The history of programmatic printing and PPA

2000 to 2018 – from real-time bidding to programmatic advertising 

Over the past 20 years, the course of success achieved through Internet advertising has known only one direction: a steep upward trend. In this context, cookies were the recipe for success. Everything depended on these little tracking pixels that scouted for user preferences and activities on their computers. Google led the way in 2000 with the launch of Google AdWords. Facebook set off the social media boom in 2004. Thereafter, publishers and eventually Amazon and other major retailers entered the fray. Regardless of search media, social media, editorial media or retail media: those who had large volumes of user data auctioned off their personalised advertising space on the basis of third-party cookies. This is how real-time bidding (RTB) or real-time advertising (RTA) developed. 
A growing number of ad-sponsored targeting services began to emerge. As a result, the automated processes required for interlinking these services also began to increase. Ten years ago, the more comprehensive term “programmatic advertising” finally came into use and replaced the previous concepts RTB and RTA. 
A new generation of advertising technology service providers began catering to the requirements of programmatic services. Billions in advertising money – money that the other media genres lacked – started flowing into GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook [now Meta], Amazon). However, times are changing.

2013 to 2018 – from real-time printing to programmatic printing


Over the past ten years, digital printing has developed to the extent that it can also be connected to marketing automation systems. Under the header “From Zuckerberg to Gutenberg” in the 08/2016 issue of DDV (German Dialogue Marketing Association) industry news, digital printing pioneer Gerhard Märtterer elaborated on what he then called “real-time printing”. 
Märtterer deliberately used this term to address the young online generation in the jargon they were familiar with. For instance, when it came to explaining the retargeting of shopping cart abandoners with personalised postcards. Way back in 2016, quality digital printing was indeed still slow and costly. Yet, the foundation had been laid. 
With the introduction of new inks and printheads at the Hunkeler Innovation Days 2017, high-speed/high-quality inkjet digital printing could for the first time deliver everything marketers needed: top quality at high speed and affordable prices. Real-time printing was now possible on an industrial scale. 
From this point on, Gerhard Märtterer began using the term “programmatic printing” or simply “programmatic print”. In the perception of the online generation, a sheet of paper mutates into the “flattest flat screen in the world”. Well, when it comes to filling up the flat screen, programmatic printing can be just as individual and personalised as others can be with an electronic screen.

2020 – genre marketing via HighText Verlag’s programmatic printing platform

As co-editor in the Munich-based publishing house HighText Verlag, Gerhard Märtterer launched a platform in June 2020 that reached out, both online and in print media, to 76,000 subscribers of magazines and online services of HighText Verlag. Via the media ONEtoONE, specialist publication Versandhausberater (mail order adviser) and iBusiness, the ONEtoONE programmatic printing platform extends its reach to potential programmatic printing clients in the relevant marketing departments and agencies.

These services are financed by sponsors on behalf of press manufacturers, software companies, print service providers, paper suppliers and mailing service providers. The aim is to encourage target groups to lose their inhibitions against print media and demonstrate the first steps towards successful programmatic printing.

The turn of the year 2021/2022 marks the dawn of the cookieless era and the launch of DSA, DMA and PPA.

The grand success of online programmatic advertising also had its downsides. The numerous advertising banners were annoying. Click rates dropped. A growing number of users installed ad blockers to block out advertising. Finally, even the major browsers adopted default settings that made life tough for cookies.
Following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the e-Privacy Directive, Europe became the world’s leading technology watchdog. On 20 January 2022, the European Parliament convened in Strasbourg. By a clear majority, the MEPs took their position on the EU Commission’s draft for the new EU regulation on digital services and passed the Digital Services Act (DSA) with the aim of amending the currently applicable regulations pertaining to the e-commerce directive from 2000. The Act is scheduled to come into force in 2023. In conjunction with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which was already passed in December 2021, this will imply that personalised advertising on the Internet by means of cookies, as has hitherto been in practice, will no longer be possible.
By 20 January 2022 at the latest, even the ultimate die-hard optimist in the advertising technology industry had to concede that cookies will become extinct! As of now, an entire industry is desperately seeking alternative targeting options for personalised advertising: regardless of whether we are considering first-party data, ID solutions, contextual targeting or cohort-based targeting as proposed by Google – none of these solutions appears to be entirely convincing. For programmatic printing, this is a historically unique opportunity.

Just as a new ad tech industry evolved in the context of programmatic advertising so too did a new generation of print service providers (PSPs) emerge in the arena of programmatic printing. These PSPs are characterised by sophisticated machines and tools and finely tuned workflows. Moreover, they can set up interfaces to CRM systems and recommendation engines and deliver print in marketing automation with the same level of personalisation and promptness as e-mails, text messages or messenger services. They need neither double opt-in confirmations nor any other consents or approvals. Because, according to legislation: fully addressed postal mail can even be delivered to letterboxes that explicitly state “No cold callers! No junk mail!”

20 January 2022 – the Programmatic Print Alliance, PPA, is founded

On the same day as the EU voted in favour of the Digital Services Act, the f:mp. (Fachverband Medienproduktion, the German association of media professionals) and Maertterer one-to-one entered into an agreement to found PPA. The alliance intends to put into practice what publishers HighText Verlag describe in journalistic terms with its media as genre marketing: innovative pilot projects in the arena of programmatic printing.

1 February 2022 – DDV, the German Dialogue Marketing Association, publishes its latest industry trends


The trends are compiled by PPA founding member O/D Print and report on the consequences of the cookieless era. The key message is: “this is THE opportunity for programmatic printing.”

2 February 2022: Meta stocks responsible for negative impact on Nasdaq

On 2 February 2022, Facebook parent company Meta published its quarterly results. Subsequently, the Meta share lost a quarter of its value. This extreme slump in the share price, which wiped out more than USD 200 billion within a day, presents a foreboding of the severe disruptions to follow in the cookieless era. Today, the words used in the DDV industry trends almost have the significance of an oracle.
It is not the negligible decline in the number of users as a result of the competition from TikTok, as Marc Zuckerberg would have us believe, but rather the severe loss of cookies on Apple devices that are bound to ruin Meta’s profits. And when, in 2023, the EU lets its fiercest watchdogs against cookies off the leash with the Digital Services Act (DSA), then "the icing on the cake for DDV’s 75th anniversary” will indeed be analogous again.
This date of 2 February 2022 on the Nasdaq will change the advertising world.

2 May 2022 – the PPA website goes live 

In their press release, the two founding members of PPA state:
“This will be a challenging task, a very special transformation project. It cannot be organised by individual publishers or associations alone, as they have to cater to the requirements of a much wider range of products and services. It needs an organisation like PPA that dedicates its full focus on one topic at its spearhead,” explains Gerhard Märtterer.
“For us, the focus is not on short-term project-related successes, but on the overall promotion of programmatic printing and simultaneously a strategic reorientation of print media towards full personalisation,” adds Rüdiger Maass.

2023 and 2024

How the PPA history continues can be found in our current press releases. To be found in the chapter press relations