We’re really great at making things harder than they have to be in this industry. Take programmatic advertising, for example. It’s the Wild West out here. With the barrier of entry so low, there are far too many companies muddling things and confusing clients. As technology tends to do, things have actually been made more complicated, rather than simpler. There’s a lack of knowledge around what programmatic advertising is doing for us, and naturally, we’re afraid of what we don’t understand.

PluggedIn BD hosted a roundtable with industry experts to pinpoint fears and predict what the future might hold.

Here are three takeaways from our panel discussion about programmatic advertising.

1. It’s creating efficiency in the industry.

It takes far too many people to put money to work in the space today. It’s incredibly crowded and inefficient to both buy and sell media—and the solution is programmatic advertising. That old-school editor used to make decisions based on a “gut feeling.” Now, editors are given enhanced knowledge to let the little things be driven by data and always make the right decision.

You’re able to do things that just weren’t possible a few years ago. Want to reach 18-29 year-old males living in an urban area, making over $40k per year, and who love Subaru’s because their fathers all owned Subaru’s? There’s no publisher that will allow this. But now it is possible with programmatic.

Brands need signals to allocate spend, and with modern media planning, we’re connecting data sets to drive efficiency and make better decisions. Think of programmatic as breaking the industry down into a million pieces and giving you the power to re-aggregate what you need in order to reach audiences where they are.

Yes, it’s disruptive. We’ve seen disruption like this in other industries turning toward automation (finance, travel, music, etc.), and we’ve seen that it’s better for the customer. Which means we’re only going to see more of it. Ultimately, we’re here to optimally create an environment where audience, platform, content, and advertising intersect—programmatic is just a redefinition

2. It’s still a relationships business.

The machines are coming! But that’s no reason to panic. This isn’t a case of “set it and forget it,” and real-time bidding and automated sales won’t rid the need for people. After all, if you’re not knocking on doors, you’re not getting sales. So the relationships will stay, but the people will change. Sales guys will become data guys. Like with any industry shift, the workforce will be redefined and people will have to reinvent their skill sets in order to continue to make themselves relevant.

Don’t worry about the machines taking over. When we use technology to do something great, there’s a human behind that decision. We will never be able to take the human element out of the relationship between seller and buyer.

3. It’s not just a fad.

Programmatic advertising isn’t going anywhere. So if you think you can put your head down and pretend that it will just go away, think again. Right now, CROs are taking a look at budget for the next quarter and allocating half of it toward programmatic. If you don’t see where the industry is going, you’re simply not going to have business for very much longer.

In fact, it’s still early days. Right now, we’re just laying the pipes. We’ll get better—we’ll be able to track great creative, things will run more smoothly. We’re currently in the second inning of an amazing change within the industry. Programmatic advertising will go away at some point, but only to be absorbed as just another part of media buying. Three years from now there’s not going to be a VP of Programmatic, it’s just going to be VP of Sales. This is an evolution.

The future is about data and scale. “Programmatic” is the new vocabulary for what the industry is going to look like down the road. It’s happening, so you’ve got to dive in. Don’t be resistant to this initial change. We’ve got a long way to go.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on programmatic advertising in the comments section!

Panel Participants:

Time Inc.: Evan Pfeffer, Director Sales Programmatic

Digital First Media: Salvatore Tofano, VP National, Sales

IgnitionOne: Keith Petri, VP Strategic Partnerships

StrikeAd: Gavin Stirrat, COO

Phluant: Rob Friedlander, VP Business Development & Co-Founder

Virool: Brian Danzis, CRO

Prohaska Consulting: Scott Bender, Consultant

Outbrain: Rich Ullman, VP Marketing