Planning A Programmatic Practice: How-Tos

More media planning and buying agencies are building their own programmatic capabilities.  This development is driven by brands looking for more transparency into their current programmatic buys, most notably into fees, strategies, viewability, and ad fraud.

At the same time, it’s become much easier to buy programmatically.  DSPs are arming agencies with powerful buying and targeting technologies that are more intuitive to use, especially for media professionals accustomed to user-interfaces and search engine marketers.  DSPs also offer an abundance of free training and ongoing support.  But while understanding the fine details of running programmatic media is pivotal to start an in-house practice, it’s not enough for it to thrive.  There are three questions agencies should ask before starting their own programmatic media practice.

How will programmatic costs be covered?  Agencies may fail to realize how expensive it can be to support a programmatic team.  Labor is obviously the largest added cost.  While there may be qualified staff within every agency, new hires will be needed to handle the added work.  Without them, agencies risk burning out staff members who have pre-existing responsibilities, which can lead to attrition and added hiring costs. 



Tech fees are typically small but can quickly build up.  These include fees to use the DSP, third-party data providers, data onboarding, contextual add-ons and fraud-prevention tools. Rationalizing these added costs to clients may also be difficult if they are used to working with trading desks, whose model obfuscates fees.  Before investing in a programmatic team, agencies need to consider how costs will be covered or else a team will become more trouble (and less profitable) than it’s worth.

What is the process for running programmatic media? Agencies scrambling to set up programmatic buys should slow down and take the time to document all the nuances of their entire process. A well-documented process is the primary evidence that a team is capable of running programmatic buys, instilling trust within the agency and externally with clients and new prospects.  It also provides training guidelines on how to operate buys and how to speak about programmatic in a consistent manner. 

How will the agency integrate with programmatic media?  The competitive advantage of an in-house team comes from the ability to leverage the full resources of the agency.  Media strategists have access to client information and targeting insights that can flow more quickly and seamlessly to an internal programmatic team.  This includes publisher-specific strategies and optimizations, brand safety parameters, relevant current events related to the brand and its stakeholders, and brand communications not shared publicly. Analytics teams also have access to robust information about a brand’s site, audience, and creative, which can refine programmatic targets. 

In turn, programmatically sourced information can provide media strategists with new opportunities.  Many DSPs can quantify audience sizes and the related impressions and cost.  This can be used to inform targeting strategies on other buys and content/creative development.  Placement reports can uncover top performing categories and sites that may not have been considered.  Integrating programmatic media into the full operations of the agency creates a buy that is part of a more complete media story -- much more powerful than any isolated programmatic buy.

Media agencies are right to build out programmatic capabilities, given how much budget will be flowing to these channels, and  how many channels will become automated.  If they don’t, they will very quickly become irrelevant. Agencies just need to make sure they are taking the right precautions to do it properly.

1 comment about "Planning A Programmatic Practice: How-Tos".
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  1. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, January 28, 2015 at 11:12 a.m.

    So we jumped into the programmatic space about 3 years ago, first with a managed DSP solution and then quickly moved to a self service trading desk of our own. I had asked countless people how many people I should allocate to running our trading desk, and almost all said it's a one-person job or an add on. DEAD wrong! If you want to just let an algorithm run your strategies, then leave it with a DSP, there are plenty of good ones out there. But if you're going to truly own the media space, then everyone in your media department should know and be deeply involved in the process and understand the technology. And I couldn't agree more - document the process! Our huge advantage over other shops right now is our experience and know how in avoiding programmatic pit falls. Learnings like "black-listing sites won't help you" and others can only be learned with experience - but if you don't document that experience, then each new person you hire has to learn it on their own.

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