Programmatic advertising's disruptive position

We live in an age where we regularly talk about things in person with our friends, then see ads for those same products online. People are growing increasingly accustomed to seeing digital ads for items that appeal to them, to the point where some people are even starting to feel frustrated if an ad doesn’t apply to them. That is evidence of the power -- and value -- of programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising is a disruptive technology that recently took the digital advertising world by storm. As more key players contribute to its growth and development, we move into the acceleration phase of the disruption cycle in which disruptors move closer to fulfilling their vision and early adopters thrive on the use of the innovation. Here, we see a culture form around programmatic advertising in which first movers become thought leaders and grow strong foundations and processes around the technology, second movers make tweaks to advance the technology and build it out further and consumers begin to accept and welcome the product into their daily lives. The next step involves maturation of the innovation, as it evolves into the dominant design that will likely remain relatively stable for some time. Later stages involve saturation, in which the innovation permeates many or all channels or industries, and commoditization, in which the innovation becomes a commonplace must-have.

I don’t think programmatic is at the maturation stage yet, since such a revolutionary technology is still being iterated and tweaked and is not yet utilized by the broadest customer base (think slow movers or laggards, according to the diffusion of innovations theory). Instead, I think we are perhaps at the most exciting place to be: I would argue that programmatic advertising is somewhere among the first two stages of the disruption cycle; it is still close to its original disruptive form, bleeding into the acceleration phase as it moves rapidly toward validation.

Programmatic started as a B2C tool, forced its way into B2B and grew to be a powerhouse among the advertising industry. But we are still moving forward. We are still iterating, adjusting and tweaking. Data and privacy laws are rightfully curbing the direction in which programmatic grows; while some may think these guidelines are impeding the growth of the innovation, I would instead posit that the innovation is still evolving and moving forward, which is a win. It is simply moving forward in a way that will sustain its success. If programmatic moved forward without heeding privacy laws, it would not last. Instead, paying attention to what people want, removing deficiencies and tweaking the design, structure or product makeup toward the customer base’s preferences are smart moves because they together mitigate risk involved in any disruptive innovation.

Programmatic’s growth could be hindered by its guidelines -- or it could be strengthened by them. If we listen to what people are telling us -- that they are okay with it if X, Y, Z -- then we can transform “yes, but” into just “yes.” Showing consumers that we are valuing their input and adjusting based on their needs will strengthen our value proposition, proving that we are fulfilling a need for our customers rather than pushing an unwanted product onto an unknowing person. Consumers are smart and savvy, and we need to give credit where credit is due. If they want privacy but also want ads that apply to their needs, we need to find a way to do that. Those who do will survive, and those who don’t will fall by the wayside. Listening to customers will dictate a new direction for the market, differentiating the successful companies from those that are not able to respond to customer demand. Which of the two are you?

Laura Bakopolus is an accomplished, creative and strategic marketing leader with a proven ability to develop and implement integrated marketing and communication strategies and plans that support business objectives. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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