Programmatic Advertising: Why We've Lost That Loving Feeling

Programmatic advertising, like the infamous Righteous Brothers serenade on Top Gun, has lost that loving feeling…now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa whoa.

See, as a marketer, we used to love it. It helped us do our jobs faster and allowed us to guarantee ad placement on publisher websites. We were granted unprecedented access to moment-to-moment interactions to stay on top of the industry. Programmatic advertising gave us superhuman strength and made our jobs much easier. We were in love.

And then that love faded. What was once a shiny, new, and oh so perfect system started to show its flaws, causing marketers everywhere to second guess programmatic’s true intentions. Blinded by all the things it did right, we lost sight of all the things it did wrong. Here are a few examples of why we’ve lost that loving feeling with programmatic advertising.

Programmatic Is a Bot With No Feelings

Programmatic advertising is built on a software that’s only as smart as we have taught it to be. It’s not a human, it has no feelings, and can only be coded to perform functions it’s taught to perform. But here’s the issue with that – 94% of marketers say programmatic marketplace quality is a very serious or somewhat serious issue. So, if humans programmed it, and it doesn’t work as we expected, are we the ones to blame?

94%25 of digital marketers said programmatic marketplace quality was a very or somewhat serious issue.

Well, yes, to an extent. We know that malicious bots attack low-hanging fruit and places they can easily infiltrate with little to no retribution. We also know bots have the ability to change rapidly, morphing themselves to learn new tricks to stay undetected. And since we know that bots are cunning and crafty, we’d be remiss if we didn’t think that they would infiltrate software we created.

Still, we have a ‘trust then verify’ mentality with programmatic, even though we have little faith that the software hasn’t been infiltrated with bots. Still, marketers are quick to turn a blind eye. Why? They’re still making money, and while the bots are too, making a little over nothing still puts you ahead.

Money Can’t Buy Love
Robot Pushing a Shopping Cart with a Heart Inside the Basket

Bots are good, really good, at going undetected. They’re taught by their creators to be a sleuth and perform actions and functions exactly as any human would do. If they’re successful, advertisers are happy with their results and spend more money, and the bots continue to thrive.

That said, bots still haven’t figured out how to complete a purchase. And without completing a purchase, over time, marketers grow suspicious. Their once stellar, growing traffic hits a roadblock and as it fails at the ultimate task – completing a purchase. Without cold hard cash, it’s difficult for marketers to continue to love this traffic for long, opening up their results to further scrutiny.

A Human Mind Is Passionately Curious

People are genuinely curious by nature. We like to take things apart and put them back together, see what happens when you do something you shouldn’t, and a “don’t touch” sign sounds more like a challenge than a warning. We’re passionately curious about our surroundings, environment, and our careers – we’re always trying to do something better.

Curiosity is what causes us to dive deep into data, making associations and inferences in relation to advertising campaigns. This data helps us understand not only what has happened, but creates guesses and correlations behind what will happen next.

Robot Holding a Green Brain

This innate curiosity is also what helps us review data holistically, seeing patterns develop over time. Humans are good at this, but bots, while they’re intelligent, aren’t trained to appear random. They function on precision and order to be technically perfect in the functions they perform in real-time. Since they focus on getting the short-term perfect, it leaves their long-term game open to patterns that raise a red flag for marketers.

By relying strictly on programmatic software, we remove the ability to be passionately curious about advertising results. Slowly, we become complacent, less curious, setting ourselves up for dismal results. And, while programmatic buys have made a marketer’s job easier, it unfortunately perpetuates a bot-buying environment.

Save That Loving Feeling Before It’s Too Far Gone

It may sound like there’s nothing good at all in programmatic advertising, but that isn’t the case at all. You simply need to be smart and knowledgeable about the process. Like Goose says to Maverick, “you have to have carnal knowledge.” Knowledge of how programmatic works and why it works keeps that loving feeling alive and strong.

Programmatic isn’t simply set-and-forget. All marketers should have an intimate understanding advertising placement including where it appears, and what happens every step of the way. By incorporating a well-balanced relationship between human interaction and software, we’ll make stronger, more poignant decisions, keeping that lovin’ feeling burning strong.

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