From Search To Programmatic: In-House Programmatic Capabilities Will Start With Paid-Search Teams

Originally, agencies centralized all programmatic media buying at a trading desk. We had to. We needed a group dedicated to learning the new technologies with quantitative skills unfamiliar to most media agencies.

But now we’ve started to bring it back into the agency. Instead of creating a separate group, we’ve folded programmatic into our search team, rebranded it (now called the Programmatic Media Buying Group), and fully integrated programmatic media buying strategies into every single planning team.

Search engine marketers were the original real-time auction-buying professionals. We just called it something different back then. Programmatic advertising is essentially the use of software to facilitate media buying; paid search was built on that very idea. Like traders, they manage bids within an auction. They are constantly testing and monitoring performance, looking for new scale and efficiency opportunities.

In fact, paid-search professionals were always primed to run programmatic media-buying, but search engine marketers were not ready when ad exchanges first emerged in 2007. The technology needed to operate within ad exchanges required specialized buyers that were more closely aligned with the inner workings of the technology. Most paid-search teams also operated in isolation from their planning counterparts.

Much has changed since the inception of trading desks, allowing for the decentralization of programmatic media-buying. Advertisers now want more transparency and control over their entire media buys. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) have developed user-friendly self-service UIs and strong support systems. The industry as a whole has also become much smarter about how programmatic media works. At the same time, the search engine marketer has evolved. Paid search has become much more incorporated into overall advertising strategies, and with this integration, search engine marketers have become more knowledgeable about their clients’ businesses and overall media plans. They have also begun to take on more display-buying responsibilities, most notably contextually targeted buys and paid social buys with Facebook and Twitter. Paid-search professionals have repositioned themselves to take on programmatic media buying.

Upon seeing this evolution, The Media Kitchen built its own in-house programmatic media buying capabilities within its paid-search team. Our paid search team has embraced programmatic media -- they love the opportunity to learn more channels and buying strategies. We’re using a combination of DSPs and other tools created by Varick Media Management (MDC Partners’ trading desk) specifically for us.

Having worked on different types of buys and UIs, our paid-search team has found the DSP interfaces and optimization strategies to be very intuitive. They are also working with DSPs, SSPs, and DMPs to understand the programmatic space better and already finding new opportunities for our clients. Since our paid-search teams are closely aligned with the media plans, they are able to activate buys and react in real-time with a deep understanding of our clients’ advertising goals and strategies. 

While paid-search teams will be the foundation, we believe programmatic media buying will eventually be ingrained into every media planner and buyer. Just as our teams are fluent in online and offline strategies, they will be fluent in programmatic media buying solutions. 

Our programmatic media-buying team has begun working with our planners and buyers to show them how programmatic media could enhance their buys. In turn, our planners have begun to approach all of their existing publisher-direct buys with programmatic media in mind, looking to create private marketplaces to target their audiences more directly. The Media Kitchen sees paid-search teams as just the start of a more complete in-house, fully integrated programmatic media-buying solution. 

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