There are some who still aren’t fully au fait with the different types of advertising available, so we will start with a brief introduction before explaining the merits of each. Anyone who has bid for Google AdWords will have some degree of understanding of the basics of Programmatic Advertising. Even though Google AdWords is not exactly display advertising, rather text-only search results advertising, it is still the same basic automated mechanic which gives advertisers / media buyers direct access to buy ad-space. In traditional advertising you have the clients negotiating with their agency / media buying teams, who in turn deal with people working for an ad sales department of a publication / broadcaster / digital property. Programmatic Advertising in effect cuts out all / most of the middlemen and additional commissions allocations and gives those wanting to advertise direct access to the ad-buying process, in theory at more favourable rates too.
In the above visual, I have pictured the most advanced form of Programmatic Advertising - where a signed-in ad-buyer can see the ad slots available on-site and bid for whichever ones are deemed positionally and topically appropriate. With this most advanced version, a would-be advertiser can buy a slot and upload their artwork through a fully-automated process. In most cases though there is a separation between ad-buying and slot allocation. A lot of Programmatic Advertising is very much about Real-time Bidding (RTB), which should be familiar to users of eBay - where you have several buyers bidding to get the best slots / positions available to them. Depending on how the automation works, ad-buyers can buy the placement slot outright, or secure a priority / first-view placement on the rotation, and those who pay less appear further down the rotation. In most cases of Programmatic Advertising there is usually some degree of human involvement needed, even if it is just to approve the artwork for suitability for display.
If you look again at the visual, then you can see that the News Article in the bottom left hand corner has a ’----- Sponsored Article -----’ label appearing underneath it, which is currently considered best practice for displaying / identifying Native Advertising. For Native Advertising, think Advertorials of old - often articles which have been written by the publication’s editorial staff on behalf of a sponsor. The real benefit of Native Advertising is that it is not considered intrusive or interruptive - it simply appears within the normal flow of other articles, and readers / viewers can still choose whether or not to actually read it. The very best examples of Native Advertising are written by editorial departments in their same tone-of-voice and often making use of the same photo-editorial style too, to ensure seamlessness and maximum appeal for the same target audience. For Native Advertising there is a much larger human component, as for the best results the editorial team really needs to get involved to give the sponsored articles the same tone and style of their other content. BuzzFeed is probably one of the best examples of Native Advertising in as much as 50% of the content they publish is sponsored / paid-for.
For much Programmatic Advertising, the elephant in the room is 3rd party cookie and ad blockers - as most advertising (particularly banner-style) is still served up by 3rd party advertising services / networks like Google’s DoubleClick. To be long-term viable, Programmatic Advertising needs to figure out a way to deal with ad blockers and other privacy tools including the new Content Blocking Safari Extensions coming with Apple’s iOS 9. I myself have been using Ghostery for quite some time now, as I personally positively loath interruptive and intrusive advertising - I stay wholly clear of sites who engage in any form of ad pop-ups or screen-takeovers. I am far from alone in my dislike of this kind of advertising as now near enough 200 million other individuals have availed themselves of similar technology - and this number is growing fast.
If you look at the evolution of television advertising, the interstitial ads are slowly dying a death. I am almost entirely on-demand now, via Netflix, NowTV, Amazon Prime Instant Video, iPlayer etc. On the rare occasions that I do watch live commercial TV, I use the ad breaks for toilet breaks, to catch up on news or email or check Facebook status. What I don’t do is sit through and watch the advertising. Most advertisers realise this now, which is why every commercial TV Program has an Intro / Outro ident at the start and end of the show - X Factor very suitably being sponsored by Dominos Pizza at one stage - the 10-20 second idents are short enough to not be truly annoying thus viewers usually do get proper exposure to these. Product Placement is the other modern style of advertising - as pioneered by the James Bond movies, and now done best by the ’Made in Chelsea’ (MIC) reality TV show - where every venue, shop, bar, restaurant and activity featured is a sponsored placement. Even much of the music is sponsored, as MIC has some credibility in breaking new bands - my first exposure to Clean Bandit for instance came via MIC.
You could argue that Product Placement is a form of Native / Narrative advertising too, in how various elements are threaded into the narrative, in the same way Native Advertising articles are threaded in to the main article listing or news feed. Old-fashioned banner ads are irritating by their very nature - they need to compete for eyeballs with the native content - they stand apart from it, and often ’shout’ to make audiences take notice. Most of us though, and understandably find these shouty stand-outs intolerable, much like encountering rude, loud and very visibly badly behaved people in the normal population. When the advertising is seamless, tailored and does not interrupt your flow, then you are much more likely to be amenable to it, and it is given time to work some influence on you.
As far as I see it, the intrusive old-style banner ads are disliked as much as interstitial TV ads, because they get in the way of the objective rather than add value to it or being a proper part of it. It used to be that the pre-roll cinema ad slot was only 10 minutes long, now I occasionally find myself sitting up to 30 minutes to wait for the main feature to start. As a consequence of this I time my arrival to be circa 15 minutes after the advertised program start, to deliberately miss the over-long advertising slot, and possibly just catch a few trailers, which I do consider beneficial - to organising what I choose to see next. When I view an overly commercial website I have trained myself to wholly ignore banner ad placements - they are just blind-spots to me - I am also ’Quick Draw McGraw’ / ’Whack-a-mole’ on any pop-ups or take-overs - immediately going for the [x] button before the screen has had a chance to reform.
There is the other consideration as well for customers Data Plans on mobile, when browsing on 4G - most have limited allocations of data which they pay for, and advertisers are loading up often quite heavy file sizes - which eat away at your data allocation - meaning there is a double cost to the consumer in the interruption / time lost, as well as the charge for the unwanted data that needs to be downloaded. A number of service provider networks are filtering out some of this type of content, as this adds enormously to their overheads, and they don’t feel they get adequately compensated for it.
The very best advertising is something the consumer finds to be valuable or entertaining, or genuinely adds to their mission objective, not detracting or diverting them from their core mission. This is why Sponsorship, Product Placement and Native Advertising are the way of the future, while Programmatic Advertising can only really be an interim solution ...