Programmatic advertising has been the rising star of the digital advertising ecosystem for quite a few years now. The automated ad buying process is transparent, efficient, and comes with enhanced targeting capabilities. Also, the power to target users throughout the buyer’s journey via awareness, retargeting, and retention ads make programmatic advertising the preferred ad buying method among advertisers.

Although the SEA region is poised to see a $200 billion internet economy by 2025, one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, it has seen some hiccups with the adoption of programmatic advertising in the past. According to IAB SEA+India, the key reasons include heavy initial tech costs, the inability of publishers to monetize their ad inventory, and advertisers finding it extremely expensive to run in-house programmatic efforts.

The landscape, however, has begun to change. Rapid smartphone adoption coupled with the rise of connected TV, native OTT streaming services, and social media is showing positive signs for programmatic advertising. Research by Rubicon Project and Campaign Asia surveyed Asian agencies and demand-side platforms (DSPs) to report the following finding.


Image Credit: Rubicon Project

The global programmatic ad spend is predicted to go up to $147 billion (more than 70% of the digital ad spend) by 2021 which attests to the fact that programmatic advertising is becoming a commonplace.

Programmatic Buying Across Various Channels

Programmatic advertising has made its presence in various types of media such as display, social media, mobile, video, TV, and digital out-of-home (DOOH). With users heavily spending time on their smartphones consuming video content, it’s no wonder that advertisers are prioritizing mobile-first display and video ads.

Here is where the respondents from APAC plan to invest their programmatic ad budgets, according to the Rubicon Project and Campaign Asia’s report:

 Programmatic advertising will is witnessing a steady growth through display, video, TV, and outdoor.

1. Programmatic Video Advertising – OTT and CTV

The digital advertising world is full of acronyms. 

Connected TV (CTV) is any TV that can be connected to the internet and access digital content. Besides smart TVs and Apple TVs, devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick, and gaming consoles like X-Box and PlayStation come under CTV.

Over-the-top (OTT) is content delivered via the internet. Services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Iflix, and Viu are a few examples of OTT service providers. The CTV acts as a medium for OTT platforms. Programmatic video advertising works for brands because of the better reach, retargeting capabilities, and enhanced reporting features.

Brightcove’s OTT Research Report 2019 reported that 30% of the respondents in Asia prefer ad-based video on demand (AVOD). Also, the impact of COVID-19 sped up the adoption rate of OTT platforms in the region which serves as an opportunity for marketers to increase their ad spend on OTT platforms.

However, it is to be noted that the OTT adoption in SEA will largely be driven through smartphones. On the contrary, CTV enables brands to target the entire household. So, advertisers need to plan their campaigns accordingly.

2. Programmatic Outdoor

Outdoor advertising is a powerful advertising medium to connect with the masses. Contrary to traditional outdoor marketing that required elaborate planning and took weeks to get the creative live, programmatic outdoor has shortened this time while offering the same benefits.

Along with helping advertisers connect with the audience at scale, programmatic DOOH automates the advertising process and offers robust measurement capabilities.

Programmatic DOOH ads can be tweaked or changed in real-time based on time, weather, location, traffic, etc. These dynamics present a powerful array of advertising opportunities for brands to improvise their messaging based on these external factors.

Also, with videos making their headway into programmatic outdoor, brands will have another format to experiment with to improve their programmatic initiatives.

To take it up a notch, the combination of programmatic DOOH with smartphone location data, has helped brands uncover a goldmine! Based on the location data, brands can identify the locations and venues where users will most likely spend time and strategically place ads at those locations at specific times to increase the efficacy.

Although a pipedream in the SEA region at the moment, programmatic audio OOH is another avenue that can help advertisers deliver on-location ads to their audiences such as where they shop, go to work, commute, or travel.

3. Programmatic TV

While we’ve touched upon this topic earlier, here let’s explore other aspects of programmatic TV. While CTV is more dynamic, other programmatic TV such as addressable and linear TV ads are also effective. Addressable TV ads serve different ads to different households for the same shows based on the demographics. On the other hand, linear ads, although purchased programmatically, don’t have flexible targeting capabilities.

Programmatic TV still is surrounded by concerns about brand safety and ad fraud. With the ecosystem getting stronger in due time, PwC forecasts that by 2021, programmatic TV ads will represent approximately 1/3rd of the global TV ad revenue.

4. Omnichannel Ad Campaigns

Consumers are no longer confined to a single device. The adoption of computers, smartphones, tablets, wearables, and other IoT devices means more consumer data at the disposal of advertisers and publishers.

This enables them to craft holistic omnichannel campaigns that align the ad channels and the stages of the buyer’s journey. For instance, while programmatic outdoor create buzz, consumers can be targeted on a granular level via OTT platforms and social media. Further adding the element of personalization, advertisers can use dynamic creative optimization to serve highly personalized ads to create a favorable impression of your brand.

Closing Thoughts

Along with these avenues, voice-activated ads, audio ads on streaming platforms, and tech enablers such as 5G and artificial intelligence promise a bright future for programmatic advertising. Although the adoption of programmatic advertising is not uniform across SEA countries, market players are gradually making sound investments to drive adoption coupled with training media buyers in these regions to the new ways of programmatic.

The time to invest in the upcoming programmatic avenues is now.

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