Time to ditch ‘programmatic’ as a brand? Perhaps, admits Cadreon president Arun Kumar | M&M Global

Time to ditch ‘programmatic’ as a brand? Perhaps, admits Cadreon president Arun Kumar

Programmatic media has a brand problem, according to Cadreon global president Arun Kumar – so much so that the word itself may soon be phased out.

Arun Kumar

Speaking to M&M Global ahead of his session at next week’s Festival of Media Global in Rome, the head of IPG Mediabrands’ trading desk claims that within “three to five years” the media industry will speak only in terms of audience-based targeting.

Rather than worry about “negative connotations” such as cheap inventory, viewability controversies and fraud, Kumar also urges traditional media owners to embrace the use of audience data as a way of increasing revenues.

“Programmatic has been in the incubation phase, but no longer – it is now the way you should plan and buy media. Whether or not you want to call it programmatic is irrelevant,” says Kumar.

“I would hazard a guess that in three to five years, use of the word programmatic will significantly drop. It will evolve to audience-based targeting, meaning you will start seeing greater value ascribed to audience rather than the space where the ad is being shown.”

A “faster” change should already be in motion, but programmatic advocates are finding it tough to transform “entrenched beliefs” built up over the past 40 years, he adds.

Heart of marketing

Kumar will be joined at Festival of Media Global by UM global chief executive Daryl Lee, Mashable chief revenue officer Seth Rogin and Johnson & Johnson Americas director of media and connections Luke Kigel.

The panel will discuss whether ‘Programmatic has to be at the heart of all marketing campaigns’, a statement he believes will become increasingly easy to convince once media channels such as TV and out-of-home (OOH) embrace automation.

Cadreon has been trialling programmatic TV – or ‘advanced TV’, as it prefers to call it – in the US for three years, and is beginning to test in Australia and Canada. It also recently announced programmatic buying of digital OOH in Australia in partnership with video demand-side platform TubeMogul.

“When you go to TV stations and say you want to do programmatic, they don’t want to do it, because in their mind prices will drop,” says Kumar. “That’s not what I want to do. We are trying to bring cost per brand lift, or cost per performance, down. The two are different things.

“If you take the desire of media companies to make more money, and advertisers to sell more products, actually those are not too disparate or contradictory. They are complementary. It is just finding the degree of complementarity between them which is proving tricky because of vested interests.”

Democratise technology

Scrutiny of agency trading desks has never been greater. Among others, WPP’s Xaxis has come under ever-greater pressure over transparency, while Publicis decided to abandon the concept altogether, merging its Audience On Demand trading suite into its media agencies and leaving Vivaki as a centre for research and development.

Where once Cadreon’s remit was simply to “create a market that didn’t exist”, Kumar admits the past five or six years have added complexity: “Today, our purpose is to be an ad tech incubator for media brands, and to democratise intelligence that drives efficiencies.

“In short, the company that we want to be become is a company that is able to create an interconnected link between data partners, inventory providers and advertisers in a mutually beneficial fashion.”

In answer to the question of whether it is inevitable that programmatic trading will move into media agencies, à la Publicis Groupe, Kumar is equally blunt, stating, “I don’t think that is the right approach.”

“[Such a decision] assumes that the platforms have become standardised, and that there is no real difference between them,” he explains. “That isn’t true, and won’t be for the foreseeable future.”

Kumar points to Cadreon’s 70-strong product team in San Francisco and London, which is focused exclusively on evaluating platforms and figuring out which is more useful than the other. “Campaign managers can’t do it, that’s not their day to day business,” he says.

“Product evolution is a lot faster than in a media agency – you can’t come up with a new planning tool once every five years in programmatic, more like three to six months. The way to do it is to embed some of these teams in agency teams.”

Meaningful marketing

According to ex-Starcom, Isobar and Aegis Media director Kumar, the coming decade will be defined by a drive towards what he describes as “meaningful” advertising.

Millennial consumers have consistently shown a willingness to avoid advertising – a trait which will become more threatening as that generation increases in affluence and earning power.

Crude “machine gun” attempts to serve ads on numerous occasions will only make the situation worse, he says: “A lot of advertising does not connect with consumers, they actively seek to avoid it.

“If you flipped to say you had to pay to see advertising, there is not a single soul on the planet who would do so, other than perhaps the brand teams. That problem is going to get more intensive the more we bombard people,” he adds.

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