Programmatic is 'bridging planning and buying', says Amnet's Hobbs

Steve Hobbs: managing director, Amnet UK
Steve Hobbs: managing director, Amnet UK

Programmatic advertising is "bridging planning and buying" in a way that has never been possible before, according to the Amnet managing director, Steve Hobbs, speaking at Advertising Week Europe.

Hobbs was one of a panel of experts taking part at a session on programmatic buying and described by the Advertising Week Europe executive director, Matt Scheckner, as "the pretty girl at the dance by a pretty wide margin".

The former Carat deputy managing director, who now runs the Dentsu Aegis Network's trading desk as managing director, told a packed audience of executives from across the agency and technology industries that the technology was enabling planners and clients to genuinely reach their intended audience.

Hobbs said: "For years and years, planners and clients have been able to create custom audiences via segmentation devices that have been really interesting, really rich, and very exciting.

"Then they pass that audience to the TV buyer who says ‘they look like ABC1 adults to me so I’ll plan that schedule just like all the other ABC1 adult schedules I’ve planned for clients that have got completely different segmentations’ so the schedule come backs and looks exactly the same.

"Programmatic – for the first time ever – allows us to be able to buy those custom audiences that we’ve planned against."

Despite competing with Idris Elba and James Corden, it was standing room only in the David Lean Room, where Hobbs was joined by Dave Katz, the head of business development at the digital data and technology company Annalect, Danny Hopwood, head of platform EMEA at Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi, and Darren Goldie, the chief development officer at Havas.

The session was presented by AOL and moderated by the AOL UK managing director, Noel Penzer, who launched the discussion by stating "programmatic is no longer something that’s theoretical. It’s actually here and it’s now".

Penzer said: "The discussion is not about ‘does it have the potential to make the biggest impact on the advertising industry and communications since really the birth of online advertising’ but ‘how is it going to have the biggest impact and what does it look like going forward’."

Katz said programmatic was forcing digital agencies to start "facing up to some of the questions that affected media owners for quite a long time".

He said: "Agencies have planned and bought media across the board in a particular way for quite a long time and I know that agency-side there was a bit of a lack of understanding previously about some of the issues that performance networks had faced that trading desks are now looking at and themselves getting over."

The panel also uniformly agreed that programmatic can feed back into the whole planning process. Goldie said: "The interesting aspects for me are the insights and the potential creativity that it allows us across the agency world.

"If you’re drilling down through audience buying programmatic you’re effectively buying against opportunity but if you look at the data coming the other way there’s a lot of audience insight and it helps you challenge your comms planning in a way that I don’t think marketing has done traditionally."

Hobbs added: "Programmatic is giving us a true understanding of the types of people and the types of things those people are doing with a client’s online assets.

"This gives us really rich and valuable information that can fuel what we do in everything that we plan for a client and we’re really starting to see that come through now.

"In Aegis what we’re seeing a lot of is - a year ago programmatic was looking to bolt on the end of the planning because it made good commercial sense, now it’s very much the thing that drives insight generation in the communications planning process."

Programmatic buying has also improved accountability, Hopwood said. "If our clients want to know exactly that moment when there money is being spent, where it’s being spent and what it’s doing for them we can provide them with that data in a matter of minutes.

"It’s a very powerful tool and at no other time have we been able to do that that fast, that accountable and that efficiently."

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