Programmatic advertising is the current buzz word in digital marketing and was one of our top trends for 2015. As the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) jostled with their word of the year a rather apt quote emerged, one which sums up this topic in a nutshell “Nobody can define it, but everyone wants it” Gartner 2014.

What is programmatic advertising?

So to start I have to address the burning question – what is programmatic advertising? Well I can say from studying the subject that getting clarity has turned me a little grey!

The best definition I’ve come across is from the CMO Council “The application of data, intelligence and technology in order to automate the ability to identify relevant consumers and deliver highly relevant messaging”. A great compilation covering an array of programmatic definitions can be found on Gartner which, for our food marketers reading this, my favourite quote from Jimmy Kimmel has to be ‘Programmatic buying is the gluten of advertising’.

The current landscape

Programmatic is where search advertising was back in 2001. As according to the IDC, by 2018 50% of online display advertisements will be programmatic in America (20% currently). While the IAB UK predicted that 47% of display advertising was traded programmatically in 2014, nearly doubling from 28% in 2013. In fact programmatic media buying is no longer reserved for online media as TimeInc is one of the first companies to make offline print audience segments available via programmatic advertising.

The opportunities of programmatic for b2b

In essence programmatic technology empowers marketers to tailor messages to individuals across screens in real-time and can be scaled globally. There is now the opportunity to reach consumers in places they care about, across multiple devices and this is where it’s clear that programmatic is more than just a media buy as it’s often portrayed.

Here are some of the key potential benefits in b2b:

  1. Creates greater efficiencies and new markets

Programmatic offers a new world of digital advertising and rather than trying to reach ‘broad targets’, it allows marketers to focus on audiences most likely to engage with the brand message.  There’s multi-platform opportunities too as it is now possible to execute other formats including: rich-media, video, social and native, programmatically. Globally the BRICs in particular present huge growth potential due to increasing internet penetration and device ownership.

  1. Firmographics

An exciting prospect for programmatic b2b advertising would be where the programmatic algorithm can start to factor in firmographic criteria. Firmographics are key identifiers such as company, title, industry, etc., that put the learnings from digital activity into a business context. Including firmographic criteria in programmatic technology would enable b2b marketers to more efficiently distinguish decision makers from influencers and, therefore, align the proper message at the proper stage of the buyer journey.

  1. Insights and ROI

Where programmatic has the most potential for b2b is around aligning a product to the right target audiences. For example ClickZ identifies a scenario where you can beta launch a product using programmatic to evaluate which targets are buying your new product and which provide the highest ROI. This not only applies for new products, as this approach can also be used to validate who your digital/mobile buyers are as well.

It’s certainly an exciting time for advertising and b2b more broadly as advancements in technology will mean that we’ll no longer just be targeting buyers in traditional ways but start to more proactively infiltrate target audience spaces with messages that really resonate.

Are you investigating programmatic? We’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

This blog was originally posted on where I was a Digital Project Manager working with international b2b clients.