Tony Effik, the vp managing director of media and connections at
R/GA. said he's likely to spend more money
with a publisher that can offer him a package of quality premium
inventory along with programmatic, as opposed to just one or the
other. "I personally prefer the idea of having fewer publishers on
the media plan, so I would actually move the money," he said.
"Makes my life easier."
Despite the excitement, the strategy isn't a cure-all for
When asked by Ad Age to provide revenue numbers tied to the
strategy, AOL declined. "I can't give you sales figures since we
are mid quarter," wrote an AOL spokesperson in an email. Without
"barbell-specific" figures, it is difficult to say whether Mr.
Armstrong's claims of success are accurate, but AOL's ad business
seems to be moving in the right direction. The company reported
advertising revenue growth in each of the first two quarters this
While many advertisers have embraced running both programmatic and
premium campaigns, not all are sold on running both in the same
place. Mr. Effik said that R/GA does run ads with AOL, but only
premium, not programmatic. "The clients we have that work with AOL
tend to just want to do the premium stuff with them," he said. "We
get the programmatic elsewhere."
Further, publishers hoping to get a big upfront commitments on
their programmatic inventory may be disappointed. "I have yet to
see the value of buying programmatic upfront," said Julian
Zilerbrand, SVP and global digital director at Starcom MediaVest. A publisher has to prove
its combination of programmatic and premium performs well in order
to receive investment, he said.
There's also the possibility that the "barbell" is just another
stopgap measure for publishers as the world goes programmatic. As
automated programmatic buying continues to grow, the share of
premium, direct sold dollars will likely go down, leaving
publishers in a tricky place no matter how well they package the
"I do see this as a transitional phase," said Mr. Effik. "It's
almost like a fight against the trend."