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Trading digital display inventory programmatically in the UK is more common than ever. Fully 70% of all digital display ad spending will flow through programmatic pipes in 2016, eMarketer predicts, and that proportion will approach 80% by 2018. Growth is so strong because players all along the supply chain are becoming more adept at trading this way, leading to a maturing and more sophisticated marketplace, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “UK Programmatic Advertising Forecast: Market Maturation Leads to Greater Confidence in Automated Trading” (eMarketer PRO customers only).
Speaking to trade journal Campaign in July 2016, Anant Joshi, director of international business at ad measurement firm Meetrics, made the link quite plainly. “The surge in ads bought programmatically contributed to the decline in viewability [in the UK],” he said.
Joshi was speaking about Meetrics’ latest research, which indicated that in Q2 2016, digital display ad viewability rates in the UK dropped to 47%, lower than in other select countries in Western Europe tracked by the firm—countries, incidentally, where programmatic uptake is less pronounced.
Ian Gibbs, head of commercial insight at publisher Guardian News and Media, meanwhile, suggested that a degree of industry “short sightedness” was driving growth in programmatic, with the result fueling the rise in ad blocking behavior. “The problem is we’ve built an entire ad ecosystem around clicks,” he said. “The knock-on effect is that we are getting irritating, intrusive ads whose objective is just to galvanize more response, which is forcing people to ad block. This total preoccupation with the click is what’s driving the growth in programmatic.”
However, links between programmatic trading and ad industry travails are difficult to prove. For example, writing for MediaTel in August 2016, Barbara Agus, director of global programmatic and yield at The Weather Company, suggested a contrary view. She argued that ad blocking wasn’t new and that programmatic was merely a tool—bad ads would exist regardless.
“While it may be true that programmatic has made some advertisers and content creators lazy, programmatic itself cannot be said to have changed the internet advertising landscape overnight,” Argus wrote. “The errors lie with the craftsman, not in his tools. It is not the spanner’s fault if it is used as a hammer.”
Q1 2016 data from Integral Ad Science, meanwhile, indicates that trading ads programmatically had a negligible impact on rates of viewability and ad fraud. For example, the study found that viewability rates for UK digital display ads traded directly with publishers were only slightly better than for those traded programmatically—while 42.2% of publisher-direct-traded ads were viewed for longer than 5 seconds, a not-insignificant 39.9% of programmatically traded ads were viewed for the same duration.
Fraudulent ad impressions, too, were affected only slightly by programmatic buying, according to the research. Of publisher-direct-traded ads, 4.7% of impressions were deemed to be fraudulent. However, that proportion for programmatically traded ads was only marginally higher, at 5.1%.
Broad consensus among contributors to this report, from publishers to buyers to ad tech platform providers, was that a greater degree of maturity in the UK’s programmatic marketplace was leading to greater confidence among all the actors, and thus the strong growth in spending.
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