Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Predictions: Azad Ali, Head of Programmatic, Spark Foundry

For NDA’s Programmatic Month, we’re asking some of our favourite people for their predictions for programmatic technologies and advertising in 2021. We spoke to Azad Ali, Head of Programmatic, Spark Foundry to find out what he is excited about for the technology next year.

What is the biggest opportunity in programmatic for 2021, and why?

There seems to be a lot of emphasis from many different parties for programmatic broadcast video to be a huge success. Whether it is plugging into existing DSPs or running proprietary platforms, the broadcasters have certainly put programmatic buying pretty high on the agenda.

TV has always had the benefit of mass reach, however as certain demographics increasingly move towards a digital-first method of consuming entertainment, now is a good a time as any to make programmatic BVOD a reality.  Combining the granularity of digital targeting with the premium inventory source feels like a match made in media heaven.

What is the biggest challenge that programmatic faces in the year ahead, and why?


It could be attribution in a cookie-less world. It could be legislation barring certain types of advertising or it could be something that comes into focus a couple of months down the line. The reality is though, that the programmatic space has come through a lot of uncertain moments.

We’ll continue to innovate and continue to evolve.

What channels will fare best? And worst?

Programmatic broadcast video will do great, there’s too many smart people behind it for it to be anything but a success. This could also allow for programmatic video in general to take a central role in more brand focused digital marketing campaigns.

Mobile may struggle to remain relevant if there is a renewed focus on attribution. So whilst the inventory will be in plentiful supply, Performance focused activity may steer clear.

How will new and emerging channels such as TV, outdoor and audio better plug into one-to-one programmatic channels?

As with most areas of the ad tech space, we need time to allow solutions to experiment.

Platforms, publishers and buyers will need to communicate regularly, but it is only after we have had time to test different methodologies that we can see which processes work best. We can only expect to see consolidation after that comes to a conclusion.

Crystal ball time: what do you most hope will happen in the industry? What do you most fear?

I hope tech companies continue to innovate and provide tools, algorithms and targeting methodologies that we didn’t even know we needed!

The biggest fear would be that changes in the complexity of online attribution could put marketers off investing in the space.

Programmatic and digital, in some ways has been its own worst enemy in being incredibly measurable in comparison to other channels. But consumers will continue to utilise the online space so this could in turn lead to more digital first and online brand based KPIs such as attention metrics or brand uplift studies coming to the fore.