This may sound elementary, and it may even sound self-serving (as I have an obvious bias.) But there's still a lot of media spend that doesn't flow through programmatic pipes, and in most cases that does a disservice to media buyers. Marketers who don't execute in the most efficient way possible risk giving their competitors an edge.
Programmatic is no longer remnant
While it's true that in the early days of programmatic, inventory made available for real-time bidding was typically lower-quality, or "remnant." That's no longer the case. As an industry, we are well past the point of the water being fine -- in fact, virtually every type of media is now available to be purchased programmatically from top-tier publishers, including things like podcasts and even linear TV.
Programmatic is faster
The length of time between a campaign being approved by the marketer and it reaching consumers' eyeballs can be extremely quick. This is important when creative arrives at the last minute, or the marketer is looking to message a rapid response to a competitor's claim. This also applies to campaign changes: the increasing availability of real-time measurement permits programmatic marketers to adjust targeting on-the-fly, without needing to wait to speak with a seller and have the change trafficked. Moreover, flexibility is important not only for the purpose of rapid response to measurement, but also because marketers aren't locked into a commitment. If they have a stock shortage, a shift in business priorities or other changes to their objectives, they can stop or alter the campaign immediately.
If it's available via manual insertion order, it's likely also available programmatically
Although this isn't always made clear, the truth is that nearly all campaigns that can be run via IO can more efficiently be executed via programmatic pipes. In fact, there's even been talk from some publishers about putting programmatic campaigns (typically via private marketplaces) higher in priority than IO-driven spend.
Programmatic provides unprecedented precision and insights
After all, the whole idea of programmatic is to enable real-time decisioning on an impression level basis. Making bid decisions in real-time provides for unprecedented efficiency in the marketer's spend. Consider the case of a hypothetical umbrella manufacturer that wants to hypertarget those consumers that are most in need of an umbrella right now. The programmatic bidding algorithm can take into account disparate sets of data: the weather conditions in the user's approximate location, the context of the page they're on or app that they're in, and even the umbrella company's own customer list, to properly value the impression opportunity in a virtual blink of an eye, something that would be otherwise impossible.
Additionally, far more reporting data are available for programmatic campaigns. This is true regardless of whether the marketer is using an ad server, and it includes things like win rate data to help ensure buying efficiency, supply chain information sent in the bid request, contextual information about the page or app on which the campaign ran, and information about the device that was being used to access the ad. Another big advantage of programmatic is the ability to frequency cap across media and channels.
"Programmatic" and "direct" are not antonyms
Executing a campaign via programmatic pipes does not preclude the opportunity for marketers and publishers to work together on a one-to-one basis. Such a concept is baked directly into programmatic's DNA, in the form of private marketplaces (PMPs.) Buyers and sellers can identify the desired supply, layer on data, negotiate a fixed price and execute the buy in their DSP of choice, where they can measure and optimize their campaign alongside the rest of their investment.
While the days of faxing IOs back and forth are mostly behind us, sending them for signature over email isn't much better in terms of efficiency. Marketers need their technology to make split-second decisions based upon all available information, and with very few exceptions, programmatic is the best way to achieve that goal.