Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The NDA Roundtable: Starcom, Yahoo, OMD, Scibids, Adyoulike, Euronews and IAB UK debate programmatic in 2022

NDA recently held a roundtable discussing the state of programmatic as we head into the new year. We were joined by Lindsay Wiles, Head of Programmatic at Yahoo; Ricardo Amboage, Head of Programmatic and Display Investment at Starcom; Francis Turner, Co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Adyoulike; Zsofia Toth, Programmatic and Ad Tech Lead at Euronews; Lina Angelides, Head of Programmatic at OMD UK; Matt Nash, UK Managing Director at Scibids; and Tina Lakhani, Ad Tech Consultant at IAB UK.

Digital advertising is going through a huge period of change, with the identity and privacy landscape transforming. These changes mean that the world of programmatic could look very different in the next couple of years. 

“We are entering the privacy era, so measurement and attribution of the open web will become far more challenging as cookies or digital identifiers become less and less available,“ said Nash. “We believe this cookie deprecation will continue to push out companies that don’t have unique tech and bring smart companies to the forefront. Those who can drive performance from broad, unlabelled non-user related signals rather than from the analysis of history of navigation to build a user profile, which has been the blueprint of success of many players in the past decade.

An advertising ecosystem without third-party cookies will level the playing field as access to data (which the Goliaths have in troves) is no longer a differentiator for off-site advertising purposes. The biggest advantage the walled gardens had is that they know so much about each user, even outside of the data the users give them. If this data advantage goes away, everyone would have to ‘cook with the same water’. It’s an exciting time for smart companies.”

Exciting times

OMD’s Angelides feels the changes are positive, because they enable the industry to focus on the opportunities that exist within programmatic, rather than having to deal with “all the backlash and problems with RTB, ad tech, and everything related to user privacy”. 

“There are so many data opportunities we can really maximise – particularly with publisher data, where they’re using data clean rooms and onboarding their data – and partner in a way where we can create great opportunities for advertisers and publishers,” explained Angelides. 

“It’s a time for collaboration to get the best out of programmatic, and to get those good opportunities, both on the buy side and sell side.”

This future “excites” Starcom’s Amboage, because it’s forcing the whole market to reassess in the coming year. 

“The future programmatic plans will not just be one thing; it’ll be a variety of different solutions. There’s going to be the next generation ID solutions, but I don’t think that will be the silver bullet that fixes all programmatic. There are also conversations around context. And there’s the use of publisher data to inform strategies,” explained Amboage. 

“The future of programmatic is looking more diverse in terms of the opportunities opening up as a result of restrictions being placed on what we’ve done historically. It’s an exciting time to look at lots of different things that are going on in terms of how you develop your programmatic strategies.”

Endless opportunity

One of the biggest opportunities going forward for programmatic will be within the CTV and audio spaces, which have boomed over the course of the pandemic. However, according to Euronews’ Toth, CTV and audio programmatic buying are “babies”, compared to other areas of programmatic buying. As such, now is the time for the industry to learn about the best technologies out there for the mediums.

“We’re learning and testing. This is the test phase,” said Toth. “Obviously, the pandemic accelerated everything, and those areas have grown rapidly, so we’re just trying to keep up with it. We need to find the right technologies. So many will come out, but the best ones will survive at the end of the day.”

Yahoo’s Wiles agrees that there is a great opportunity for different channels to be programmatically, suggesting that “we would all like to be in a position where programmatic is the needle that threads all of the channels together”.

“One of the benefits of that is going to be when we suddenly find ourselves in a massive change in the economy, like we have recently with COVID, then we’ll have patterns and we’ll have test and learn templates in place to make things like adapting to ecommerce a lot simpler, for example. Because we can start off with an audience and thread that into all other channels. That’s where we need to get to, but there’s a lot of work to be done behind the scenes on that,” said Wiles.

For IAB UK’s Lakhani, the biggest opportunities lie elsewhere, in particular around the issues of diversity and inclusion, and climate change. 

“Digging deeper, where I see the biggest opportunities is around how we think of supporting diversity and inclusion within the industry, and how we start to enable advertisers to recognise the carbon impact of the supply chains that they’re choosing, and enabling them to choose the ones with the lowest carbon impact,” Lakhani said. “So, I think diversity and inclusion, and climate change are some of the biggest opportunities I see for 2022, and are actually echoed in the conversations that we’ve been having with advertisers – those are some of the biggest areas that they would like to see programmatic development into.”

Thinking along the same lines, Adyoulike’s Turner is of the view that “the biggest opportunities are also some of the biggest challenges”. 

“One of the biggest challenges that the industry faces is also with training people coming through the ranks,” shared Turner. “Whenever I talk to agencies, or even internally, there’s a lot of movement in the industry. There always has been, but its accelerated quite a lot. Programmatic is growing rapidly and we need to ensure we have the right numbers and talent coming through to help us all deliver. It also creates a lot of opportunities for people coming up. At Adyoulike we’re working with people like Brixton Finishing School and things like that to try to bring people into our industry from more diverse backgrounds. So, that’s an opportunity, but also something we have to look at.”