Ask a sampling of advertising and media industry executives how programmatic ad buying works and you're likely to get some varied answers. You'll hear, as you might expect, that programmatic automates the buying, placement and optimization of media. But if you listen closely, you'll also pick up on some subtext: the notion that programmatic buying is displacing the traditional sales element.
Those in the trenches know this isn't true; the rise of the machines is not yet upon us. But the misperception does bring up an interesting question: What role do people play in programmatic, and how can man and machine work together to make the most of these technologies?
It's a good question to address, because programmatic buying figures significantly in the future of the advertising industry. It's big, and it's getting bigger, accounting for $15 billion of the approximately $58.6 billion digital advertising pie this year, according to eMarketer. That's 55% of all the money spent on digital display ads in the U.S., and a nearly $5 billion increase over 2014.
This rapid growth is a good thing because programmatic can make ad buying more streamlined. It also leverages significant amounts of data, giving advertisers more targeting power. On the sell side, programmatic can give publishers more control over their inventory.
Technology enables this whole process, of course, but without human facilitation and intervention, programmatic won't live up to its potential. Here's why:
- It takes relationships. Technology has changed every aspect of our professional and personal lives, but there are some things it just can't replace. In any sales situation, there's no substitute for human interaction. When large sums of money are at stake, relationships are still what gets the deal done. Having an actual conversation—ideally in person—helps buyers better explain their goals and sellers better explain their solutions. Deals don't typically materialize without some leg work. The sales person has to find access to those planning programmatic budgets, largely different than their traditional media agency contact. These meetings, phone calls, follow-up emails and texts keep the lines of communication open and build relationships over time. These bonds are important because getting programmatic right requires back and forth, whether it's a discussion about building out certain packages of inventory or a conversation about using data to identify new audience segments.
- It takes troubleshooting. The truth about programmatic is that it's not as automated as everyone thinks. Yes, it creates some efficiencies, but the whole process still requires humans to run the operation. Living, breathing people have to verify that transactions are fulfilling as anticipated. And when something breaks, it's people who have to troubleshoot with tech partners and communicate the breakdown and resolution to the buyer. There's just no substitute for human problem-solving when something goes wrong (and sooner or later, something usually goes awry).
As the programmatic marketplace matures, we'll continue to see just how important people are to the process for the above reasons. We'll also see more organizations struggle with the challenge of operationalizing programmatic—determining how to structure it, track it and collect revenue against it, and bring on talent to help resolve that challenge. Think it will be an algorithm that figures that out? Think again.
About the Author
Dana Caputo, Director of Programmatic Ad Operations for TEN: The Enthusiast Network, hails from New York, where she started her career in digital advertising at Condé Nast Media Group. Caputo was part of an integral team that vetted and launched Condé Nast's premiere display exchange business in 2011. She has since expanded her programmatic career at online video marketplace, SpotXchange, pioneering its PMP services and leading top-tier DSP accounts. Now heading up programmatic for TEN: The Enthusiast Network, Caputo is expanding the business with key clients and technology partners by accessing inventory across TEN's portfolio of 60+ leading automotive and action sport websites, reaching more than 37 million unique visitors monthly.
About the Sponsor
TEN: The Enthusiast Network is the world's premier network of enthusiast brands, such as Motor Trend, Automobile, Hot Rod, Surfer, Transworld Skateboarding and GrindTV. With more than 50 publications, 60 websites, 50 events, 1,000 branded products, the world's largest automotive VOD channel and the world's largest action/adventure sports media platform, TEN inspires enthusiasts to pursue their passions. For more information, visit enthusiastnetwork.com.