With 2018 gone, now seems like as good a time as any to look back on the programmatic year that was and gaze into our crystal ball to speculate on what 2019 will bring. 

2018: A year in programmatic

"At the beginning of the year, the coming of GDPR was likened to the Mayan apocalypse. It would either revolutionise the way we, as marketers, operated forever or damn us for eternity." Bannerflow

It would be naive of me to talk about programmatic trends without mentioning the dreaded GDPR. 

But the reality is that for programmatic, GDPR has only had a relatively small impact. 

Anecdotally, the amount of data available dropped slightly across various providers. Despite this, a fundamental shift towards scrutinising data sources and making sure people are compliant has lead to much greater demand for better quality data, which is no bad thing.

Ads.txt (a text file that companies can host on their web servers, listing the other companies authorized to sell their products or services) launched last year and although it was slow going, adoption is at over 50% on the top 5,000 sites globally based on a Pixelate study. 

Although ad fraud within the industry is still a massive issue, more and more marketers are adopting digital channels and as a consequence are asking for more transparency and knowledge of where there money is being spent. 

"Programmatic everywhere is reality as opposed to a possibility. All brands should be planning communication around the customer as opposed to a channel. I’ve heard to many brands in 2017 claim to have a channel agnostic strategy that doesn’t include paper. This is crazy, especially considering some of the impressive results we see from our own programmatically-triggered direct mail campaigns. Multi-channel strategy should truly mean all channels." The Drum

This is probably an area that will see more of a shift this year and beyond, but the idea that everything will be traded programmatically isn't far from possible. Out-of-home (more on programmatic and OOH can be found here) and programmatic TV making the biggest strides with major names such as Sky, AOL and NBC looking to corner the market. 

2019: A bright future. 

So what does 2019 have in store for us? My top 3 to focus on are:

  1. Ad fraud
  2. Transparency
  3. Blockchain

"But why?" I hear you ask. 

Because they all boil down to one big issue that programmatic advertising faces at the moment - trust. 

"As many observers have pointed out, the problem with digital advertising is that it’s become less transparent – and in the eyes of many clients – increasingly untrustworthy; the very opposite of what was supposed to happen."- The Drum

Ad fraud and transparency are a weird combination of technical issues and ethical issues which create doubt in the industry's capabilities. 

"It’s not surprising then that 41% of advertisers admitted to us that they have lost trust in programmatic advertising because of fraud. "  - ExchangeWire

Blockchain is one big transnational ledger, which at its core is what programmatic is; a series of transactions being executed all at once. This gives rise to the possibility of seeing exactly who is selling the data, who is selling the inventory and to an extent who is seeing the ad. 

As we can see, IBM are already making massive inroads to providing a programmatic Blockchain solution as technology firms scramble to get there first. 

'IBM’s project has since expanded to eight companies including Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark, Pfizer and other undisclosed brands. All will conduct media buys through the Blockchain system with multiple publishers in Q4. That’s crunch time. If January 2019 yields the results...they will try to expand the platform use again to the top 25 advertisers "and really see if we can make it an industry solution for early next year." - Campaign

This could arguably be seen as the next big AdTech arms race and the company that gets there first is going to influence the way media is bought and sold for a long time to come. 

By innovating with these exciting technologies, programmatic will continue to go from strength to strength, adding real value to brands whilst addressing the trust concerns that some have. Looking forward to see what this year brings!