UK Lags U.S. In Programmatic Adoption, Survey Finds

Programmatic buying puts optimization algorithms front and center, as powerful aides in the ever-expanding advertising channel mix. Video platforms available for real-time buying include addressable digital TV, mobile, and desktop—and with that complexity comes a great deal of opportunity for arbitrage and opportunistic investment. Programmatic buying is designed to help brands reach targeted consumers at times and through channels that would be nearly impossible to efficiently plan manually.

This fresh approach, which takes much of the moment-by-moment control out of human hands, has some marketers still holding back, according to programmatic video platform Unruly, which has released its Programmatic Video Pulse Survey. The survey polled 1,000 agency and brand marketing leaders in March 2015, split evenly between the United States and United Kingdom. The study shows a consistently stronger taste for programmatic approaches among American marketers, although chief goals and reservations about programmatic were similarly ranked by professionals in both nations.

More than half (53%) of U.S. marketers expressed at least some comfort level executing programmatic campaigns, while 43% of UK marketers said the same. UK marketers were more likely than their Stateside counterparts to express concern about a lack of scale and data across markets. U.S. marketers were substantially more concerned about inventory quality, inappropriate ad placements, and excessive involvement of intermediaries and third parties in the advertising process.

 “It’s alarming to see that less than half of respondents in our survey felt they had a good handle on programmatic video knowledge,” Scott Button, Unruly CEO, said in a statement. “Programmatic ad buying provides marketers with a huge opportunity to better target their audiences; however, if we continue to see a lack of education in the industry, it’s going to lead to wasted budgets.”

Despite their reservations, most marketers have committed at least some of their budget to programmatic. Both audiences surveyed strongly favor psychographic and demographic targeting to more tightly personalized, data-driven audiences. Once again, American marketers show a substantially higher appetite overall for programmatic buying than their peers in the UK: 75% of all U.S. respondents had at least some investment in programmatic for online video buys, compared to just 70% in the UK. The trend is consistent on the high end, as well. Twenty-one percent of U.S. marketers said they spend at least three fifths of their online video budget programmatically. In the UK, only 12% of marketers have made so substantial a commitment.

UK marketers are similarly cautious about programmatic TV buying. In the U.S. 17% of respondents spend at least three fifths of their TV budget programmatically, compared to just 9% in the UK. And while 8% of U.S. marketers polled are ready to commit all or nearly all of their video budget to programmatic methods in the year to come, only half as many UK marketers surveyed are ready to take so large a plunge.

One of programmatic’s core promises is to help reach more audience members at more favorable pricing, and that priority sings loud and clear in the top measurement KPIs respondents cited. Given a slate of 12 KPIs and asked to choose three, marketers in both the U.S. and UK overwhelmingly preferred those related to viewability and total views. Refined, impact-related metrics such as brand uplift, offline sales uplift, and click-through rate actually rated dead last among both professional audiences.

As marketers continue to build out a wider range of content that can be targeted and customized in real time, it will be easier to apply programmatic methods to a more refined audience. “Marketers need to develop a strong content stack,” Button said in a statement, “to deliver appropriate creatives that can complement the advanced targeting capabilities that programmatic offers across the Open Web.”

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