Programmatic Direct Is Automatic Not Programmatic

It's time to clear up some of the marketing doublespeak that has surrounded the growth of programmatic direct. There is a distinct group of folks who are working hard to muddle what programmatic direct does and apply what people have learned from real-time-delivery markets, by over emphasizing the intelligence of the automation.  The strategy to do this is based on leveraging all the hard work  real-time and private market technologist have done to develop fast and smart technology. Marketers of programmatic direct are equating the cruise control feature of your car to Google's self-driving cars. One is automated and one is programmatic. One just does while the other is 'thinking.' That's a big difference.

In short, real-time and private market technologies work really hard to allocate each impression so that it will yield the highest revenue to the publisher and to sift through billions of impressions daily to find the right audience for advertisers. These systems do a lot of 'thinking.' They work to understand what is actually happening in the real world and automate choosing the best decision to make. In short, exchanges, markets, SSPs, and DSPs, leverage lots of data and technology to make lots of decisions really fast. That is the promise of programmatic.

To draw comparisons to other technologies, programmatic direct is the grubhub of ad tech. Customers can see your menu and put in orders that are trafficked right to the kitchen. The difference is that real time technologies help to optimize transactions for buyers and sellers in terms of both pricing, performance, and the application of audience data. None of this happens in programmatic direct. The real-time stack is like a technology that helps a restaurant figure out if they should use the ingredients in their fridge to make Vegetable Chow Fun, Pasta Primavera,  or Bún Chay to get the highest revenue from the ingredients in stock. For buyers the real-time stack helps them to figure out what is the best veggy noodle dish to buy in the market at the moment.

So, yes the programmatic in programmatic direct means automation, but it is not the same programmatic that is in real-time markets. It is not as good and it is not as smart. The trick was to co-opt the meaning of the word to make things seem better than they actually are. There is a reason why  we have two separate words for programmatic and automatic. If it is the same, why didn't the ad tech marketers choose to call the technology automatic guarenteed? The reason is that programmatic has a 'sexy' that automatic does not have.

Our friends over at AdSlot seem to agree. They built this nifty graphical illustration titled Automatic Guaranteed.  Nice to know that we agree.

In that context, let's clarify how MASS Exchange is unique:

  • A unified view of price and depth of supply and demand for future impression inventory.
  • A programmatic system that drives transactions by 'thinking' through market conditions, not an ecommerce platform for media.
  • An environment where bids to buy and offers to sell are matched by a rules-based matching engine in real-time, but impressions are delivered at some time in the future.
  • Analytics that provides sellers a better understanding of their inventory in the context of market demand.
  • Siloed markets seamlessly connected via a unified market interfacing technology.