debates and concerns surrounding attribution have existed as long as programmatic itself. But we think that the much-maligned last touch attribution model will finally die out in 2017. As Ve’s Display Analytics Director, Sam Baker, explains,

"The days of last touch attribution are numbered. As an advertiser it is vitally important to understand the full user journey, from first contact to purchase, and to award each channel their proportionate attribution based on their overall impact on the campaign. Sophisticated algorithmic attribution models are being brought in currently and will be widespread in the coming year."

17. Programmatic will see widespread adoption

It was once a mysterious term in the eCommerce lexicon, but ‘programmatic’ is now an established industry phrase that is understood across industries. The automated technology strategy has well and truly come of age so we expect programmatic’s reach and adoption to grow dramatically in 2017. As Ve’s Director of Marketing, Tom Rickey, says,

“Programmatic advertising has never been so vital as it is now. With economic uncertainty and the rise of ad blocking, every opportunity to engage with customers needs to be maximised and programmatic methods give us that opportunity.”


What do you think 2017 will hold for programmatic? Let us know in the comments.

At Ve we use a unique combination of intent and conversion data to develop programmatic advertising campaigns that spark awareness interest and action.

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Posted by Ellie Hubble

Ellie is a Content Manager and spends her time reading, writing and getting excited about all things UX, digital and technology.