Brief Notes on Automated Advertising based on 5 keys Politics, Ethics, Technique, Economics and Technology. Ranging from Use of data to Conflicts of Interest, from the role of Coding to Optimisation Algorithm, From Reach to User Identification and so on.
• Even at organizational chart level, programmatic is still underestimated. Today programmatic
management is often limited to operational roles. A bigger strategic planning from companies
is needed. Therefore top management should be involved and more attention should be paid
to long terms communications and marketing goals.
• Talking about strategic vision, There’s a deep cultural divide today. We have a market with three
. firstly we have the powerhouses of Google and Facebook (with Amazon and Apple quickly
moving into the fray), These companies lead the market with strategic thinking and the ability of
make it actionable.
. Next we have brands and traditional publishers, who basically react to market forces.
. Lastly, we have agencies and trading desks who are left looking for any ways of increasing
their share of business (often eroded by farce contracts with fees close to zero).
For brands, it’s time to move more decisively on technological-strategic planning of automation.
• Conflicts of interest and use of data are the most important topics when debating the ethics of
automated advertising. Conflicts of interest exist in many forms - two of them, technology
vendors as media owners, and agency arbitrage- involve automated advertising business
• The use of data is not a new topic in the world of commercial communication, but it is
particularly important in programmatic. Brands tends to assume extreme positions; not giving
data or, the opposite, granting data freely with limited constraints. This two position are equally
risky for the companies, the first makes programmatic campaigns less effective, the second
leaves the companies with no protection. There’s a third way, the confused contracts. Maybe
this is the most risky option because companies feel safe but they aren’t..
EU and USA laws also provide useful suggestions about relationships between brands and citizens,
from which we can draw ideas and guidelines:
For use of data:
● Awareness: informing the user about the terms of the possible use of the data in a clear and
● Development and terms of the agreement
● Opt-out options with potential restrictions and penalties
For conflict of interest:
● Disclosure: if a person/company is liable for conflict of interest shall declare it before
starting any trade initiative (to be applied to the whole chain, not only to agencies’ arbitrage,
certainly the the most obvious conflict of interest, but not the only one).
So the “conscious choice”, a choice that you make in full cognition of reality, is probably the
more appropriate behaviour in conflicts of interest and data management cases.
The Economic variable is the most commonly discussed. Most players in the market identify at least
two critical areas in automated advertising:
• Arbitrage which allows media agencies to make profits and also to cover resource fees that are
not included in the contractual remuneration with the user.
• Technological platforms’ long chain with their costs and markup
In the Ethic paragraph we referred to Arbitrage possible solutions. But regarding the long channel, as
with all “native” publisher-driven communication, it’s important to highlight in details all costs in
invoices issued to agencies / brands.
4. Technical development
According to Enrica Seregni,“Programmatic is an optimizer”. There are 3 areas of interest:
1. Platform interface and performance.
2. Optimisation algorithms
3. Setting of metrics & KPIs
Interfaces are a primary concern for technology providers, while the transparency of the trading
model is relevant in cases of arbitrage, but metrics require the most attention. Usually, the success
of a communication is directly related to how metrics are defined (reach, first and foremost) and
also with the number of consumers actually reached, excluding devices and media duplication over
Automated advertising offers buyers the opportunity to calculate effective reach across different
touchpoints. The opportunities are enormous but it’s necessary to follow several upstream steps.
The main are:
- standardised definition of the period of time within which reach is evaluated (reach is strictly
linked to the time frame, whether based on cookies or audience sample survey. At some point the
individual is not followed anymore, and is considered a new subject, so numbers are inflated)
- user /individual identification excluding multi-screen and multi-channel duplication.
Part of the current debate about technology is focused on these topics, especially on the second.
5. Technological variable and the current challenges, according to Nene Harrison from Eley
I’ve known and appreciated Nene Harrison for a long time, since we brought digital media
measurement to the attention of several corporation operating in Italy. They were pioneering days
for Italian digital audit and I’ve always appreciated Nene’s great competence but also passion,
pragmatism and intellectual honesty. I’m now doing some consulting for Eley and
asked Nene to indicate in her opinion the main challenges for the programmatic today. To
paraphrase in 5 points:
1. The vast majority of brands’ data is held within Google & Facebook’s walled gardens. How
do brands wrestle control of their own data back?
2. Publishers looking to maximise yield / revenue face a big challenge in managing multiple
revenue sources – current techniques such as header bidding still need to be developed
3. There is still no single standard for viewability measurement; every vendor has their own
methodology and results can vary dramatically.
4. Mobile & desktop environments are increasingly hostile to cookies; a robust cookie-less
method of tracking is needed if brands are ever to get accurate campaign measurement.
5. Incredible lack of knowledge across the industry about how the various platforms work
together – causes price inflation and operational inefficiency, e.g. with simultaneous
auctions, double-charging etc.
As Cosimo Accoto says “(programmatic) software deeply transforms our conception of what is
possible”. It is therefore necessary to have a broader view of the topic, looking beyond mere
problem solving and thinking ahead, well into the future. It is important that top management is
involved in this. Leaving strategic thinking in the hands of commercial entities will undoubtedly
increase fragmentation and decrease effectiveness.
There are three technical considerations that are key for proper measurement of automated
advertising; uniformity in reach time-frames, user identification in multi-screen journey, and user
identification in multi-channel journey.
Even though conflicts of interest and data management are often discussed, these subjects are not
properly addressed in all legal contracts between advertisers and agencies. A “conscious choice”
should be made by brands when negotiating. Data ownership agreements, opt-out clauses and, of
course, penalties can improve the nature of contracts and can lay a more efficient path to the
future of automated advertising.