In Programmatic, Bigger Is NOT Better

The advantage of working in a start-up or small agency is that while everyone has his or her specific roles, everyone is also available to help one another get the job done.  So while creatives and buyers have superficially unrelated jobs, they collaborate to ensure that the right campaigns are shown in the right markets. 

As companies grow, this sort of constant collaboration naturally becomes more difficult.  The one-room office turns into a one-floor office, with programmers, marketers, account reps, and others each relegated to their own areas.  The group is still small enough for socializing but too big for constant communication.  But still, help is only a few feet away, with collaboration not only possible but encouraged.

The real problems with inter-departmental collaboration occur when mid-size agencies begin to more closely resemble much larger competitors like Publicis and Omnicom, or the megacorp they would have become if their merger had not failed.  Since the agreement fell through two months ago, hindsight has allowed analysts and industry insiders to look at all of the reasons the deal itself didn’t work out (pride and semantics), but there’s been little discussion about how the two companies’ structures, when combined, would likely have hindered the very change they sought to implement across the industry. 



Any organization of that size tends to move at a glacial pace when compared with smaller, more agile companies in the same industry.  And yet we bow before the titans of the business, ignoring the fact that agility leads smaller competitors to be better suited for a lot of advertising work, largely because they are far more able to adopt new technologies and strategies.  Chief among those, in my opinion, is programmatic buying.

It’s true that the combined powers of Publicis and Omnicom would have meant the consolidation of massive amounts of data — data that theoretically would be useful for programmatic purchasing.  But what good is that data, if it is stored in disparate chunks across several departments in several physical locations, owned by teams that do not communicate with one another?

Silos are the enemy of modern marketing.  They allow for verticalized specialization, but destroy the spirit of collaboration, making sharing nearly impossible.  And if you can’t share insights and analysis efficiently across teams, you can’t get the full spectrum of data needed to enable and execute smart programmatic campaigns.  So instead of focusing on the kind of size that makes silos possible, then, we need to focus on smarts.

Some of the best agencies working in programmatic buying have fewer than 30 people on their team.  But each of those 30 people has a very specific intelligence to bring to the team.  By working together, Jon the creative and Jane the account rep and Kyle the buyer can devise, design, and deploy a campaign that is far more effective than anything produced via silos, and that campaign can be better targeted and yield stronger results for their clients and partners.

Programmatic, contrary to what people believe, does not happen automatically, as if by magic.  It happens because the right teams of people come together with good analysis of extensive and relevant data and use technology to bring that insight to life across the digital media ecosystem at scale. 

It would have been very difficult for Publicis-Omnicom to become a leader in programmatic.  While there were many reasons hindsight tells us the deal was destined to collapse, I think its biggest failure was in something nobody seemed to think was a problem: at that size, they would never have been able to innovate and adapt with the speed and agility required in this day and age.  In the age of data, programmatic, and technology, we have seen time and again that bigger is not better.

1 comment about "In Programmatic, Bigger Is NOT Better".
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  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 11, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.

    Thank you for taking the time to write
    Such broad conceptual application! We can all learn.
    Onwards & upwards!

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