Programmatic and the B2B Marketer

By Nick Price

Digital media buying is trending towards programmatic because the growth is spectacular and it is an easier way to transact for marketers, publishers and agencies alike. While historically the channel has been known for remnant inventory, this reputation is changing dramatically as large brands and publishers are adopting this new approach to media trading. Programmatic is moving upstream and providing viewable ads to targeted audiences on mobile and video, providing advertisers with premium views.
According to eMarketer, U.S. programmatic digital display ad spending will reach $20.41 billion next year. They also estimate that U.S. mobile programmatic ad spending will reach $9.33 billion this year and account for 60.5 percent of total US programmatic display ad spending.
Despite its success in the B2C market, B2B marketers have been slow to adopt this new technology. There is a strong disconnect between what is going on in the digital ad world — an estimated 59 percent of digital ad spend in the UK, some £1.8 billion, is programmatic and that figure is expected to increase next year. In fact, according to a study from B2B Barometer, 64 percent of B2B marketers describe programmatic advertising as irrelevant.
So if programmatic is such an efficient way to transact, why has the B2B sector been so slow to adopt this new approach? The biggest difference in B2B and B2C programmatic is the value of the inventory. Traditional business marketers are often trying to tap into volume markets and spend a lot of time looking at the firmographics – elements including the health of a company, the number of employees, and its revenue – along with the demographics of the influencer or purchaser within an organization who will actually be clicking on an ad.
Lead times are typically much longer in B2B marketing. B2B marketers focus on building and nurturing relationships through tools like white papers and offline events, rather than on digital.
There are currently more challenges than upsides in B2B programmatic at the moment.
Since publishers have typically made most of their income from events and print publications, they haven’t typically invested in the technology to help improve audience monetization. Most B2B publishers would either provide display ad opportunities that were detached from performance and lead gen or conversely, they’d serve as a platform for lead gen, but lacked branding, thus creating a disconnect between media assets among B2B publishers.
In addition, a lack of understanding about how to use programmatic, along with the fear that ad content will end up on undesirable sites, is helping to slow adoption. Digital advertising simply isn’t a big area of expenditure for most B2B marketers. Last year’s B2B Barometer shows that only 25 percent of B2B marketers allocate budget to programmatic and even those marketers that do spend money in programmatic only spend on average, 9 percent of their total spend on programmatic. Many B2B publishers don’t offer programmatic yet and those that do aren’t providing advertisers with valuable data.
But some B2B publishers are pushing towards changing this, taking advantage of the benefits of programmatic. Business.com, for example, will sell about 35–40 percent of its display ad inventory programmatically this month. The publisher has engineered its display ads to work with content marketing assets, and has incorporated this into the cost per lead for the advertiser.
As soon as a site visitor downloads a white paper or engages with content marketing, Business.com retargets through display or other channels. The company is working to unite the data in order to create a connection between demand gen and brand engagement.
With more B2B publishers offering up more appealing programmatic trading, B2B marketers will ultimately have to pay attention or they’ll be beaten out by the competition. While the tide is rising slowly in B2B, programmatic is on the horizon.
Image via Ged Carroll

Nick Price

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