7 Programmatic Lessons From Vonage's Szumowski

"Always be testing," (a reference to the "Glengarry Glen Ross" line "Always be closing"), was a key lesson Katie Szumowski, VP-media, Vonage, provided in her keynote, "The Promise of Programmatic," for MediaPost's Programmatic Insider Summit today.

The speech began with some background on programmatic at Vonage, which is best known for its consumer Internet-phone business.

"Obviously, the industry has changed significantly," Szumowski said. The home phone market dwindled, and the need to expand came up.

Strategy was repositioned to the B2B side recently, and one significant challenge was to build credibility among business decision-makers and move from mid- to upper funnel.

Szumowski shared what the company has learned during this transition:

1. Have a dedicated team, both internally and with agency partners. Find a small, focused group that can "speak tech" and communicate it to others in the organization.



2. Invest time upfront in partner selection. Everyone wants to rush in and make decisions, but the brand knows itself best. "We don't believe it's a one-size-fits-all, whatever it is," she said about finding partners.

3. First-party data trumps all others. "My thoughts on this is, if you're limited in budget or in time — focus on building your internal database and cleansing that."

4. Don't be afraid to go old-school. Not once, but twice, Vonage has done a couple of holdout tests — staging an experiment with a control group — to prove the value of programmatic. Go back to core competencies.

5. Programmatic can drive mid- and upper funnel. We did some "pretty impressive tests" to show this. It really has proven to be successful as the industry evolves.

6. Creative is key. "Lousy creative" can still be effective in programmatic, and there is room to improve from that perspective. Ensure that creative partners have the tech and education to develop all the assets needed.

7. And finally, yes, "always be testing." Whether it's driven by C-Suite or another executive, the point is to always be in testing mode in this always-changing programmatic industry.

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