Target's Kristi Argyilan on What 'In-House Programmatic' Really Means

Ms. Argyilan Will Speak at Ad Age's Brand Summit on Nov. 4

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Kristi Argyilan
Kristi Argyilan

Target hired Kristi Argyilan a little over a year ago from IPG Mediabrands to support its growing, in-house digital buying and integrated marketing efforts. Ms. Argyilan, senior VP of marketing overseeing media and measurement at the company, will be speaking at Ad Age's Brand Summit in Los Angeles on Nov. 4. Here, she talks about what it really means to be have in-house programmatic, why Target keeps its data close to the vest and the power of digital influencers.

Advertising Age: What have you been focused on in your first year at Target? What have you changed since joining?

Ms. Argyilan: We're focused on a deeper understanding of who our guest is and, from a media perspective, on how we can connect with her and him. For marketing specifically, it's really being focused on "Expect More Pay Less" -- that brand promise -- and how to bring it to life in a more modern way. I've been focusing on what kind of expertise is required. If our guest wants to see us on TV or video or on a mobile phone, how are we creating a seamless experience for him or her.

Advertising Age: What do you need to do to make that seamless experience happen?

Ms. Argyilan: One of the most interesting things here is we have access to first-party data, so we have a clear understanding of how our guests move from one channel to another and what kind of message resonates with her when we engage in those moments, and how it manifests itself. We're using influencers in ways we never had before. YouTube is defining a new definition of celebrity. But to have a natural endorsement of Target, because of the role we play in an influencer's life, that's powerful. It replicates the way Target used to market, but in a modern way through technology.

Advertising Age: Where does paid media fit into that?

Ms. Argyilan: We're finding that it's not just [using] TV with a couple of social posts. It's creating these live events and then using the social channels to amplify them in the moment. The Target style campaign in market now is a good example of that. There were a couple of primary channels we were using. For the style campaign, what that looks like is, we have TV -- big paid media -- but also influencers as a channel, and also programmatic defining those digital assets we want to put out in the marketplace in the right moment. The big branding moment is influencers endorsing what we're doing organically because they have a lot of Target love. Then we drive a promotional message or how-to messaging through programmatic channels.

Advertising Age: Are you spending more on programmatic?

Ms. Argyilan: Yes, definitely. Every marketer is headed in that direction because of the first-party data. We have our own exchange and private marketplace, and in that marketplace we have every channel represented, including some experimental video and TV.

Advertising Age: How much more are you spending?

Ms. Argyilan: We don't have a goal set up that way. It's more about what does the program require.

Advertising Age: Target has been handling programmatic in-house for a while now. What does that really mean?

Ms. Argyilan: We have our own exchange built in-house that would look similar to some of the trading desks that sit at the agencies. It's not only an experience that's programmatic and automation, but a combination with my creative agency experience that brings us up and over the top. Instead of data and tech, we're now more about the human side, and how we allow data and tech to connect [everyone] on a personal level.

For any kind of programmatic capability, our data will always sit within our four walls. The data impacts every aspect of our business. We would never parse it out to someone else. [But] we're not committed to only building a solution in our four walls. If there's a tech need we have, or a platform that already exists that we can borrow, we're very open to that. We're considering whether there's an external partner or a capability that will move us forward faster than trying to do it ourselves.

Advertising Age: Do you have your own data management platform as well? Are you still open to working with external vendors?

Ms. Argyilan: We have platform partners we work with, but our data never goes beyond our use.

Advertising Age: What's your take on the different programmatic models at agencies, such as non-disclosed arbitrage versus transparent contracts?

Ms. Argyilan: I really believe that it depends on what the circumstance is. What I'm really pro is that both sides feel like it's a fair business arrangement. So there absolutely needs to be honesty in the relationship. Both sides should just feel like it's a fair business proposition for all.

Advertising Age: What does your programmatic function look like in the future?

Ms. Argyilan: I really think our guest expectations from us, and how we engage with them, are incredibly high. The access that technology really gives them to brands, to experiences is [influencing] how our guest expects us to engage and behave with them. We're figuring out how to do that. Not two seconds late, but in the moment is the thinking I'm most focused on now. It's about how you fulfill all content requirements, and how you get the right message in front of guests and at scale. It's something that's evolving. We're adding new partners. It's an ecosystem we're bringing to the table.

Ms. Argyilan will discuss how Target is integrating programmatic and digital initiatives to deliver on its "Expect More, Pay Less" brand promise at Ad Age's Brand Summit in Los Angeles on Nov. 4. Register here:

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