The Future Of Digital Media Buying . . . Is Now! Embrace Programmatic Buying To Increase Efficiency And Reduce Waste


As anyone who reads my research knows, I am the resident display ad technology geek on the Interactive Marketing team. I am fascinated by all things acronym-related, from DSPs to DMPs to RTB. And my experience co-launching Razorfish’s “agency trading desk,” ATOM Systems, in 2008 taught me a lot about what matters — and what doesn’t — in rolling out an audience-centric programmatic buying strategy, and what steps to take to set clients up for success.

Well, I thought it was time to share this story in my new report, The Future Of Digital Media BuyingIt explores how digital media buying is dramatically transforming and outlines the steps marketers must take to succeed in this new digital media buying world.

The long and short: laser-focused, programmatic media buying is now a reality and that’s a good thing for you. Here’s what’s driving the opportunity:

  • Audience targeting opportunities are now myriad and diverse — ranging from targeting based on search query data to targeting based on personality type to targeting of a marketer’s own offline database online. The buying community is no longer limited to contextual targeting, or even basic behavioral targeting (remember the days of “auto enthusiast” targeting, where your media partner targeted users who’d visited auto content twice in 4 weeks? Powerful stuff.)
  • The rise of ad exchanges and real-time impression level bidding, and all the tools and technologies now available to take full advantage of it, has also been a game-changer. Buyers now have unprecedented transparency, granularity, and control in their buying. DSPs (centralized buying platforms for real-time buying and optimization), an acronym that didn’t exist 5 years ago, are becoming such a hot topic I am in the midst of doing the first ever DSP Forrester Wave

But change doesn’t come without growing pains. And everyone in the media buying community — from ad networks, to agency media planners and buyers, to the clients they serve — is feeling it. The days of media buying based on haggling over the phone on price, and entering media buys into Excel, are giving way to data-driven, real-time, platform-based buying and optimization. And not every buyer has the necessary skills or tools to succeed here. Marketers need to take a hard look at their current roster of partners and assess whether or not they have what’s necessary to take full advantage of the opportunity on their clients’ behalf. If they don’t, marketers should look elsewhere.

So what should you do to get started? The most important first step in wrapping your head around the opportunity is to educate yourself. Start by learning about the acronyms (DSP, DMP, RTB, ATD) and understanding what role each vendor/partner type plays in this new ecosystem. Then you can begin laying out a programmatic buying road map for yourself. Any growing pains you experience along the way will be worth the effort: you’ll extract more efficiency, reduce waste, and gain invaluable insights in the process. And you’ll be well positioned for the future of digital media buying, certainly better than those marketers who don’t embrace it.

I’d really love to hear from you, the Forrester community, on this topic! Send me your thoughts, comments, and experiences please!


Looking forward to reading

Looking forward to reading the report, Joanna! In addition to the two drivers you mention above, I believe programatic buying brings unprecedented efficiencies making digital media transactions less of an operational burden. Buyers and selllers will really benefit from this and will be able to dedicate resources to what really matters...

I totally agree!

Efficiency is a HUGE piece of this story! And that can take many forms - reduced waste from an impression pricing and buying standpoint, but also reduced waste from a resources standpoint. It's a different skill set, to be sure, but the operational efficiencies that these programmatic buyers will increasingly experience through these new modes of buying frees them up to spend more time being strategic and less time doing manual grunt work.

thank you

Hello, I have a question, I am really interested in learning about your research but my only problem is that I really didn't understand anything you said. I just want to know who do you expect your readers to be? Because average folks like me will not understand all of the acronyms and vocabulary used in this article. I am interested in learning more about market research and the power of the consumer and Adman, thank you.

in response to your comments

Hi there. Thanks for your comment. So sorry to hear that it wasn't easy to understand! I was actually hoping to make this very complex and acronymn-heavy landscape a little MORE understandable for interactive marketers using display advertising via this report. If you're a Forrester client, I'd be more than happy to discuss the research via an Inquiry call. Maybe it would make sense to set that up?


Indeed digital media is 'The

Indeed digital media is 'The Thing' right now and everyone wants a piece of it. Some lucky few have had the vision to take a piece of it earlier and now can almost sit back and enjoy the ride. What has amazed me about social media on the other hand is how much it has become to be used in SEO projects and reputation management services. I guess this is just the beginning and social media has not yet begun to show what it's really capable of.

Exploring Social

Agreed, Connor - we've only just scratched the surface of the social opportunity, in part because there are so many ways in which we can use it, I'd expect - ranging from good old fashioned DR via the Facebook self serve UI or through an API to brand building and reputation management. I have a number of colleagues who study this stuff really closely - Nate Elliott and Sean Corcoran, for example - if you haven't read their work, I'd definitely recommend it. And if you haven't weighed in on their research, I am sure they'd love it if you did.

Hi Joanna. Much of my daily

Hi Joanna. Much of my daily effort revolves around developing private exchange strategies for key publishers in 2012. A big part of that development involves illustrating to marketers the benefits of coupling strategic programmatic buying with direct deals to allow their clients to extend reach dynamically. In trying to learn more about media buying, it was encouraging to read this piece. In the end, the goal is of course to bring brands and publishers together more efficiently and with greater control on both ends of the equation. A question for you: where is the best place to start to build stronger relationships on the demand side of things? Agencies? Trading desks? Other...? Thanks!

Hi there Jeff - thanks for

Hi there Jeff - thanks for commenting, and good question. So, if you look at the trading desks, there's definitely a ton of interest in creating more direct publishers via mechanisms like RTB-enabled private exchanges. But my sense is that's still quite siloed from the more "premium" guaranteed buys that more traditional planners/buyers are dealing with. That's a problem, of course. My hope is that it's a short term problem, as brands continue to get savvier about planning and buying and agencies evolve to meet changing marketer needs. That said, given that we live in the world of today, I do think you are well served to go to the trading desks, who are absolutely on the lookout for high quality inventory which can be bought in a programmatic fashion.

Demand Side Platforms

Hi Joanna, After reading your research on Demand-Side Platforms, Q42011, we are in the process of evaluating DSP's for our online campaign. I noticed that you did not include RocketFuel in the analysis. Can you please explain why?

just my opinion

I also think social media is still on the for front of business. Not many business owners know how to leverage the power of facebook and other social media power houses. For right now, the big G is still where it's at. You have to get in their and do some good seo work.