B2B Programmatic on the Rise, But Challenges Remain

By Nick Price

Programmatic advertising has already become the gold standard in B2C advertising, and its popularity among B2B marketers is on a steady growth path. According to a recent Dun & Bradstreet survey, nearly two-thirds of B2B marketers are set to spend more money on programmatic advertising in 2016. The survey also found that 78 percent of B2B marketers will spend up to 50 percent of their budgets on programmatic in 2016. Of those B2B marketers surveyed, over half (54 percent) were already buying advertising programmatically.
While many B2B and B2C marketers gravitate toward programmatic advertising because of its attractive pricing, the value for B2B marketers goes way beyond that to include:

  • Powerful audience targeting that aligns with the buyer journey
  • The ability to know and adapt messaging when a target’s needs, wants and sensibilities change
  • The ability to achieve reach, targeted reach, beyond the endemic sites

Furthermore, programmatic advertising has already established a foothold in emerging channels like video and mobile. In fact, a new report from eMarketer estimates that mobile programmatic advertising will be worth roughly $9.33 billion in 2015, capturing 61 percent of all programmatic display ad spending in the US. By 2017, eMarketer says mobile programmatic will be worth $20.4 billion vs. $6.34 billion on the PC.
These figures are extremely encouraging for the continued growth of B2B programmatic and its eventual adoption across the entire B2B space, however, certain challenges do remain.
A recent Reaching Full Potential report by AppNexus found that there is still some confusion when it comes to programmatic advertising. Of those questioned, 44 percent did not understand, or had a small amount of knowledge, about how programmatic works. “Lack of understanding” was cited as the top challenge in using programmatic for 47 percent of survey respondents.
Dina Gowar, who works on global media innovation and technology for Dell, cites attribution through the funnel as her key concern. It’s hard to equate an online lead to the tangible value it creates along the customer journey.
“As a business, we want to look across an entire portfolio and evaluate the whole customer journey from offline to online,” Gowar said. “It’s really hard to crack commercial attribution in B2B.”
“Brand safety” fulfillment and the accuracy of data inputs into the ecosystem are also concerning to B2B programmatic newbies, and of course, the ongoing viewability debate — namely, the standard definition of a viewable impression —continues to rage.
In order to maximize the value of programmatic and deliver on its promise to B2B marketers, Ted Kohnen, CMO of Stein IAS, believes two important things must happen first:

  • Including firmographic criteria in the overall learning ability of an algorithm. Firmographics are key identifiers, such as company, title, industry, etc., that put the learnings from digital activity in a business context. Including this information in programmatic technology would enable B2B marketers to more efficiently distinguish decision-makers from influencers and, therefore, align the proper message at the proper stage of the journey.
  • B2B marketers must embrace the full power of programmatic. Programmatic may be automated technology, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require human support and proper infrastructure to operate. A machine is only as good as its fuel, and programmatic must be fed quality data and creative elements that will communicate a relevant message in a way that will resonate with the target audience.

 There’s no question that programmatic technology holds significant promise for B2B marketers, and though there are still issues to be worked out and standards to be defined, I wouldn’t expect the current growth trend to slow down anytime soon.
What about you? How do you use programmatic technology in your organization? What are your key benefits and challenges?
Image via trialsanderrors

Nick Price

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