From the first discussions of real-time bidding (RTB) and its effect on digital advertising, concerns grew about the type of inventory that would be available and how it would be valued. The industry has recently addressed these fundamental concerns and has even predicted increased spend through RTB, particularly in video. With this new trend, and a world increasingly reliant on automated buying, there's been some questioning about the role of the sales team.
One trade journal recently asked, “Is the direct sales force in danger?” -- while NYU professor Charles Warner examined whether new buying tactics posed a threat to the seller. Fortunately, RTB does not signal the death of the digital sales team. However, some changes to the digital sales team strategy and structure are imminent.
Sellers should not be frightened by RTB, as it will not completely eliminate the need for a sales force. They, however, should turn their focus to (1) illustrating the differences between inventory accessed through the automated buying platforms and the inventory available via the publisher directly, and (2) evolving into marketplace educators and data resources for their clients. While sellers may be hesitant of the changes to come, they should recognize an opportunity to deepen their relationships with brands and agencies through a variety of communication channels.
RTB is a single tactic in a comprehensive advertising plan. It will still be the seller’s responsibility to make the sale (even if it’s a technology / platform sale), but they will have a huge opportunity to add more value for the buyer as time goes on. Even though RTB is a hot topic of late, it is still relatively nascent at its core, and glitches are still being fixed, especially on the video side. While both agencies and brands are trying to learn and embrace this new tactic, it is the salesperson’s job to make sure the buyer understands what RTB does, and the pros and cons that come with leveraging this sort of platform. If done well, this will enable sellers to maintain the relationship, serve as a necessary guide and add value to the discussion going forward.
Do not underestimate the value of market education during this rollout period. This includes tips on how to execute a buy through an RTB platform, along with informing clients how results appear, how to understand metrics, and how they can increase their overall performance with certain targeting parameters.
Sellers who work directly with brand clients have a distinct advantage, and video still remains the best branding channel available to them. Brand engagement and brand recall require a greater level of focus and understanding, and advertisers are less likely to entrust their branding efforts to an algorithm. They will require full-service RTB systems, where support is ready to work with them, answer questions and align their brand’s buying platforms to hit their goals.
The sales role should not diminish as RTB grows. Rather, it will be increasingly important for the seller to work closely with the advertiser on a strategic level. Advertising technology is still new, and sellers need to offer themselves as resources throughout the campaign process, as educators and strategic partners who can help the advertiser analyze and adjust not only their expectations, but their campaign outputs in real-time.