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Over the past decade, programmatic advertising has enjoyed phenomenal growth, evolving along a rapidly compressed timeline. Today buoyed further by mobile, it represents more than two-thirds of all digital display ad spending in the US.

Unfortunately, such exhilarating and unchecked growth has come at a price, as anyone who’s seen the Display Advertising ecosystem. The ad-tech industry is tangled and overgrown, with an endless number of ad-tech providers promising an endless number of different solutions to the same fundamental problem: generating performance at scale.

With so many providers competing for your marketing dollars, margins are the first thing to be squeezed. As a result, advertisers have been left to choose from a selection of off-the-shelf solutions, as providers attempt to keep their own costs down.

But this status quo is no longer acceptable for the savviest of advertisers. They have advanced beyond a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy in their own marketing and they expect their suppliers to make the same evolutionary leap.

Increasingly, we’re seeing them instead demand unprecedented levels of control and customization from their programmatic advertising campaigns.

The outlook is ‘customatic’

The statistics bear this out. Among our own advertising partners, there is growing demand for customized programmatic solutions better aligned to their own brands and external direct marketing activities.

According to our own customer research, in 2015, just 4.2 percent demanded the default building blocks of their programmatic campaigns be tailored specifically to them. This year, those innovators are being joined by early adopters and we anticipate 12.5 percent to be demanding customization by the end of 2016 (312 percent YoY growth).

Next year is when the party really starts, with 56 percent of our client base expected to have adopted customized programmatic by the end of 2017 (448 percent YoY growth). In less than 18 months, it will be only the remnants — the late majority and the laggards — yet to get with the program.

Throwing away the template

With buyers and sellers now more comfortable untapping the full power of programmatic, one of the most immediately appreciable methods of customization pursued is the design and implementation of the creative banners themselves.

Traditionally, programmatic has relied upon templated design, but this is problematic from a branding perspective. A very real issue is that the lack of differentiation can cause banner fatigue among consumers.

However, creation platforms are now sufficiently advanced that skilled designers can produce banners that are both dynamically populated and unique, reflecting an advertiser’s specific brand and tone.

Eye-catching customized dynamic creative not only lends a branding edge to campaigns, it also reduces the number of impressions required to deliver performance at scale, bringing down an advertiser’s costs as well.

Introducing elements with high brand impact, such as video frames, is a great way to open up programmatic ads to the higher stages of the sales funnel, where there is a much larger pool of prospective consumers waiting to be reached.

Customizing the sales funnel

Of course, even the most appealing programmatic is only as effective as the algorithms powering it. And speaking of the sales funnel, it is absolutely critical to the way that these algorithms understand the value attached to the billions of impression opportunities they receive each day.

The job of the funnel is to map the journey taken by a website’s users on their way to a desired conversion. Programmatic algorithms use these definitions to understand how users should be classified at various stages of their journey, as well as when to move them from one stage to the next.

These distinctions will be different for every business. While one retailer may consider a customer ‘dormant’ after 30 days of inactivity, another might wait much longer to reach this classification. One retailer’s loyal customer could very well be another’s lost cause.

With this in mind, it makes little sense that nearly all programmatic is currently powered by a default funnel, modeled on the most generic of online retail models. But by customizing the funnel to reflect an advertiser’s internal business logic, the underlying programmatic algorithms can better optimize their bidding towards the highest-value users.

Training algorithms on an advertiser’s own first-party data will further improve the efficiency of campaigns and accuracy of segmentation strategies — not only by enriching the view of each individual, but by making it easier to communicate with them in a unified and holistic way across different channels.

The future’s bright for customized programmatic

The truth more advertisers are waking up to is that every aspect of programmatic can be customized to them — from funnels and segmentation to AI models, creative, and cross-channel messaging strategies.

With over half of our own customer base expected to be demanding this degree of customization by the end of next year, we expect this to become the norm in the next 18 months, as more marketers reject the one-size-fits-all solutions they’ve dealt with up to now.

Find out more about customized dynamic retargeting at

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