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The State of Programmatic Direct:

The State of Programmatic Direct

Explore Programmatic Direct adoption trends across DoubleClick Ad Exchange, and create individualized charts tailored to your industry and interests.

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Programmatic Direct:
A new era in advertising

Programmatic Direct bridges the world of traditional media reservations with the power of real-time bidding. Deals that were reserved and transacted directly are now being executed programmatically, allowing advertisers to use real-time data to reach the right people in the right moments in brand-safe publisher environments.

Different deals for different needs

Programmatic Direct comes in different flavors to meet the needs of advertisers and publishers. But the components of what make a deal “Programmatic Direct” stay the same: access to premium or exclusive inventory, real-time data-driven targeting, a direct relationship between the advertiser and publisher, and automated workflows. The efficiency gained via the automated workflow is one of the reasons why Programmatic Direct adoption is growing so quickly. Programmatic Direct deals on DoubleClick Ad Exchange more than tripled in 2016, for the second consecutive year.


Explore more about the different Programmatic Direct deal types.

DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

The real numbers behind Programmatic Direct

3xthe number of programmatic deals transacted in 2016 vs 2015.1

With premium inventory no longer restricted to traditional ad buys, advertisers and publishers alike are finding real value in transacting their direct deals programmatically. Top brands are implementing robust Programmatic Direct strategies to find and buy more premium inventory. Whether it’s the brand behind the car you drive, the soda you drink or shampoo you use, odds are they’re using some form of Programmatic Direct to reach their audience.

Leading publishers have organized their sales strategy to meet this strong demand. comScore releases a monthly ranking of the top 50 multi-platform digital media properties based on U.S. activity, and the rankings have quite a few names that would make a global top 50 list as well. More than 45% of the “Top 50 Multi-Platform Properties” listed in comScore’s November 2016 report transacted direct deals programmatically on DoubleClick in 2016.2 These represent the biggest names in the business.

With more advertisers and publishers on board, Programmatic Direct deals are making their mark in the industry.


[1] DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

[2] DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2016-Dec 2016, cross-referenced with comScore 50 US list, November 2016

Breakout growth in video impressions

Video emerged as the fastest growing format in programmatic deals across platforms and throughout most markets in 2016. Allowing advertisers to reach their audience with more immersive storytelling, video ads served via Programmatic Direct also give publishers and broadcasters more opportunities to monetize their premium inventory. Programmatic Direct video impressions served on DoubleClick across all platforms and devices more than quadrupled in 2016.

Mobile was the key driver of the growth in Programmatic Direct video impressions in 2016. Mobile video impressions now represent nearly half of all Programmatic Direct video impressions. Desktop video impressions in Programmatic Direct deals more than doubled in 2016.

Looking across the globe, the growth of video impressions in programmatic deals was spread across all regions in 2016. Programmatic Direct video impressions grew more than 300% in the Americas and more than 200% in EMEA. Asia Pacific experienced the fastest growth in Programmatic Direct video impressions. Much of that growth came from mobile, which represented more than 45% of all Programmatic Direct video impressions in the region.


DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

6.5xfaster growth of Programmatic Direct video impressions than display impressions in 2016

Built for a mobile world

People are consuming more content in more places today. Mobile has fragmented the user journey, and the most successful brands in this environment are the ones using real-time data to reach users in the moments they’re most likely to respond.

While Programmatic Direct on DoubleClick is growing across all devices and environments, the rate of growth on mobile is far outpacing desktop — in 2016, impressions served on mobile devices grew over 5.5x faster than on desktop. The growth in Programmatic Direct mobile impressions is particularly notable in certain countries: like South Korea and Indonesia, whose mobile impression growth far outpaced other countries in APAC and the nine other countries globally, who saw mobile impressions more than triple year over year.

Interact with the chart below to see how Programmatic Direct impressions are growing across screens.


DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

2.4x growth in Programmatic Direct mobile impressions served in 2016

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Strong adoption across publisher categories

Looking at our dataset, one thing stands out: Publishers across every category and continent are offering more inventory through programmatic deals.

Programmatic Direct on DoubleClick is growing at a rapid rate across publisher types, with three out of four publisher categories reaching at least a 50% growth rate in 2016. That being said, three publisher categories drove 45+% of all Programmatic Direct impression growth: Arts and Entertainment, News and Internet and Telecom.

Several lifestyle-oriented publisher categories are also growing incredibly quickly - Travel, Games and Shopping grew 120+%, 95+% and 90+% in 2016, respectively. With more advertisers striving to reach their audience programmatically, supply is rising to meet the demand.

Use the chart below to see how different publisher categories in your market are adopting Programmatic Direct.


DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

2.3x increase in Programmatic Direct impressions served in the Internet and Telecom publisher category in 2016.

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Programmatic Direct in practice

Programmatic Direct on DoubleClick is already changing how media is being bought and sold. Early adopters see real benefits such as priority access to high-quality inventory for advertisers, new relationship opportunities for publishers and more efficient workflows for everyone.

In this section, we’ll explore some of the ways publishers and advertisers use Programmatic Direct to their advantage.

For advertisers

Early access to premium inventory with flexible deal structures

Advertisers are using Programmatic Direct to negotiate different deals that guarantee early access to premium inventory on the publisher brands they care about, while letting them make data-driven decisions to identify the specific moment to execute their buy.

The right message at just the right moment

Layering in first and third-party data on these deals, advertisers are targeting their campaigns more precisely with controls like geo-part, day-part, language, frequency, and pacing. The result? Messaging that resonates with the most relevant audiences, delivered in brand-safe environments at just the right moments.

