It is commonly known that programmatic inventory provides significant scale and efficiency when it comes to targeting audiences across devices and formats, but this needs to be planned carefully. In recent years, the programmatic inventory landscape has rapidly evolved, with more publishers leading a ‘programmatic-first’ mentality and, as a result, a wider array of formats becoming available programmatically across all devices. An in-depth look at available inventory in open ad exchanges over a 30-day period in the UK highlights that, despite these recent evolutions, the picture isn’t yet as rosy as you might think. James Diba, client partner at The Programmatic Advisory, shares some key findings from the analysis published in the consultancy’s recent whitepaper.

The statistics
Of the 170,389 domains that we see recording data during this period, 36% of these see less than 1,000 impressions and 74% of them see less than 1,000 unique cookies. This highlights that the ‘long tail’ of sites provides little in terms of impression share.

The top 10 domains by impressions account for 30% of all impressions and the top 100 domains account for 59% of all impressions. Impression share for the top domains is vast; so marketers should work to build relationships directly with those publishers that can help to fulfil their goals.

50% of available impressions are now for smartphone devices. Of those smartphone impressions, 58% are for mobile web and 42% are for in-app impressions. It is more important than ever to lead with a ‘mobile-first’ mentality and to consider how this affects your programmatic strategy.

The average potential impressions per cookie over a 30-day period is 1,588. The average user has multiple cookies that could be associated to them across their devices, so creating cut-through is incredibly important when you consider how many ads they can be exposed to over a 30-day period.

‘Standard banner’ formats still account for 76% of available impressions. Of those ‘standard banner’ impressions ~70% of them can be accessed via just three format sizes for each device. Despite the rise in new formats, standard formats still provide a significant share of the impressions via open ad exchanges.

Ad fraud accounts for 4.9% of display inventory and 26.5% of video inventory, when not using ad-fraud prevention technology. Marketers need to understand their approach to ad fraud and brand safety to ensure that they have the right level of protection for their brand.

What it means for marketers 
There is clearly a lot to consider when it comes to inventory and campaign delivery; but what does the above mean for marketers and those activating programmatic campaigns? Here are my top recommendations to ensure effective inventory planning and activation:

Whitelists > Blacklists: I recommend using whitelists, rather than a blacklist approach. The potential gains to be had from running across ‘long-tail’ sites is heavily outweighed by the decrease in control of fraud and brand safety. With 59% of impressions available across the top 100 domains, there is more than enough programmatic inventory that is accessible when compiling a whitelist. You do, however, need to ensure as a buyer that you get access to that inventory ahead of, or at the same time as, your competitors (as lots of buyers are moving to this approach) so you don’t miss out on valuable ad opportunities and so that you can pay the appropriate price.

Take a ‘mobile-first’ approach: Marketers should take a mobile-first approach in order to set up their strategy for the future. Mobile usage continues to grow year-on-year and, as a result, mobile impression share continues to grow. Marketers should consider how they approach their delivery across devices and formats. To date what has held that back is the accountability of mobile (i.e de-duping conversions cross-mobile-environment and cross-device) but ignoring mobile because of this is a critical mistake.

Account for scale: It is true that an increasing number of formats are being made available programmatically, however, we still see 76% of impressions coming from ‘standard banners’ and the majority of those impressions from just three format sizes. It is essential to consider scale when considering new formats, or when looking to prioritise creative sizes.

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