PHD UAE’s general manager, Luca Allam, speaks on programmatic at BBC event in Dubai

At a BBC event on programmatic trading last week, PHD Dubai’s general manager Luca Allam was invited to participate in a panel discussion on how the display advertising market is changing in the region. Staged at the Grand Millenium Hotel in Dubai on the morning of Wednesday 11 March, the event, entitled ‘Premium Programmatic: About Change’, was held for advertising professionals from affiliate agencies and clients of the global television broadcaster.

The seminar’s host – BBC’s Programmatic trading manager, David Goddard – opened the conversation by presenting statistical evidence to show that programmatic has emerged to comprise $14.7 billion of projected global digital display ad spends in 2015. This figure is expected to more than triple to $55.3 billion by 2017, representing 59% of all display ads. Therefore, this is no doubt that automation is altering the world of agencies.

“Agencies have a lot more information at their disposal today,” commented Luca at the start of the panel discussion. “In the past, there was no real uniqueness in what agencies were doing; all of them were buying the same thing. Now, we’re acting more like a network in our agencies, because we have more data to leverage.”

When discussing the current state of programmatic in the region, Luca added: “Programmatic does have a place, but there is still room for everything else as well, especially in this market where we value people relationships. However, what is key is getting that synergy across devices, such as including mobile.”

During the Q&A session, the panel received a question on whether the use programmatic for TV, radio and outdoor will work in this region. Luca stated: “In this region, we love technology. Just look at the video consumption and smartphone penetration behaviour here. We have a complex about wanting to have the latest technology available here first. We are already having conversations with clients about programmatic TV, so there’s definitely an attitude here that ‘if we can do it, we will’.”

On the subject of agency restructuring due to programmatic, the panel unanimously agreed that there will be a shift in the way we perform our jobs as an industry. “There will be a future where everything will be planned by a machine and optimized by a machine,” said Luca. “It’s an evolution though and it’s not a bad thing. There will still need to have planners and buyers to add a human touch, so we will just be doing a different job with the technology that we have. We are still targeting people, so the work of agencies still has to resonate with what us – as people – are doing.”