How programmatic is driving internal change at media companies

Programmatic advertising
Finding an easy way in

Programmatic dominates the digital advertising landscape. By eMarketer’s metrics it is set to account for 90% of all total digital display adspend in the UK by 2020, with the vast majority of the growth coming from mobile programmatic. It also estimates that video programmatic spend is set to account for 43 percent of total programmatic display in 2019, double the amount in 2016.

That’s despite the obvious challenges facing digital advertising: rampant problems of viewability, out-and-out fraud and unsafe ad spaces, to say nothing of the dominance of the Duopoly of Google and Facebook.

For those people working in the trenches of digital advertising, however, often the real challenge is inside their own business. Getting buy-in from senior people within the business who don’t necessarily have the time or the understanding of the fast-moving world of programmatic can present an obstacle to the actual advertising experts.

For one thing, the speed with which the advertising space changes throws up a comprehension issue. Every year a fresh crop of acronyms are released into the market, and while most everyone in media has their heads around the difference between DSPs and SSPs, that’s not the case for new terms

Speaking ahead of a Sovrn leadership breakfast on the value of programmatic, Centaur’s programmatic and adops manager Rachel Wilkinson told me that one of the primary reasons to partner with tech platforms to deliver programmatic advertising is that it removes the need for the publisher to get bogged down in that jargon:

“From a publisher point of view, if they can walk away saying ‘as long as I know these things about my audience as a publisher and what suits me, I’m not going to try and get my head too twisted in the technology’. I’ll let the tech companies worry themselves about that.’”

In mid-2018 it was reported that 60 percent of CMOs didn’t trust programmatic enough to invest more in it. Raoul Monks is co-founder of Flume Training. He says that one of the key services they offer is teaching ad sales teams how best to communicate the need for a new adtech product to senior members in the team:

“There were some really really savvy people out there who connected to it very early on, and actually when most people see the proof they buy into it.

“There does, for some publishers and companies, seem to be a bit of a head-in-the-sand thing, and it’s easy to assume that what worked for you as a sales director ten years ago is still going to work for your team now.”

As a result senior team leaders are often only dipping their toes into the water, only allocating enough cash to programmatic teams to experiment. Dan Hodgson, head of programmatic at National Rail, told me that frequently it takes seeing strong early ROI to get them to invest more. It echoes what I was told by the tech experts at advertising alliances last year; that getting buy-in for programmatic alliances often relies on getting that first tranche of investment to hopefully demonstrate the value of programmatic.

Huge programmatic alliances like Ozone are designed to take on the Duopoly in terms of pure scale, and are formed from the larger publishers who have already clearly seen the value of programmatic at their own businesses and have the money to invest. Speaking at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch event, News UK’s, digital commercial director Ben Walmsley said:

“What’s the next best action offered to a consumer on my site? Technology which enhances that, which create a better value exchange, which gives the consumer the ability to interact back and offer some kind of declared data setback that can be used to either enhance the publisher proposition or to create an enhanced data set. That’s the kind of technology that I think we’ll see publishers adopt.”

But for smaller and mid-size publishers that would benefit the most from the ease of use at scale offered by programmatic getting buy-in from senior team on new tech solutions, let alone a speculative mid-sized Alliance, remains a challenge. The Drum’s Fergus Gregory believes that might change, as a result of the changing realities of marketing and tech talent:

“In the techspace it’s still pretty brutal, but if you look overall the tenure of the CMOs is beginning to rise again from the research that I did, which really surprised me actually. I asked around as to why people thought that might be and marketing talent is at a premium, particularly successful marketing talent.”

Given the amount of money in the programmatic space it’s practically certain that even if publishers cannot directly change external issues like viewability and fraud, internal change at media companies will lead to more tech-savvy team leaders with a propensity to invest earlier in adtech.

Chris Sutcliffe

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the media, information, technology, communications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

Header image via Stephen Douglas on Flickr.