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How programmatic advertising is poised to change the fate of marketers

Tomas H. Lucero
|Jun 24|magazine14 min read

 A lot of us are fans of the TV show Mad Men about the life of an advertising executive in the 1960s. Through the show we learned a little about what it took, back then, to do the job of copy writer and advertiser.

There were the team meetings brainstorming tag lines and strategy. There were the advertising presentations made to corporate executives in conference rooms. There were the lone moments of genius when Don Draper or Peggy Olson came up with the “perfect” idea for an advertising campaign.

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The TV show imbued a lot of glamour on those jobs on Madison Avenue. Maybe it was real, maybe it was just a façade. Whatever the case may be, those days, that way of doing things, is long, long gone in the Digital Age. Draper, Olson and company cannot exist in the future of advertising or marketing according an article in the Harvard Business Review.

The computer has drastically changed the way we advertise.

The main difference between how Draper advertised and computers, or software systems, do is the number of possible screens to which content can be delivered. In Mad Men, or the past, there were magazines, newspaper, radio and TV. In today’s world, all of those exist plus tablets, computer monitors, smartphones, websites and more are coming. These are known generally as publishers.

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With the proliferation of publishers (all the screens we are now subject to) the task of selecting where to advertise became too complex for human beings. How does a person, or a team of people, decide where to place an advertisement when there are millions of potential publishers and they are all working at the speed of light?

Today, the advertisements that pop up on our digital screens are targeted. They’re not intended for the general public, they are intended for you and only you. Machines do that job now because the speed at which the ad must be placed is a small fraction of a second. These machines are what we call “programmatic advertising.” Software programs are designed to place ads everywhere they are relevant.

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It is important to consider the degree of staggering complexity these programs undertake. Telling from the article in the HBR not only do programs find their audiences but they also bid for the opportunity to appear in front of you. Yes, that is right. Before they appear in front of you, the program has already, first, found you and, second, bid for the right to appear. The HBR calculates that at a “quadrillion—a million billion possibilities” calculated in less than a second. These kinds of numbers are why today’s Drapers will need a whole new skill set to work in tomorrow’s advertising environment.

As I suggested before, according to the HBR the number of screens that we will be exposed to, and be fair game to for advertising, will significantly increase. This is because in addition to our computer, smartphone and tablet, in the future our car dashboard will have a screen as well as the thermostat in your home.

This is the trend in advertising, but what is its relevance to marketing?

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“As this drama plays out, it’s worth asking: Is advertising a bellwether for all of marketing? If so, we will soon see a comprehensive array of marketing functions transformed by programmatic techniques, enabled by enterprise software that goes beyond ad-tech. What Salesforce.com did for sales management and NetSuite did for financial management, software-as-a-service providers will do for marketing, by automating much of what marketers do every day. Such solutions are already known as mar-tech—or marketing technology—and they are just starting to take hold,” writes the HBR.

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When it finally does take hold, “Instead of setting advertising budgets on quarterly cycles, marketers will launch ad initiatives whenever opportunities emerge, and they will optimize them for efficiency and effectiveness on the fly,” states the HBR.

Afterward, CMOs and CFOs will work closely together to enable a new market model that blends art and science. “This will signal a brave new world for marketers—at least, for those who face the fact that it’s do or die. My bet is: it’s embrace the future, or say a not-so-long goodbye,” concludes the HBR.

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