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The future of programmatic


The most talked about aspect of ad tech is now moving beyond the buzz, says Nourah al Fayez, DoubleClick agency head at Google

The global programmatic market has grown from $5bn in 2012 to $40bn in 2016 – an average growth rate of 71 per cent a year, according to Zenith. In MENA, however, between 2013 and 2016 programmatic buying grew at an average yearly growth rate of about 200 per cent. Yet it still only accounts for 10-15 per cent of display buying, compared with about 50 per cent globally.

Programmatic is no longer a buzz­word or a fad. It’s here to stay, and the focus is not on whether you’re using it or not; now it is on the value you’re deriving from this technology and how you’re using it to fuel your data-driven marketing strategies.

According to a survey commissioned by Publicitas, 62.4 per cent of respondents in MEA indicated that big data was a technology that would make an impact on their business in 2016. The best way to cultivate
such data for marketing purposes would be through marrying a company’s ad tech with its marketing technology. This is no small task, but it is essential to transforming how an advertiser effectively executes its marketing activities both online and offline.

The expectation is that agencies should be able to deliver this service and should possess the capabilities necessary to do so, elevating the role of media agencies to marketing
consultants. More than 70 per cent of respondents to the Publicitas study said it is important for agencies to provide marketing data and analytics capabilities.


The key trend across the board is how to leverage technology to get the most value from data. Now this data can be a client’s own data from their site, customer relationship management (CRM) systems or enterprise resource planning systems, or data from publishers or data providers

In terms of first-party data, we’ve come a long way but we don’t see proper audience data cultivation, comprehensive site tagging, mobile tagging or CRM data integration in MENA yet. These can be a gold mine of valuable insights into who you are reaching. But even if advertisers do see the importance of this and tag every nook and cranny of their site, they still don’t actually customise their messaging or creative to appeal differentially to the different segments. Nor do they deep-dive into the data to derive insights that would inform their marketing strategy.

The key first step is data consolidation: am I able to measure the effectiveness of reaching my users through one lens? Whether it’s search, display or video, you should be able to deduplicate across all to effectively collect data on an advertiser’s key consumer segments. The only way to achieve this and effectively prevent data fragmentation is by using a unified technology stack that brings together all the different touchpoints and stages of the consumer journey.

Programmatic direct

We keep talking about how great it is to consolidate all your activities in one place, but a big part of our advertiser and agency activities revolve around reservation buying (booking impressions at a set rate per thousand or per day). We manage to tackle this with the integration of ad servers and buying platforms, but that doesn’t tackle the inefficiencies of reservation buying. Programmatic direct tackles this head-on by eliminating all the manual tasks and various steps involved in running reservation buys, while achieving data consolidation and effective frequency management.

High-impact formats and rich media

One way in which MENA is ahead of other markets is in the belief that programmatic buying is not simply a tool for performance advertisers. Programmatic buying can be the sole method by which you run end-to-end branding campaigns online. From video to mobile to reservation buys we’ve seen that everything can be executed programmatically.

Another trend we are seeing is the rise of high-impact formats, native and rich media being run programmatically in MENA. When coupled with rich audience data they can
be incredibly powerful and engaging. The ability to do skins or takeovers is also becoming more and more prevalent.

Eventually every aspect of a branding campaign will be run on one single platform, and from that platform you’ll have one single view on your user. No waste, no duplication, just clean consolidation.

Programmatic buying isn’t just one thing. It isn’t just a cool format or good audience data. It is the ability to use all the technology you have at your disposal in a clever and efficient way.  We need to really leverage all the audience data we have so it is dynamic based on geolocation, where the user is in the purchase funnel, what their likes and dislikes are, what age group or income segments they belong to, whether they are an existing customer or not, what they tend to purchase, etcetera.

It’s a very exciting time to be working in programmatic technology, in MENA specifically as we’re finally at the stage where programmatic goes beyond being a buzzword to finally having critical strategic importance for agencies and advertisers alike. The trends outlined here will be exciting to watch unfold.