Exchange Lab’s Chris Dobson: ‘The programmatic revolution is as profound as search was in its day’ | M&M Global

Exchange Lab’s Chris Dobson: ‘The programmatic revolution is as profound as search was in its day’

M&M Global and Exchange Lab are hosting a programmatic breakfast on Wednesday 4 November. Ahead of the event, M&M Global asked executive chairman Chris Dobson whether chief executive James Aitken’s predictions for 2015 had come true.


With regards to whether programmatic had been a priority for clients, Dobson feels it has come true, referencing two key revelations.

Firstly, clients have realised that programmatic will play a major part of how data is integrated and media is traded, not only in the digital space but also in TV, making it something of much greater interest for them to understand.

Secondly, he feels that clients have increased their understanding a lot in the last 12 months. “Twelve months ago, they weren’t quite sure which questions to ask, then there came a period where they knew which questions to ask but they weren’t sure what the answers meant,” Dobson says.

“Those who have actively engaged have really upped their knowledge base in terms of what they need to get out of a programmatic marketplace and what they need to mitigate for.

“I think generally we’re dealing with a core of much better informed marketers that are really interested in the fact that first-party data is almost the secret source of their business,” Dobson adds. “If they can activate that through marketing directly, then that is a sort of business transformation that they can really show makes a difference to their business.

“I don’t think they would have said that twelve months ago.”

Addressing the question of heritage perceptions, Dobson felt there are still issues holding the industry back, but less so than before.

“People are preparing to put a lot more money into the programmatic marketplace and that is why you see this happening in the US first because it’s the leading market, certainly more than 50% in the digital space,” Dobson says.

“All these things have become much more important but they are still holding us back slightly because I think, given all the technology fees, even if you are transparent, the cost of taking part in a programmatic marketplace, in terms of how much it takes of every media dollar, it’s still quite a lot more than most traditional media and so most clients are desperate to validate a move in that direction.”

Responding to the statement that there is no value in acquiring ad technologies or signing onto contracts for longer than six months, Dobson agrees “to a degree, on the basis that the market is as confused if not more confused than it was two months ago, the Lumascape maps get more populated, not less populated”.

“It was probably a bit harsh to say six months but I think the point was that marketers need to retain as much flexibility as they can in the ways they enter this marketplace and they don’t channel themselves down one cul-de-sac if that turns out to not be the right decision,” Dobson says

“They do need to retain flexibility, they do need to assess how things change. Retaining flexibility is what it’s about and that has not changed – if anything, it’s increased. You want to create that degree of futureproofing for your business moving forward.”

Looking to the future, Dobson feels that “the programmatic revolution, or evolution, is as profound as search was in its day”.

“All those portals went to search, went to social, to a degree it went to mobile and it’s still moving in that direction,” he says. “Programmatic is as big as those and is gaining momentum in Europe and Asia to catch up with the momentum it already has in the US.

“I still think there’s a lot of work to be done cross device but mobile is an absolute keen opponent moving forward. I think we’ll see more and more transparency in the marketplace because I think that’s an enabler that allows marketers to take part – it has to be removed because, for some marketers, it’s still a block.”

Anna Dobbie


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