Programmatic advertising is catching on like wildfire in the digital media space - but what confusion exists over what the term means. Here 6 digital marketing pros define what it is and what it means to the digital industries.

In conversations with marketing and digital professionals, it's rare for five minutes to pass without the topic turning to programmatic advertising. Ad dollars spent on direct programmatic initiatives are expected to reach £6.1 billion by the end of 2014, according to eMarketer. As the worlds of CIOs and CMOs collide, it's critical to understand how those billions are being spent. The reality is that in the age of data overload, digital advertising poses as many challenges as opportunities. Programmatic advertising could prove to be the saving grace, but significant gaps in the understanding and nuances of the term still exist.

During last week's Programmatic Summit in Los Angeles, an event focused on programmatic advertising in the digital media space, asked six conference attendees for their definitions of programmatic advertising, as well as details on what excites them most about the concept. As their varied descriptions indicate, putting programmatic advertising into the context of business objectives is no simple task.

6 definitions of programmatic advertising

"Programmatic advertising is using data to make decisions about what ads to buy, and being able to do that in real time is an added benefit. What is exciting about it to me is that I think it creates this new layer of transparency and ownership for marketers.

"I think marketers have traditionally been very dependent upon publishers and ad networks for strategy and tactics. I think programmatic is enabling marketers to really own their data, their attribution models, and their strategy, and understanding the audience that they're reaching."Tara Steger, sales director, DataXu

"Programmatic is the buying and selling of digital advertising using technology. So using data collected by user behavior and using that to be able to hit your target through smart learning of technology."Jonathan Margolis, senior account executive, MapMyFitness

"[Programmatic advertising] involves machine-to-machine transaction. Simple as that."

It's exciting "because there's more data involved. It's less guess work and more science. At the same time publishers can create the art of programmatic on their own by looking at the data and being able to use that data for their purposes to monetize better. Advertisers or buyers could also look at that data and use their art in buying so that they can pick and choose where to systematically buy inventory where it makes best sense for them."Elgin Kim, mobile ad monetisation consultant

"I think programmatic advertising is the automation of media buying. It's exciting because it represents the ability to hyper target and reduce waste."Christina Park, senior account executive, Turn

[Programmatic advertising is ]the automation of buying and selling of ad space online and on mobile devices.

"Just to be at the core of where everything's moving in the digital space [is exciting]. You can see with the digital spending on programmatic, it's at $10 billion right now and heading towards $20 billion in a few years." Travis Volk, regional sales manager, ChoiceStream

"[The automation aspect of programmatic advertising is very important]. Being able to basically get everything through one system, so you're not doing managed service by it.

"So it's quicker, it's more efficient, it's scalable and privacy safe."Sean Neems, senior director of sales, Tapad