‘Programmatic is where search was about 10 years ago’

Matt Brocklehurst, Programmatic & Platforms Marketing Lead, Asia Pacific at Google, talks to Samarpita Banerjee about the evolving ecosystem of programmatic media buying and what lies ahead


Q] Why has programmatic media buying gained prominence over the last few years?

India has 400 million people on the Internet, 300 million on smartphones, and by 2020, the number will go up to 650 million and 500 million respectively. We are more connected now than we have ever been, whether it’s India or globally. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to connect with people. From a marketer’s perspective, it’s far more difficult because it’s a multi-screen, multi-platform world. That’s what makes programmatic so attractive. It makes a marketer’s life easier and more efficient. It’s simply the use of technology for hitting the right person with the right message at the right time, but doing it efficiently and at scale.


Q] How do you see proliferation of data impacting the media buying function?

Today, it’s all about data-driven creativity. Initially, the equation was creative plus media. While it still holds true, data has been added as the third part of the equation. Data is critical, but it shouldn’t be data for data’s sake. Companies getting it right follow three steps. First is to understand what’s the best data source for the business problem at hand. Secondly, have the creative team, the media agency and the marketing team, all working together to understand what a campaign should look like. Thirdly, you keep that team together, and learn from the campaigns. These steps make data-driven creativity work well.


Q] India hasn’t been as fast in its uptake of programmatic buying as the West…

Many companies in India are embracing it, and seeing good growth and progress in the use of programmatic. Definitely, there is room for upside. I wouldn’t just restrict this to India, but there has to be a leap of faith. Once you get into it, it’s about hitting the right person at the right time with the right message, and technology is the enabler. We are in the programmatic journey where we were in the early days of search. In the early days, brands would have a basic understanding of search, and would rely on the media plan. Now, as brands and marketers are far more familiar with search, they are diving deeper and thereby having far more informed and productive conversations. Programmatic is where search was about 10 years ago. As marketers get more understanding of programmatic, they will have better conversations with agencies, and will get better results. We have some brands that are investing 70-100% of their digital budgets on programmatic. The value is so obvious and immediate, that people are realizing its importance.


Q] What is Google doing to give the adoption of programmatic a push?

I look after marketing for Asia-Pac and India is a big opportunity. It’s a two-way thing. We are here to help share the innovations that we are developing to help businesses, whether it’s a publisher or an advertiser or an agency, to do better in programmatic. We are also looking at some of the concerns that advertisers have, like ad frauds and viewablilty, etc. Events like Think Platform are also organized so that we could listen, share and educate. Google has a growing team for the programmatic business in India, both on the buy and sell sides. That points to the effort that we are putting in, as well as scale that we see in the market.


Q] How do you rate the scale of the programmatic ecosystem in India?

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any third party estimate. It’s hard for us to estimate as we are not the entire market. This is a work that needs to be done by research agencies or the media agencies in the country.


Q] Reliance on automation and machines also brings with it a set of challenges like the recent ad fraud that happened. What is Google doing to ensure that such things don’t happen again in the future?

We are taking this very seriously. We have a dedicated team looking into these challenges. Our teams across the globe are focusing on the factors that are causing ad frauds and what we can do to address that. We are in a privileged position as Google because we have relationships on the advertising as well as the publisher side and we have scale. Secondly, we are using machine-learning to address these problems. Thirdly, we support innovations from the industry, like the ‘Ads.txt’ initiative by Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) which is stopping counterfeit publishing. It’s an ongoing pursuit.


Q] What do you think the role of a planner will be in the future?

With advances in technology, the jobs tend to change rather than getting lost. There will always be an agency, and a media planner but the way they operate might change. I can’t speculate on how it will change. With the adoption of platforms like Programmatic Guaranteed, the ad-ops person and even the agencies are getting freed up. They are doing less of the manual, administrative work which allows them to spend time on more productive things like cross-campaign analysis, post-campaign analysis and strategic conversations.


Q] What is the next big step in programmatic? What can we look forward to?

The line between TV and video is blurring, so further down the line, you will soon see programmatic TV and Outdoor. We are having conversations in India and the country definitely has potential for programmatic TV. There is more to come. We are also seeing programmatic getting into Internet Radio in the West. If there is a digital aspect to it, there is an opportunity for programmatic there. The more programmatic gets into other mediums, the better it is in terms of experience for the marketer as well as the user.