Search (Programmatic) Agency of the Year: The Media Kitchen

There are many reasons MediaPost could have picked The Media Kitchen as its agency of the year for 2014. As it has every year in recent years, it excels in vision, innovation and leadership in many key areas, especially its own culture. While it is a standalone media services organization embedded within parent KBS+ and holding company MDC Partners, it maintains its own persona, philosophical and client-services approach that is separate and differentiated from the rest of its sister organizations, yet somehow sublimely integrated around a concept coined within TMK, but embrace by all of MDC’s companies: “creative entrepreneurship.”

TMK literally wrote the book on that, and the book is part of the core curriculum of an agency training program run by KBS+ Ventures, a venture capital unit within the company. The training program is unique because it doesn’t teach agency executives to create better ads or buy media better; it trains them on how to be a start-up. The reason the company trains its best and brightest people on how to be an entrepreneur is not because it wants them to leave, but because it believes having that mindset and those skills and knowledge will help them be more creatively entrepreneurial people inside their organization.

In the end, we selected TMK as our search agency of the year for 2014 because of how it applied that philosophical approach of creative entrepreneurism to the discipline of search, as well as one the TMK team believes is fundamentally linked and integrated with it: programmatic media-buying.

In fact, it was TMK President Barry Lowenthal who first began talking about search and programmatic audience buying as being components of a greater whole — a marketplace he refers to as “biddable media.” So it makes sense that TMK would restructure its burgeoning search and programmatic practices into one integrated whole, which has been renamed the Programmatic Media Buying Group.

As part of the move, TMK created its own programmatic trading technology working with sister trading desk Varick Media Partners and an outside provider, The Trade Desk, that enables the group to handle all their trading on a “self-serve” basis, meaning the group’s client teams can leverage the best marketplace technology, audience and intelligence to build programmatic media solutions for specific client goals and strategies.

The result is a much more decentralized approach to all forms of biddable media—both search and display — that are based on individual client goals.

“Our search team is imbedded in each of our client teams, so the buying is already more decentralized than it was when VMM was doing it all. Also, we’ve already started training online buyers,” explains Lowenthal, adding that he sees the restructuring as part of an ongoing process that will evolve as the marketplace TMK’s team trades in evolves.

“Decentralizing is a process,” he explains, adding, “First we moved it back to TMK by way of our search teams, and then we decentralized it even further by having non-search digital buyers buy programmatic media.”

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