Q&A With IMS' Nancy Mullahy

Nancy Mullahy, CEO of IMS, is on the cutting edge of today’s media transformation as agencies grapple with understanding the ever-expanding consumer choices of platforms and the evolution of programmatic buying. Mullahy’s background includes research, and her acumen in data lends well to this changeable media environment. Asked to describe her “average day,” she talks about meeting with those who are exploring new ways of looking at data and its applications.

Videos for my interview with her can be viewed here. Below is an edited excerpt:

CW: Nancy, what exactly is programmatic?

NM: Despite what we have heard in the industry, programmatic is not the opposite of premium. Programmatic is just automated buying. What’s exciting is that it’s an automated level of buying that is really enhanced by data, especially audience data.



Interestingly, when you really dig down deep to find out how many people are actually involved in understanding what programmatic is and what all the opportunities are, [you find] a surprisingly limited group of people. Many times, that skills set is centered around managed services.

So currently, as an industry, we hand off a certain amount of our media allocation to a managed services programmatic partner, if you will, and it is their intention to do the best job possible against our objectives. But I think that alone definitely misses the point, because we haven’t trained the people who are actually making that allocation to be any smarter about what the process is, [and] what takes place. And that is a critical component of really advancing data and its application toward targeting, going forward.

We are going to see more programmatic across more channels as we see media evolve in the next couple of years. I am shocked at how fast it has moved into the marketplace to date, and to what degree it has been executed.  It’s not just here in the United States -- it is also on a global basis. So it is exciting.

We have our own trading desk here at IMS. We did that intentionally because we wanted to be sure that everyone here who is actually involved on our team truly understands the intricacies and the opportunities within programmatic. And we are using programmatic not just for digital applications today.

CW: Do you think there will ever be a new standard metric that will enable us to measure across platforms?

NM: I have two thoughts on this question. One is that the industry will always want what I call “interim metrics”: things that are less interesting, such as impressions.

My second thought is that we are moving toward business performance where every business has its different set of metrics. It is something we really believe in at IMS. We believe in getting as close as absolutely possible to revenue, and making sure that you have a healthy brand.

When you start to get close into revenue, as close as you can possibly get, it makes the idea of impressions or view-throughs or whatever metric it may be, slightly less interesting. I truly believe that as an industry, little by little, we are moving into a space of measured business results that is going to take us down the path toward really being a partner with clients.

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