Commentary

'If You're Not Learning Programmatic, You Won't Have A Job In The Next Two Years'

At the Programmatic Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe, there are many smart people talking about ad fraud, anti-fraud technologies, ad blocking, programmatic media, advertising creative and how to make it more interesting so that consumers won’t want to block it, publisher woes, data, privacy, and more.

These smart people — all leaders and practitioners — are busy learning and exchanging ideas. Emmy Spahr, head of programmatic at Razorfish, is one of the smart people at the Summit. She oversees programmatic media practices there and has worked over the past year to develop the agency’s self-service offering to clients. She is also focused on programmatic media education within Publicis agencies — she is on the steering committee for the holding company’s programmatic media education program.

“I truly believe that if you’re not learning this topic [programmatic media] you won’t have  a job in the next two years because everyone is adapting this model. [Razorfish] needed to embed programmatic expertise within the key stakeholders on the account teams,” Spahr said.

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What does she mean by self-service? Basically, it means that Razorfish has developed an offering where it is physically responsible for bidding and buying on the demand-side platforms (DSPs). The agency works primarily with The Trade Desk, but uses two others as well.

Razorfish also does direct buying, whether through specific publishers or ad networks via cost-per-acquisition and cost-per-click models, and it has a managed service programmatic offering. Spahr believes that Razorfish’s approach is more effective than the agency trading desk model that many media agencies use. Why? Because the traditional model has members of trading desks isolated from the entire media process — they are somewhat siloed and don’t have visibility into the client’s strategy and tweaks in the strategy. “In the more traditional agency trading desk model, there’s a lot lost in translation,” she said.

In the Razorfish model, the media planner that is spending the client’s budget is the same planner who is spending on DSPs. “They’re informed of the strategy from a high level all the way down, so they know what audiences we’re going after in each of our channels and they can duplicate that on the platforms. They can also take the learnings on our self-service buys and apply them to our direct buys,” Spahr explained.

In addition, the advantage of this model is that the same team that is presenting the media plan, insights, and reporting is pulling the levers — changing or increasing bids, removing an audience from a buy, and more. It all happens more seamlessly.

“When I arrived a year ago, I felt strongly that in order to foster media planners’ growth, this was the best model,” Spahr said. Now, she said, the search team is transitioning so that it can have a dual role.

“This is client-first decision-making. We’re trying to solve our clients’ problems,” she said.

Spahr said her focus is on removing the veil and trying to understand how ads appear. “How do you win that impression on that Web site? What do you need to understand to do that well? We’re training people as hard as we can.”

As for the Summit, Spahr said the biggest takeaway for her from Day 1 was that managing fraud is getting a bit easier. Putting best practices into place is the goal. Sure, “there is always going to be someone who’s gaming the system," she said, "but we’re at a stage now where we can move forward and address the problem.”

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