The Rise Of The Programmatic Agency

DSP-driven programmatic media buying was first introduced to Madison Avenue around 2008.  At the time, trading desks would become the media agencies of the future. After all, they were the most profitable parts of every holding company.

Typically, when one follows the money trail, they are usually led to the answers. But in this case, we were sort of wrong.

We didn’t estimate the importance of transparency, thinking it was just enough to deliver better performance. And in many cases, that’s still true. We also didn’t think it would take so long for TV to become addressable, which for the most part it isn’t.  TV still earns the lion’s share of media budgets. 

Finally, we didn’t estimate that the tools to buy media programmatically would become so easy to use -- the term we use is self-serve.

But one thing we did know was that whoever had the best insight would win. That’s a truth that’s proven every time. Today, the best insights come from data derived by the programmatic buying groups, which is why it makes so much sense to put programmatic at the core of every media agency.



Programmatically derived insights provide better consumer insights that inform offline and online channel selections, as well as messaging opportunities. As data-driven decisions increase, we envision the end of survey-based research. Nielsen probably does too, which is why it bought eXelate.

Because insights matter, we’ve transformed our agency into a programmatic agency. We didn’t build another trading desk; instead we fully integrated programmatic buying into the agency by transforming our search teams into our programmatic media group.

Since search was the first programmatic channel, search buyers would easily understand how to buy media in auction environments. We were right: The integration has been quick and transformative. Over the last few months, we’ve been training the individual brand teams to buy programmatic media; now a lot more people than just our search staff know how to use DSPs.

There will soon be a day when all new agency media staffers will know how to use DSPs, leverage DMPs and work with SSPs, just like they use to learn to use MRI and Simmons. And in the process, they’ll probably get to leverage a lot more insights. And they’ll win.
3 comments about "The Rise Of The Programmatic Agency".
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  1. Jonathan Adams from Maxus, March 20, 2015 at 8:05 a.m.

    This is a great idea Barry. It's something I know many agencies have contemplated and yet been nervous to embrace as fully as you and your teams have. I'm sure there are unintended consequences in front of you, but congrats on taking the leap -- because embracing change is the only way to go these days. (It's part of our motto at Maxus as well).

  2. Jason Jedlinski from Twelvefold Media, March 20, 2015 at 4:15 p.m.

    Absolutely agree: insights are where it's at. What can be learned through a transparent programmatic buy has applications far beyond campaign activation and optimization. At Twelvefold, we "listen" to nearly 30 billion daily impressions in order to offer marketers a rich, real-time understanding of what's actually being written, watched and read online. Our clients have successfully used that perspective to steer creative and offline strategy.

  3. Thomas Triscari from Labmatik, March 23, 2015 at 9:14 a.m.


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