Publishers Agree: Programmatic is an Overwhelming Growth Opportunity

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest private marketplace.

Automate or go home. That was the clear message from more than a dozen major media executives polled and cited anonymously at a recent industry event. When asked about the greatest source of revenue expansion in the past year, publishers continue to cite programmatic advertising above just about every other revenue stream.

“Digital marketing has some of the best attribution tools, so the rise of ‘people’ or ‘audience-based’ targeting is not a surprise,” said one senior executive from a large publishing brand. “Programmatic and native have been growing because of the viewability and banner blindness issues.”

Another publisher stated that the fastest-growing stream involved “brand-direct programmatically served and contextually differentiated high-impact media.”

But here’s the rub. Moving both media buyers and sales staffs into the private marketplaces and programmatic-direct deals where much of this higher level activity occurs is not easy. In fact, one of the web’s largest publishers and most advanced programmatic sellers admitted that traditional direct sales (especially to agencies) is contracting fastest. And yet, “direct sales does sell PMPs, but I’d say our direct sellers are behind in adopting programmatic.”

During a panel discussion at the event, some publishers acknowledged that for many of them, it’s commonplace for PMP’s share of ad revenue to plateau at around 20%. Samantha Skey, CRO of SheKnows, indicated that PMPs are “over half of our business now,” but the company has gone through a deep reorganization of sales and made a substantial investment in in-house technology.

Overall, publishers agreed that PMPs not only allow for better pricing and control of inventory, but they help them sell clients on the superior performance of quality contexts. “If you are being bought and sold in an open exchange and you don’t actually know where the ads are running, there are always going to be cheaper places for these ads to target these cookies or that user,” said trade association Digital Content Next CEO, Jason Kint. He urged publishers to prioritize accelerating the move of sales staffs and client to private marketplaces. “There is nothing more important to publishers,” he said.

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