UM's COO On RTB: If It's Not Programmatic, It's Manual, Not Premium

Gregg Colvin, U.S. COO at Universal McCann (UM) is very experienced with both programmatic (@agency) and premium (@Fox Networks). As a trained lawyer and COO, he has a pragmatic grasp on all aspects of the RTB marketplace. I recently interviewed Colvin, who has watched the programmatic revolution from the inside. Believe it or not, he sees the glass as more than half full and herein even addresses a few of the issues to make RTB even better.

RTB is seeing huge increases in spending year-over-year and it is just the beginning. Colvin is excited by the amount of media going through RTB and expects it to grow exponentially among the top agency holding groups. As an early leader in the space, UM is betting on RTB for its profitable future.

The slow adoption of programmatic was due in part to the underlying preconception that RTB comprised less desirable inventory. However, recent improvements have changed this perspective. Among the issues spurring the adoption of more programmatic buying is the vast improvement in ad viewability. "Publishers understand the demand for superior video ad experiences and, as a result, we have seen dramatic improvements over the last six months."



The fact that consumers are actually seeing and interacting with programmatically placed ads has provided marketers with the confidence to move from manual custom and spreadsheet ad buying to premium at scale programmatic explains Colvin. Old-school methods like A/B testing have been replaced by dynamic ads placed in what UM terms “Moments that Matter,” and below-the-fold units have been replaced by programmatically purchased premium units.

Having sold the issues of digital programmatic, programmatic buying is literally ready for primetime. In fact, Colvin says that RTB has become a critical component of the UM practice. “TV remains the primary vehicle for reach and frequency, so we need programmatic RTB to play an integral role.” Programmatic RTB is no longer relegated to a single medium or tactic.

UM is investing heavily in programmatic as the inventory goes cross-platform into mobile, social, video and TV. Clearly, programmatic yields greater financial savings but the human impact is the most underappreciated. Colvin states that programmatic allows media experts to focus on the primary media issues. As a result, UM planning teams can focus on being innovators, strategists and true vertical media experts. “Programmatic allows us to double down on contextual relevancy, moments that matter, creating the most compelling consumer media mix.” 

Multiplatform programmatic will get more sophisticated regardless of medium.  This sophistication will finally make things simpler, not harder or time consuming.   Under Colvin’s leadership, UM has seen an increase in funding technology; however the underlying foundational elements will always be strong media practitioners – automation with a human touch. 

As agency COO, Colvin has come 180 degrees on his view of programmatic and RTB over the last two years. RTB is finally allowing digital advertising to deliver on its promise, says Colvin.

Colvin is one of the more forward-thinking-COOs, who is embracing programmatic for the future of the media business. He has a vision of the future but is grounded in his understanding of the past. This experience has him thinking socially, technically and financially of RTB’s future, which is bright.

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