A recent report uncovered that thousands of trusted brands—including Sprint, Verizon, Macy’s, Starbucks, Comcast—purchased programmatic ad spots next to COVID misinformation. Even the CDC, Pfizer, and others fighting the pandemic had ads on disreputable websites.
This is not good news for programmatic.
Between the continued trend of in-housing, a volatile market and the upcoming removal of third-party cookies, ad tech leaders have their work cut out for them.
Yet, ad tech is still surging and adapting. Who were the top spending programmatic advertisers in 2020?
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Ad Tech Faces a Changing Environment
Ad tech is constantly going through new phases. Back in 2013, ad networks seemed to keep popping up overnight with new offerings and channel-specific publisher networks. Then two years later, omni-channel platforms arrived on the scene, setting off a wave of consolidation in the market.
That left marketers with a few huge walled gardens to partner with. Along the way, marketers felt like they lost control of their own ship. This caused them to push back and demand more transparency and exportable data. And it has caused many to choose multiple partners (as they did in the early days of programmatic) or to bring their programmatic advertising efforts in-house.
69% of brands now run programmatic buying in-house.
That being said, ad tech firms still finished strong in 2020. The Trade Desk’s shares were up 200% year-over-year in December and Magnite’s doubled over a similar time frame.
So this is how we begin 2021: Things are looking bright for large companies, but the environment around them is in flux. As the advertising landscape restructures (i.e. a surplus of laid-off talent will likely find employment with brands eager to in-house), and the battle over privacy laws escalates, how can ad tech firms weather the storm?
Cadi Jones, commercial director EMEA at Beeswax, encourages leaders to home in on:
- Agility: Brands want flexibility in their media buys.
- Transparency: Brands want transparency to gain a competitive advantage (and ensure brand safety).
- Regulatory affairs: Assure your partners that you’re taking a proactive approach to working with legal, security, and information teams to ensure nobody’s at risk of legal fines.
And leaders will have to keep up with the technology changes. Google recently announced that it may have an effective replacement for cookies—FLoC.
As the industry moves quickly, brands are still buying programmatically. Who were the biggest spenders last year?
MediaRadar Insights on Programmatic Buyers in 2020
Over 42 thousand brands ran programmatic ads in January 2021, which is up over 20% YoY. Programmatic spend was up over 10% YoY in January. Because the number of advertisers is growing twice as fast as spend, the data suggests that the buys are relatively modest.
Top spenders include:
- Lending Tree
- Capital One
- Best Buy
Another note is that we continue to see the US Government work with programmatic partners to support the #AloneTogether campaign, encouraging safe COVID behavior.
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