Playing catch up. That’s where the programmatic industry in MENA currently stands after a year of laying a foundation that will afford us a future of real change.

While it’s true, that as an industry we are still looking to more advanced markets for global best practices, we’re finally coming into our own with advanced tech solutions, solid data regulation and a pragmatic approach to dealing with the issues that have stopped programmatic from achieving its full potential over the last few years.

I’m probably not over-generalizing when I say we’re all sick of talking about ‘brand safety’ ‘ad fraud’ and ‘viewability’ – now is the time to act. January gives us the luxury of setting a new agenda for the year ahead; one influenced by past initiatives and progress with new objectives in mind – educating all stakeholders on the power of programmatic, banishing the myths surrounding its effectiveness and creating an accurate picture of what the future programmatic world will look like if we all do our part.

Here are five key areas where we can expect to see make an impact in 2019

1. Transparency was enforced, with ads.txt and open measurement becoming the catalyst for any spend decision.

While we spent a majority of 2017 tearing down digital media and giving critics a mouthpiece to broadcast their concern and place blame, last year, the focus was on problem solving. We’d like to say that the battle is over, but that would be premature. What we do expect though, is an industry focused more on the bigger picture. For one, we’ll see an uptick in ad tech solutions such as ads.txt for digital and code libraries specifically for mobile being enforced as a means to regulating unauthorized inventory sales. Expansion of solutions like these signal the right step forward for the industry in increasing transparency in the ecosystem, as well as adding more protection for advertisers and a more cost-effective process. It’s early days, but the goal of doing business in a brand safe environment isn’t just a turn of phrase, it clear in how it’s being rolled out.

2. Data protection laws affected strategies and business, with GDPR owning the headlines of the arena.

If there was one topic that grabbed more headlines than anything else last year, it was GDPR. The lead up, the implementation, the fall out and impact – we all had front row seats as it unfolded. Now the dust has settled and the initial confusion and disruption has calmed, we’ll see a greater level of understanding about what this actually means for our industry, and hint – it isn’t good. Data privacy isn’t just a one trick pony in the disguise of GDPR, it goes beyond that. If the type and kind of user data can’t be accessed as freely as it once was, consider that a bit of a game-changer for everyone in the supply chain. We also need to prepare for legislation coming into effect regionally, especially now the IAB GCC has formed their collective; maybe not immediately, but they will be looking to more advanced markets for guidance in data protection laws, if not this year, then certainly by 2020.

3. Video expenditure has exponentially grown, with budgets being removed from walled gardens (Google, Facebook and Amazon).

This isn’t that surprising when you consider the year that GAF (Google, Apple & Facebook) have had; advertisers want reassurances and certain limitations mean these big player companies aren’t able to provide it. Limited reporting capabilities for one makes it difficult to assess proper ROI, among other brand safety concerns. It has left brands seeking alternatives to putting their entire investment into a single platform and take back control. Running side by side with this shift, is the continued rise in video expenditure – The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the total digital display and video ad market will hit $19billion by 2020 – up from $14.5 in 2017, which puts us right on track. Where programmatic will play a more vital role here is in mobile marketing, accounting for around 30% of the overall share of investment.

4. Creativity and programmatic are getting along perfectly well.

The restrictive ad formats and traditional banners that have come to define media over the last decade are long gone – as we enter an age of the tech-enabled creative. Moving beyond targeted placement, ad-tech vendors will look to involve themselves even more in the creative and production process. We’ll see more creative data services popping up, as marketers invest in the latest programmatic capabilities to deliver on cost and efficiencies; resulting in improved Dynamic Creative Optimized systems becoming more of the norm. We have (for now) endless data points at our disposal that provide useful and actionable feedback to lead on both sides of the media equation. The challenge ahead will be in utilizing this to influence creative to an extent that we haven’t really seen before.

5. The IAB GCC was finally formed after long years of hard work.

The impact of a first step to establishing a self-policing system cannot be underestimated. After nine years of planning, the IAB GCC now has a big task ahead of them in bringing the region up to standard. Education and research & measurement will be the collective’s immediate focus, while also looking to find and empower the right kind of regional talent. What will be key here is adopting global best practices, establishing guidelines and implementing self-regulation procedures to rebuild trust in the advertising industry. It won’t all happen overnight, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

Written by Ayman Haydar,
Chief Executive Officer at MMP World Wide