How Prudential Decides When to Stay In-House or Go Outside for Media Buying and Tech

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Marketing tech decisions aren't just about the tech, of course. They're also about the marketing. So deciding what to buy ultimately depends on the marketing strategy, as Anna Papadopoulos, VP-integrated media services of Prudential Financial sees it.

Credit: Courtesy Anna Papadopoulos

Ms. Papadopoulos will be part of the panel discussion, "The Art of the Stack: Piecing Together Your Marketing Technology" at Ad Age's IQ Conference Jan. 17 in New York, along with marketing and marketing-tech leaders from Hilton Hotels, Nestle Waters and Xerox. In this interview, she discusses how marketing strategy and decisions about what media buying to keep in house vs. outside drives tech decisions.

Advertising Age: What's your take on the key to piecing together the marketing stack successfully?

Ms. Papadopoulos: I'm on the media side, so my focus is on creating better media buys. How are we buying more efficiently, targeting better, optimizing, measuring cross-media impact, and being able to do that across multiple audiences.

Ad Age: So in terms of making the media buy more efficient and effective, what do you need to do with tech?

Ms. Papadopoulos: We over the past few years have evolved. We're an in-house media and planning group. We have an in-house agency. When I began here six years ago we were doing probably 80% to 90% of our buying in-house and direct. Now it's probably more of a 60-40 split, where we're relying more on technology through our DSP [demand-side platform] and DMP [data-management platform] to be able to buy our media. It's not about efficiency necessarily. It's about a better experience for the end consumer, better targeting, applying all the rules of media planning in a smarter way.

Ad Age: How do you decide what to do in house vs. outside?

Ms. Papadopoulos: What we keep in-house and what we're investing in right now is the strategy part. What we've been outsourcing are the tools we're using and the engineers and expertise in the case of a DSP. We're bridging these two areas to provide the best solutions.

Ad Age: There's been a lot of scrutiny of late on transparency issues in media buying, and certainly programmatic digital has been at the epicenter of that. Does that influence your thinking in terms of what you do in-house vs. what you go outside for?

Ms. Papadopoulos: Even before we had issues around programmatic, in buying direct from a publisher or going through an ad-tech solution, trust is always going to be at the epicenter. Even having an in-house team that has more of a purview into what we're buying, it's still important to trust the partners we're enabling. With the technology in the exchange on our behalf, we're trusting the parameters are being deployed properly and that they're acting on our best behalf. That's also the issue when you're buying direct. You can't see every single impression that you buy. And therefore you have to be able to trust that whatever you put in your contract is actually being fulfilled.

Ad Age: When you're looking to improve your tech, how do you decide what to keep and what to add or replace?

Ms. Papadopoulos: We've invested in things that support our media-buying goals – things like programmatic, paid search, paid social, those things that require constant optimization and upgrading. In those cases we've usually gone with a couple of solutions and stuck with them as long as they're evolving to suit our needs. We changed our DSP this year because we're doing more programmatic. It's getting more complicated. We needed a solution that would meet the needs we had and where we were a priority to their business.

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