"It’s a running joke among the local publisher and agency communities around here. A U.S. company picks up on the enormous opportunity to expand to ‘Europe,’ opens a tiny office in London and sets out to conquer the continent. As if it were that easy."
—Chief Product Officer, Media Optimization Platform, Benelux region
Humor sometimes has a hard time cutting through language and cultural barriers. But it’s no joke how the proliferation of data and technology is reshaping the media business. Publishers are looking to build audiences defined by specific interests and behaviors. Marketers are aiming to engage with consumers across devices, points of sale and geographies. And technology developers, agencies and other service providers? They’re racing to make all of it happen.
They’ve been spurred on by a pair of recent developments that together represent the most profound paradigm shift to affect the practice of publishing since the dawn of the Internet. The first is the embrace of the consumer audience—as defined by a wide range of expressed, observed and inferred data points—as the strategic pillar upon which the transaction of media can and ought to be based. The second—the meteoric growth of programmatic marketing—follows in natural order, representing the tactical means by which practitioners bring the promise of audience development to life.
But while the media community in the United States, the United Kingdom and certain other markets has been awash in programmatic fever for more than five years, the shift to an “audience culture” has been slower to take hold elsewhere. Rapidly, though, that’s changing. In fact, the accessibility of both data and technology—along with a growing recognition of how the practice of “programmatic” may help media companies overcome daunting challenges to their underlying business models—are driving vast new interest in the approach, with publishers and marketers alike rapidly moving to build their global audiences, establish properties in new markets and forge alliances with partners in markets all over the world. The 2013 promise of “programmatic everywhere,” it seems, is rapidly becoming a 2014 reality.
Unfortunately, the shift to an audience culture in media circles hasn’t yet managed to reform a wider world defined by vastly different political, technological and cultural norms. So even while they race to build programmatic infrastructure across markets—with U.S. brands moving to stand up a presence in overseas markets, and “global” brands casting their sights on the U.S. and elsewhere—digital publishers are confronting a slew of challenges and opportunities that are both new and unique to each individual market. Where, for example, are local advertisers most accustomed to engaging with programmatic technology? How do contrasting regulatory frameworks impact the accessibility of behavioral data? And where are general market conditions most likely to reward audience investments over the long term?