Key takeaways from Programmatic I/O and what they mean for digital marketers


If you’re a digital marketing executive, there’s a good chance that if we weren’t rubbing shoulders at last week’s Programmatic I/O, one of your colleagues and I were. Twice a year, the event gives more than a thousand industry professionals the chance to stay ahead of programmatic trends, get educated on best practices, and connect with peers. I always walk away feeling more energized, prepared for the future and, perhaps most importantly, with a keener sense of how we’re going to tackle some of the industry’s biggest challenges. Here’s a few takeaways from this year’s event that should be top-of-mind for every digital marketer as we move in to 2020.

Privacy regulations are going to have an increasing impact on marketers

We’ve been hearing about this one a lot in 2019, so it’s no surprise that it was a big point of discussion at this year’s event—tighter privacy regulations mean marketers need to start future-proofing their digital strategies. We’re quickly moving into a post-cookie world that could have some pretty major ramifications for both DSPs and SSPs, ultimately leading to higher CPMs and potentially flattening RTB revenues.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Many organizations have already started to adapt and move toward solutions that don’t involve individual tracking. We’re seeing more brands revisit age-old tactics, like contextual targeting, which was discussed in multiple sessions, and has already been adopted by publishers like The New York Times. Of course media buyers’ expectations have heightened significantly in recent years, which is why some are now also experimenting with machine learning to crawl pages for more acute targeting signals that will allow them to reach users based on more details than a site’s individual pages or categories.

Advertisers are also starting to shift to tactics that will maximize the data they do have, like using it to create lookalike models for prospecting. Whatever the case may be, it appears that marketers who’ve previously neglected their first-party data will be forced to finally take a closer look, and find creative ways to use it.

Marketers need to find ways to balance personalization with privacy

Privacy and personalization were, without a doubt, two competing themes at this year’s conference. Consequently, there was a lot of discussion about what marketers are doing to navigate the volatile space in between. As brands start to focus on consumer trust and consent, we’re seeing more shifting their budgets to private marketplaces, so they can work with publishers to curate specific packages that meet their needs.

But the future of digital advertising lies in providing a good customer experience, across every channel, and that will always need to be informed by data. In a privacy-first world, that means finding fully transparent ways to collect first-party data at scale. Many marketers are daunted by the prospect, but there’s ways to do it that can lead to other big benefits—like more time spent with your brand, better message recall, and greater trust. A chatbot, for example, will give your audience complete control over their interactions with your brand, and the information they want to share, so you can collect important data, provide relevant offers, and drive more leads—all while cultivating better relationships with your customers.

Marketers need to rethink their approach to managing consumer data

Future-proofing your data strategy so that it’s aligned with evolving privacy and data regulations is just one area of data management marketers need to consider, given many don’t have the proper processes in place to utilize that data to its fullest. Many marketers are still struggling to implement a true system of record that stores data from all customer sources. But understanding how to evaluate and integrate technologies, or finding turnkey solutions to collect and clean your data in a consistent, centralized place is only half the battle. Making data management projects a long-term success often involves managing organizational and cultural changes, too.

In many organizations, executives, marketing, and IT operate in silos, creating a noticeable disconnect that makes it even more difficult for brands to take advantage of that data and achieve their business goals. The good news is that the tension between privacy and personalization will force marketers to get smarter about their data collection strategies, so they’re no longer collecting as much information as possible with no clear plan for how to use it. We’re going to see more advertisers making a concerted effort to plan the data they need in advance, and only going after that—and that will make it easier for everyone to not only understand what information is being gathered, but how it’s going to be used.