More Than Data: Pioneers Show Programmatic Is About People, Culture Too

It's been very interesting to hear the experiences of Moneysupermarket and eBay via The Drum's recent breakfast events. What shone out to me, after both had explained their experiences, was that programmatic is, to use a cliche, a "journey" as much as a "destination" and, as such, it's as much about the culture and the people within the organisation as it is the technology.

If we're honest, I think most people would assume the big, heavy lifting involved in running your first programmatic trials, as eBay recently did, or switching to your own in-house programmatic trading desk, as Moneysupermarket has done, would be all about the data. That certainly appears to be partly the case. Behind the presentations and figures there has clearly been a lot of checking vendors and asking the "what if" questions about how data is collected, stored, analysed and reported on more times than the marketing team can probably care to mention. There are a lot of vendors out there and it must be a complete mine field to stop asking an agency to handle the details for you and take it in-house. 

However, eBay revealed to The Drum that only one of its three observations it learned from its recent programmatic-only trial was actually technology-based -- basically a point saying that the tech isn't quite there yet. The other two were very different. Programmatic should not be seen in isolation but as part of a coordinated marketing effort, was the big point, and it should also be noted that clever humans are always needed to point the machines in the right direction. It's about humans and other marketing disciplines too, was the key message.

This internal education message was the central take-out from Moneysupermarket's experiences with Sammy Austin, the brand's Head of Programmatic, revealing that in-house training and education was a crucial part of the journey the brand has undertaken. Why is it so important? Well, you may think it's all about data, and there is an element of that, but the picture Austin gives is more one of moving marketing teams away from the last click model. Many companies have talked about doing this but never turn talk in to action. Moneysupermarket appears to be sincere in moving away from last click to understanding the full value of display and hence unlocking the potential, and understanding the ROI, of programmatic.

It's easy to imagine how any financial services brand can get tied up with de-duping endless cookies from multiple affiliates and losing site of the value provided by the earlier stages of a customer becoming exposed to the brand. A massive part of taking marketing more in-house would have to involve, then, listening a little less to the clamours of affiliates who claim they provided the conversion and understanding the fuller picture. It's also easy to imagine most financial service providers are not normally too concerned about the larger picture when handing x to an affiliate contributes x+1 to the bottom line. Job done.

Changing this mentality, then, is a crucial part of the programmatic journey which is clearly as much about proving the worth of looking beyond last click as it is demonstrating the power of using data to construct flexible, data-driven display campaigns.

So, very interesting to hear both eBay and Moneysupermarket report back that as much as programmatic is about data, it's at least as much again about educating marketing teams and working across silos.

The message from the early pioneers is very clear, programmatic is about data but it's also about people and culture.

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