Many have been predicting that programmatic advertising will become the defacto method for serving ads online, but it looks like that day might be slightly further off than many thought.

Almost a third of publishers in the UK have still never heard of the technology, and less than half have a programmatic strategy in place, according to a new study by ad tech firm AppNexus.

The research is part of a larger study conducted across 5 European markets, but the UK responses from 165 respondents from advertising and media agencies, publishers and marketers during April and May this year, found:

  • 76 percent of UK respondents expect ad agencies to coordinate both the creative and technical aspects of programmatic in the future
  • 90 percent of professionals who are aware of programmatic believe it is the future
  • 46 percent of professionals have a programmatic strategy in place
  • 29 percent of publishers, 32 percent of advertising agencies, and 29 percent of marketers in the UK have never even heard of programmatic.

But why have almost a third of UK publishers surveyed not heard of programmatic? Nigel Gilbert, VP EMEA of AppNexus, says it’s partly down to a restriction of knowledge within publishing companies:

“We surveyed quite a broad range of individuals inside the companies. The observation here is how concentrated the concept of programmatic currently is within these businesses. To me that’s telling me that it’s siloed and it’s managed very much as a standalone division. You’re potentially looking at perhaps one or two ops people (or perhaps one salesperson) who has outsourced it to an SSP and that’s their programmatic strategy.”

“The risk is that when you’ve got something that’s taking such a large portion of the market, you can’t afford to silo these things. You need to be able to at least understand them so you can figure out how to make them work across your business.”

That oursourcing also goes some way to explain the discrepancy between the 90 percent of professionals believing programmatic is the future, but only 46 percent of the same group actually implementing a strategy, says Gilbert, who mentioned that “not only is there a lack of knowledge outside of one individual, there’s also a lack of strategy because even the individual who is doing it doesn’t know what’s happening.”

The research also revealed the UK tops the European leaderboard when it comes to using programmatic data to inform overall strategic decisions, with:

  • 86 percent of UK respondents using data to help determine strategy for future campaigns
  • 84 percent using data to help evaluate the success of campaigns
  • 65 percent using data to inform overall strategic decisions.

Constraints on the future

Budget challenges and skill shortages are the two major constraints the study identified as holding back the growth of programmatic, with 29 percent of respondents saying they lacked the talent to improve their programmatic standing and 27 percent reporting they lacked the money.

It’s clear that as technology and consumption habits have changed, programmatic is increasingly becoming an important way of following audiences around the internet and serving them ads at scale.

Taking advantage of that scale, however, can be difficult for publishers and agencies alike, and it appears there is some way to go before the predicted adoption rates materialise.

Image via bark used under a Creative Commons license.