Programmatic Content Distribution: An Unfulfilled Promise?

2015 is widely considered to be the year that digital content marketing advances from a fringe consideration among advertisers to a more respectable line item in the overall marketing budget – with native advertising investments projected to increase 34 percent to $4.3 billion, according to Ad Age. Marketers are expected to dedicate as much as 25 percent of their budgets to content-oriented executions in the new year, likely to account for increased demand in more complicated deliverables such as video and interactive infographics.

Publishers are also expected to deliver more sophisticated content marketing extensions for their clients, as more intense competition for higher-yielding marketing dollars is anticipated. The increases in native advertising investment with relevant publishers are certain to drive further innovation in terms of higher impact native display products. It will also increase innovation in terms of content management system integrations across desktop and mobile platforms, as well as along the spectrum of social channels inherent to a given publisher.

“As brand dollars continue to be added to or shift from traditional and paid media to content marketing, the pressure will rise on proving its value,” Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP Advertising at The New York Times, told The Guardian. “Brands and their content marketing partners will get more strategic about how to measure the ROI of their investment in content. Yesterday it was fans and likes; today it’s pageviews and social reach; 2015 will be about attention and deep engagement, and how they impact a company’s sales, sentiment and reputation.”

Programmatic content distribution remains an unfulfilled promise

However, while the projected investment increases in content programs offer welcome news to marketers, producers, and publishers, programmatic content distribution remains one of the more persistent problems facing content marketers.

Lingering concerns over native display viewability through programmatic channels – coupled with meaningful impression fraud due to the persistence of ever-evolving bot technologies – are undermining the promises of efficient content distribution put forth by the many players that have long advocated solutions in real-time bidding (RTB).

Viewability remains a cornerstone issue heading into 2015. While the Media Rating Council established viewability as a currency earlier in 2014, marketers and their advertising agencies are moving toward 100 percent viewability in their video and digital investments. This higher accountability will put considerable pressure on RTB providers.

But fraudulent impressions may do more to undermine marketer comfort with programmatic channels. In fact, marketers could see substantial losses to bot traffic – anticipated to be as high as $6.3 billion in 2015, as MediaPost reported.

According to the recent study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers and White Ops, 17 percent of all programmatic advertising traffic was delivered to bots. When accounting for the fraudulent impressions, the cost-per-thousand (CPM) efficiency of native display distribution through RTB means is diminished enough to render it nearly on par with buying inventory directly from the publishers composing a given site universe.

The shortcomings in programmatic content distribution present a notable challenge for smaller niche publishers who rely on the long tail of audience scale in programmatic audience-oriented solutions. Until the RTB platforms can deliver solutions that are trusted by the broader advertising industry, content marketers may balk at a programmatic distribution solution put on the table by a scale-challenged publisher.

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