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: early access to premium inventory, real-time data-driven targeting, a direct relationship between the advertiser and publisher, and automated workflows. The flexibility across these components is why Programmatic Direct has grown. On DoubleClick Ad Exchange, the number of Programmatic Direct deals tripled in 2015 alone.
DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, year end 2014 to year end 2015.
The real numbers behind Programmatic Direct
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 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. In 2015, over half of these publishers, who represent the biggest names in the business, used Programmatic Direct.2
With more advertisers and publishers on board, Programmatic Direct deals are making their mark in the industry. Over the last year alone, the total number of deals transacted on Ad Exchange tripled.3
 DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014-Dec 2015. Minimum $1K spend.
 DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014-Dec 2015. Cross-referenced with comScore 50 US list, December 2015.
 DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, year end 2014 to year end 2015.
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 is growing across all devices and environments, the rate of growth on mobile is far outpacing desktop. Impressions served on mobile and tablet together grew 4x faster than desktop.
Interact with the chart below to see how different Programmatic Direct impressions are growing across screens.
DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014 - Dec 2015
Strong adoption across publisher categories
Looking at our dataset, one thing stood out: publishers across every category and continent are offering more inventory through programmatic deals.
Programmatic Direct is also growing at a rapid rate across publisher categories like Books & Literature, Hobbies & Leisure and Shopping globally. For those categories, the total number of Programmatic Direct ads served on their sites grew on average at least 10% month over month. Supply is rising to meet the demand.
Use the chart to see how different publisher categories in your market are adopting Programmatic Direct.
DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014-Dec 2015.
Global adoption, country by country
Globally, at all levels of market maturity, advertisers and publishers are turning to Programmatic Direct deals. And for everybody, it’s paying off.
The growth of Programmatic Direct impressions in the United States only slightly outpaced growth in the rest of the world. In EMEA, several countries adopted this tech at a very fast rate. While Germany, Italy and the UK represented the largest share of total impressions, countries like Ukraine, Turkey and Spain saw their Programmatic Direct impressions more than double in just 12 months.
The growth trend holds true in APAC as well. In Taiwan and Indonesia, Programmatic Direct impressions grew more than 20% monthly. Australia and India saw more than 10% monthly growth. Japan was the strongest adopter, representing more than 45% of all Programmatic Direct impressions in the region.
DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014 - Dec 2015
Programmatic Direct in practice
Programmatic Direct 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.
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 cherry-pick the specific moments 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.
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.
DoubleClick Ad Exchange data, Oct 2014-Dec 2015. Cross-referenced with comScore 50 US list, December 2015.
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 tech 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.
“Using private marketplaces in Ad Exchange, Condé Nast revenue leaps 800%”., DoubleClick March 2015
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 dimly-lit desktop screens.
Today, innovative ad formats like video, native and dynamic display ads are also being programmatically served to screens on our desks as well as the ones in our pockets. With 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 close personal relations 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.
In just a few years, 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 January 2016, we launched a beta of Programmatic Guaranteed, which 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 is proving to be a powerful tool to drive full efficiency in the media buying process. In particular, it offers the opportunity to control each component of the media plan, at the same time, in a synergistic and systematic way. Programmatic Guaranteed represents a key application in relieving digital media planning from the time-consuming management process.”
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. Launched in 2015, Marketplace offers 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.