I thought the sales team integration between traditional digital sellers and these new “programmatic czars” would happen well before the traditional agencies and their trading desk siblings would come together. On the buy side, we’re talking about separate talent, budgets, and client objectives that would need to come together. And because of the financial motivations and organizational culture differences there, I thought publishers would get folks lined up sooner than entire companies shifting around, especially when there is some healthy tension, or at times animosity between a few agencies and their desks.
If we look at the scoreboard today, I am behind in my prediction. I don’t know more than five or six decent-sized publishers in the U.S. that have truly integrated programmatic sales and operations into their overall teams yet. And two of those are “integrated” because they decided to eliminate their sales team altogether, so I’m not sure those count. Meanwhile, at least two of the six biggest major holding companies have begun the challenging but important and strategic process of cross-training their teams to integrate traditional and programmatic buying practices. And I’ll bet at least one of the others -- not including one major exception that has a very different business model -- will start by the end of this year.
I was lucky to be asked to participate a few weeks ago with one of the desks, teaching programmatic to their traditional agency colleagues. It was great to see, if you’re a fan of the programmatic industry growing up, because this group was deeply engaged and picking it up very well. And it wasn’t because they are afraid of it, or angry because they think if they don’t learn it, they’ll be out of a job -- but because they know they are expanding their skill sets and making themselves more valuable to their company and clients.
Many of us know that buyers got about a three-year head start in programmatic vs. sellers, partially because the ad-tech companies were more focused on providing buy-side tools. And now some buyers have a head start in providing a complete team and client solution, starting to take advantage of executing on Branding + DR, Upper + Lower Funnel, First + Third-Party Data, and Custom + Standardized.
I don’t think the term programmatic will exist three years from now, since doing programmatic will just be known as “doing business.” The steps that the leaders at the two participating holding companies, agencies, and trading desks have taken put them in a great position to streamline their operation, improve their culture, and ultimately keep and win more business. I hope the publishers can start to catch up.