Survey of Creatives Finds a Major Gap in How Advertisers and Brands Use Data

Programmatic is still misunderstood

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Programmatic advertising is a term thrown around a lot in the world of digital advertising, but a survey of creatives suggests many agencies still don't understand exactly what programmatic is.

According to research released today by the ad-tech company Turn, a survey of more than 200 creatives in the U.K. found that only 59 percent of respondents from large agencies have worked on programmatic campaigns. However, a mere 11 percent of small agencies were even confident that they knew what "programmatic" meant.

Turn also found that when it comes to data exchanged between brands and their agencies, there's a gap between what creatives want and what they get. A third (35 percent) of creatives surveyed reported not getting access to the data they need from brands, while another 29 percent said they're not getting the data they need that media planning agencies have.

Richard Robinson, Turn's managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said he decided to conduct the study after hearing a lot of anecdotes about the disconnect between brands, their data and their agencies.

"I kept on coming up against this issue where there was a feeling with brands that perhaps creatives didn't understand the role of programmatic, the value of real-time data and how it could help or enhance the end-game of user experience," he said in an interview.

The industry is going through "a bit of a seismic shift," Robinson said. Brands don't understand the value of their own data, and because of that, a lot of data are in silos, making it less useful for brands and the agencies they're working with.

So what does everyone want to use all this data for? While data and programmatic advertising are often associated with buying audiences, Turn's report found that 73 percent of creatives said it should drive design. Second most popular was data-driven relevance for brands (67 percent), followed by location targeting (60 percent) and timing (59 percent).

According to Robinson, one of the most surprising insights from the research was that younger creatives aren't necessarily more data savvy than their older counterparts. About a quarter of respondents said they haven't seen programmatic mentioned in a brief, and 77 percent said they don't need programmatic insights to make ads relevant. Younger creatives might be savvy in digital, but behind in understanding the relevancy of real-time data. 

"It just cries out to me that there is a training gap, a skills gap and a knowledge and understanding gap," he said. "Maybe people are coming into it today thinking it is still an era of a big idea that comes up, or almost a Mad Men-like situation where you're sitting there drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar."


@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.