Is a Fully Automated Media Landscape Around the Corner?

New programmatic channels are moving beyond digital

By James Brown, Managing Director UK & Ireland - Rubicon Project, and Kirsti Wenn, COO - Amplifi (Dentsu Aegis Network)

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few years, the word 'programmatic' will be very familiar to you. We've hit the ground running in 2016, and programmatic isn't going anywhere; it's here for the long haul. What will be new for this year is the increasing variety of media channels outside of the traditional programmatic space that will begin seriously investing and therefore incorporating automated advertising technology. We are edging that much closer to a fully automated and integrated media landscape.

The benefits of automation are finally being realised by the wider media and marketing industry. Automated advertising is no longer bound to the confines of digital display; we're seeing it begin to branch out into TV, out of home (OOH) and even print.

UK-based premium broadcaster Sky pioneered TV automation back in 2014 when it launched its audience buying tool AdSmart, allowing brands to serve automated, targeted TV ads based on collective data points from each household, plus other attributes based on subscription data. However, near the end of 2015 we saw other UK broadcasters start to come on board and invest in automated advertising too. Channel 4 announced the launch of its Premium Video Ad Xchange (PVX), allowing advertisers to buy demographic audience segments across devices and platforms on its All 4 service using programmatic technology. Whilst ITV announced a partnership with RadiumOne to launch its Ad Sync + product, a similar offering to Channel 4's PVX. The potential to expand automated advertising into the TV sector means that in the not too distant future you will begin to see it rolling out in a big way on linear broadcast channels too - and we've seen the beginnings of this recently, with Rubicon Project recently announcing a partnership with AdMore to automate linear TV advertising across more than 100 million homes in the US.

Another sector fairly new to automation is OOH, which is expected to be worth $45 billion worldwide by 2019. Although most of the buying and selling is still processed manually there are some innovative companies such as Ayuda, Live Nation, TouchTunes, and Bitposter, who are looking to disrupt this model by exploring automation. The latter, for example, started automating the trading of both digital out of home (DOOH) and traditional OOH for 98 per cent of the UK's outdoor inventory across 300,000 paper and digital sites when it partnered with Rubicon Project in September 2015.

Even print, the most traditional advertising channel and perhaps most unlikely to be looking at automation technology, is delving into this area of advertising. Last year Time Inc., America's largest publisher, started using automation technology to sell print ads across its premium titles for the very first time. In response to the introduction of automation in print, a non-profit initiative was launched - the Publisher Advertising Transaction System (PATS) - which aims to simplify and increase efficiency of transactions between publishers and media platforms by offering a single access point to book across publishers' total print and digital audiences.

The utopian ideal of a united online platform where media buyers can connect to all and any media type is getting closer by the minute. That's not to say there won't be challenges - as with any transition in business there will always be hurdles to jump. In order to create a unified platform it requires parties from both sides of the advertising ecosystem to collaborate to create a single process and way of working. If they can do this, they will reap the rewards. Automation removes the antiquated manual processes of buying and selling ad inventory, empowering companies and people to spend more time on creative and valuable work for their clients. In addition, the huge amount of data that will be garnered will offer invaluable insights for both brands and agencies.

Although the consumer isn't currently affected directly by automation, once we're able to fully understand the breadth of their cross-channel interactions with brands and content, we will be able to tailor their experiences to create a truly "omnichannel" approach, which is when they too will reap the rewards of automation.

With automated advertising technology being incorporated across such a vast variety of sectors, how much closer are we to seeing a fully automated media landscape emerge? At the current speed of innovation we should expect to see this unified marketplace sooner than you might think. Watch this space.

See Rubicon Project at Advertising Week Europe, Tuesday April 19th, 10.30am on Stage 2 for their 'Future of Automation' panel moderated by Rubicon Project's Head of International Oli Whitten, and featuring some of the biggest names in TV, Print, Radio and Outdoor media.