Thought Leadership

2020 Programmatic Trends for Europe

February 12, 2020
By Rubicon Project

We spoke with James Brown, EMEA MD at Rubicon Project, to get his perspective on what the programmatic industry in Europe might be focused on in 2020, including privacy and data, greater collaboration, identity,  audio, and well-being.


What will be the biggest trends in Europe in 2020?

Identity and privacy will undoubtedly be at the center of everything happening in the programmatic landscape this year. As recent regulations, like CCPA in the US, and other initiatives take shape in Japan, Brasil and around the world, the industry is collaborating to develop solutions that address privacy concerns. In fact, IAB Europe has taken the lead in this process, and has launched TCF 2.0 to increase consumer transparency and choice.

We will see continued growth in formats such as audio, OTT & CTV.  eMarketer has predicted nearly 14% growth in time spent per day on OTT video platforms, and with this growth will come new opportunities for marketers to reach these audiences.

Finally, as the industry moves toward a unified ID, we will see broader consolidation on both the buy and sell side. Ad tech companies are becoming more collaborative, and the need to separate tier 1 partners from low-value-providing-long-tail organizations is finally being realized.


What role does industry collaboration play in the wake of changes in market environments? Do you have any examples of such instances?

Collaboration is everywhere, whether to navigate the hurdles of legislation, make our industry fit and sustainable for the future, or indeed ensure there is a strong, diverse, and thriving independent web. This spirit demonstrates both market maturity, shared challenges, and also opportunities. However, it has been endemic to the advertising landscape over the past two years under different guises:

  • Industry Bodies – Independent specifications like IAB Gold Standard, Ads.txt, App-ads.txt, Sellers.json, and IAB TCF have established protocols for ensuring transparency and minimizing inventory fraud.
  • Media Owners – Collaborative organizations like La Place Media (now MediaSquare) set the example over 5 years ago, but recent risings of partnerships like Publisher Co-Operatives 2.0 in The Ozone Project or DavID have indicated this spirit of collaboration is only growing.
  • Adtech – The growth of to over 500+ developers and dozens of partners across the buy and sell side has solidified it as an industry standard that is hugely successful because of its collaborative nature. 

How can we improve industry collaboration in 2020?

More programmatic businesses need to move to support 

Prebid has evolved from being ‘An’ Open Source Header Bidding tech to ‘The’ Open Source movement in Adtech, with engineers from dozens of companies collaborating on a much broader range of products such as Programmatic Guaranteed, Video, and Identity. 

We now have members from media owners, SSPs, and DSPs, so it is now transcending many different parts of the Adtech ecosystem. It will only get better.

The more members join and the more companies contribute code, the faster we will be able to both solve problems and create standards which will make investment into the independent web easier. 

Previously, the ‘easy button’ has always been the tech giants, let’s make this true for the independent web and investment will follow!


How are publishers and buyers aligning on finding identity solutions in Europe in 2020?  

While there are multiple solutions in existence at the moment, the market has yet to coalesce around one primary solution. The industry is largely leaving it to the market to decide, as it doesn’t want to favor a particular vendor.  With the recent announcement about the elimination of 3rd-party cookies from Chrome within two years, the industry is more focused than ever on finding a mutually beneficial solution.

What do you think is the most practical ID solution for your market in 2020?

It’s likely there won’t be one comprehensive solution, but instead there will be a few options.  However, at Rubicon Project we believe identity is a community asset and would be best owned by a not-for-profit entity such as Prebid or the IAB.


How will programmatic budgets for audio change in your market during 2020?

We will see increasing amounts of monetization of this format through areas like podcasts as more and more media owners continue producing them. A broader range of supply partners is now available, leading to a much larger audio supply than streaming alone previously provided.

Audio will be one of the hottest areas in the industry, alongside OTT & CTV. One of the primary advantages of audio is that brands are not having to compete for screen time over users who are largely maxed out. Audio presents the opportunity to reach users when they are in a different mindset and therefore it is crucial they communicate their brand message in a sympathetic, non intrusive fashion. It’s truly a really unique advertising opportunity.  


How can the industry as a whole work towards better well-being in 2020?

Over the holidays, I discussed this subject with a number of friends from other industries and found myself struck by how advanced adtech has become versus others.  We are, however, a long way from finished.

In fact, companies like Rubicon Project across the industry are working hard on practices and organizational structures to support areas like this. Whether this is encouraging respectful practices such as training sessions for team members, to support structures for team members whom are experiencing some challenges — there is real momentum. The real challenge for companies who are globally distributed is how do we facilitate the discussion and make available similar structures and training in countries where either the language around mental health and well-being needs tailoring or culturally there is less of an ability to discuss these challenges.  

To learn more about Identity, Audio, or any of the topics covered in this piece, reach out to us at

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