Your audience, guaranteed

Buyers can securely reach (or exclude) their own audience lists on a deal, giving them precision and control over who sees their ads. Publishers can then estimate impression volumes against those lists and guarantee that they only send impressions that match a buyer's target audience. For example, a media provider might use this capability to avoid marketing to existing subscribers.

Real-time optimizations with unified insights

Instead of compartmentalizing their data in silos, the smartest advertisers are consolidating it in a central repository of insights. Ultimately, they’re optimizing and executing campaigns in real-time on the publishers they care about with more immediate analyses.

Premium video inventory, secured

Savvy advertisers are looking to Programmatic Guaranteed to secure inventory they know will be scarce during peak traffic periods, like the holiday season. Programmatic Guaranteed offers buyers a way to reserve the guaranteed impression volumes they need, before the holiday rush.

Additionally, Tag Guaranteed allows advertisers to transact guaranteed reservations directly with publishers, while still getting the data and automation of programmatic.


[1] DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2016-Dec 2016, cross-referenced with Advertising Age’s World’s Largest Advertisers 2016 List, December 2016

90+brands in Ad Age’s Top 100 Largest Global Advertisers list made Programmatic Direct deals in 20161

For publishers

Stronger sales partnerships

The most sophisticated publishers are using the flexibility of Programmatic Direct to support their advertisers’ goals of data-driven marketing in brand-safe environments. The net result: stronger partnerships that form the basis for long-term relationships with advertisers.

Brand-safe ads from advertisers they trust

In the same way buyers look for brand-safe programmatic environments, these publishers are using this technology to ensure they have more control over the programmatic ads that appear on their properties. Now, they can ensure all the ads on their sites meet the standards of their content while respecting the terms of their exclusive advertiser deals.

Discovering new partners

With Programmatic Direct, publishers are tapping into increased programmatic media budgets and connecting with new advertisers. These new partners have increased their use of buying interfaces like Marketplace in DoubleClick Ad Exchange and DoubleClick Bid Manager to discover the inventory that meet their needs.

Greater operational efficiency

Sales and operational efficiency can be a real challenge for publishers, especially when factoring in the mountain of administrative work that accompanies most traditional deals.

With Programmatic Direct, publishers are spending less time on the logistical aspects of negotiating and enabling direct deals, and more time on optimizations, resulting in happier partners and a concerted focus on work that adds the most value.


DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Jan 2015-Dec 2016

3/4publisher categories experienced 50%+ growth in programmatic direct impressions in 2016.

The future of Programmatic Direct

When the programmatic open auction emerged, it was considered a revolution in digital advertising. Back then, the majority of the transactions were for static banner ads, displayed on desktop screens.

In addition to video, innovative ad formats like native and dynamic display ads are being programmatically served to screens on our desks as well as the ones in our hands. With DoubleClick’s Programmatic Direct deals, premium inventory once reserved for traditional methods is being discovered and transacted with much greater automation and scale. Once again, advertisers and publishers are rethinking how they should be buying and selling digital advertising.

As the industry discovers more ways to transact ads programmatically, it won’t be long before the term “programmatic advertising” becomes as outdated as “color TV.”

Programmatic will connect the entire media sales ecosystem

Today, the media buying and ad sales ecosystem is built on relationships based on personal connections, and often chance. As the ecosystem changes, there’s a need to combine the benefit of personal relationships with the scale of data-driven buying. Programmatic Direct is helping to solve this.

In the future, we predict that programmatic platforms will serve to connect every piece of the advertising ecosystem. Discovery of inventory and audiences will be seamless, and all buyers and sellers will be able to find each other and users more easily harnessing the power of data. Finding and building new relationships will be an easier process.

“We’ve been encouraged by the recent increase in Programmatic Guaranteed buys happening across the USA Today Network. We plan on growing this part of our business in the future and believe the combination of high-impact display, video and native – inside of a DSP environment — will push more advertiser demand towards Programmatic Guaranteed. Which in turn will create greater operational efficiencies for the buyer, and increased revenues for the seller.”

- Michael Kuntz, SVP, Digital Revenue at Gannett

In the near future, most directly-sold deals will be transacted programmatically

We predict that in the near future, the majority of advertisers and publishers will choose to conserve resources and streamline the sales process by conducting direct deals programmatically.

This technology is already in place. In April 2017, our Programmatic Guaranteed solution moved to general availability. Programmatic Guaranteed effectively automates traditional reservation buys, allowing publishers and advertisers to negotiate and execute 1-to-1 deals in a secure digital setting.

Both publishers and advertisers are moving toward a future in which even the highest touch deals take place in a programmatic environment.

“Programmatic Guaranteed provides marketers with one of the most reliable methods for ensuring their message reaches the right target audience. It elevates programmatic buying even further because of its ease of use and efficiency and for those marketers who make PG a part of their buying strategy, Time Inc.’s ultra-premium network is fully accessible.”

- Megan Hartman, Director of Programmatic at Time, Inc.

Marketplaces will make all inventory more discoverable

In programmatic’s infancy, publishers were only selling remnant inventory programmatically, and that too only in open auctions. Now, we’re moving toward a future where all of a publisher’s inventory, including premium packages and placements, is available to buy programmatically.

Already, we’ve seen movement toward this in Marketplace on DoubleClick Bid Manager and Ad Exchange. Since its launch, Marketplace has offered advertisers a richer, more detailed discovery experience for all publisher inventory, with multiple deal types including Programmatic Guaranteed. At the same time, it gives publishers increased access to high-quality advertisers.

“Marketplace has enormously streamlined the process of setting up private inventory deals by providing comprehensive publisher information with splits by audience segment. The efficiency and level of detail it provides simplifies the negotiation process and speeds up getting deals live.”

- Liz Rutgersson, the Head of Programmatic, Periscopix

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