Thought Leadership

2020 Programmatic Trends for Agency Buyers

February 25, 2020
By Rubicon Project

We talked with Jon Cooke, VP, Global Agency Sales, about what agency buyers are looking forward to in 2020.


How will supply path optimization unfold in 2020?

There aren’t any buyers or holding companies that aren’t on board with SPO, or doing some degree of SPO today. As an industry, we’ve understood that not all supply paths are created equal, and we have the data to prove it. This year we’ll see our biggest buyers taking more deliberate action to buy inventory on certain paths. They’ll transition from trimming the fat to choosing a small handful of primary exchanges to buy through.

What successes have your partners seen with SPO?

Not all supply paths have the same take rates, and less taken out of each transaction equals more money for working media. Agency buyers have proven this out: their KPIs improve.  Transparency is also important to agencies and brands. The more money they spend with partners on transparent, well-lit supply, the easier it will be to learn how much of their budget goes towards working media.


What role will buyers play in the growth of Prebid?

Prebid is essential to the ecosystem’s growth and evolution. In 2020, more buyers will support the Prebid movement, and we suspect that the holding companies will also join the community. The more that buyers support Prebid, the more publishers will adopt it. And that will lead to more diversification of wrappers.


What trends do you expect to see in programmatic formats?

With premium video, there’s more demand than supply, and that demand is increasing – not just for premium video, but for premium in-app inventory, and unique formats like sliders. Publishers are getting more comfortable making inventory they once held close to the vest available via programmatic channels. They understand there’s value in diversifying access. 


How will PG buying strategies evolve in 2020?

PG is growing and maturing as a scalable product. Everyone wants a viable alternative to the walled gardens. A lot of the buying in deals has skewed to the Open Market.  Buyers are getting more sophisticated, and targeting better. In the past, there was skepticism around cost, fraud etc. But we have one of the safest, most transparent platforms to activate on.

What other opportunities exist in Deals?

Auction packages, with open market inventory, are helping buyers achieve scale and reach.

In 2020, I believe we’ll see fewer deals struck for curation purposes only. Less evergreen deals, but smarter, more targeted deals. I think we’ll see growth in auction packages and more PG deals between big holding companies, agencies and comscore 100 publishers. But I believe auction packages will be the fastest growing form of programmatic buying in 2020, primarily coming from evergreen/always-on PMPs.


How are buyers thinking about identity for 2020?

Regulation and privacy are guiding everyone’s identity focus. CCPA limits what intermediaries can provide because of the emphasis on user privacy, making it harder to have a truly universal solution. In 2020 we’ll see momentum in supporting a few identity solutions. Also more of a shift to contextual relevance. 

Buyers’ near-term focus is on audience activation: using data sets, getting smarter about finding and targeting audiences, and guaranteeing them programmatically.


What innovations are expected in brand safety and transparency?

2020 should see the final step in documenting the bidstream; buyers will likely be able to identify everything. Buyers often ask for log-level data, but we turn around and ask if they really want terabytes and terabytes of data. What are they going to do with it? What do they want to accomplish? We’ve had a lot of success talking about transparency and giving data to validate fees. Some buyers want to match logs with DSPs, to find out the source of truth. We support buyers’ efforts to make their partners more accountable.

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