Commentary

Programmatic Field Of Dreams?

With opening day just weeks away, I’m reminded of the classic 1989 film “Field of Dreams.” The main character, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner), is inspired to build a baseball diamond in his Iowa cornfield when he hears a voice telling him: “If you build it, he will come.”

Digital publishers seem to be hearing a similar message in regard to the programmatic private marketplace (PMP) — that by just making these types of deals available, buyers and their ad dollars will follow.

The reality is not that simple. Yes, growth in programmatic is real. PMP is becoming an increasingly larger part of that pie.  We estimate it will account for 40% of all programmatic revenue by the end of 2017 (vs. 20% in 2016).  

However, while programmatic may be automated, it’s not completely “automatic.” PMP sales need to be carefully planned and executed to be successful, considering three key factors: a differentiating strategy, strong outbound sales efforts and effective ad operations.

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Building A Strategy

The ultimate question publishers need to answer is this: what makes their PMP offerings unique, vs. what buyers could expect to get in the open marketplace? If not unique, why would the buyer go through the effort of setting up such a deal vs. the happy hunting of the open exchange?

It’s hard to justify if it’s basically the same inventory and elements, just at a higher price point. For publishers to win with PMP, it’s critical that they create a distinct offering and proposition from that being offered in real-time bidding (RTB). First-party data access, second-party data matching, first look, high viewability and special elements of content (not available in the open exchange) could all be part of this proposition.

Building Sales Efforts

The major supply-side platforms have dedicated teams and have developed various showcases to highlight publisher opportunities. But these efforts can only go so far in making a publisher’s inventory discoverable. If sellers aren’t making outbound efforts, the inbound emails and phone calls from buyers simply won’t happen. Outreach needs to include not only the general digital agency buying groups, but also the respective trading desks, demand-side platforms (DSPs), and in some cases in-house teams at the brand. Adjustments may be needed to seller coverage; the trading desk and DSP landscape will likely not perfectly align with agency assignments.  

Programmatic, of course, is an audience-based approach to selling media, and there can be a big difference in how publishers approach this marketplace vs. their direct sales efforts.  While good digital sales teams have always been adept at selling their respective property or site, it’s now about selling the value of their audience — and understanding how that audience can fit into the targets of their agency and brand clients.

Building Operations

In PMP, the work of the sales team doesn’t end once the deal closes. From making sure the Deal ID is correct, confirming targeting parameters, impression levels, correct platform, etc., mismanagement of just one single factor can mean 0 dollars delivered.

And, just as important as the correct inputs for setting up the deal, is how the deal relates to a publisher’s other sales activity. Competing demand sources such as open RTB, direct sales activity and header bidding can all potentially impact the success of a publisher’s PMP deal. So, it’s absolutely critical that PMP activity is closely coordinated with both the publisher’s open and direct sales efforts. The operations team should not be in a silo, but a partner in the sales effort.  

As more ad revenue shifts to programmatic channels, the PMP may well be the answer to publishers’ revenue dreams. However, to make this dream a reality, they need to also build a proper strategy, sales effort and operations support.  

So, yes, build it, and they will come. But, as Ray also heard in the movie, publishers need to “go the distance.”

2 comments about "Programmatic Field Of Dreams? ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 16, 2017 at 11:23 a.m.

    Good one, Scott, I hope they listen. One thing that I have mentioned before is the idea of segregating "private" deals fron so-called "network" buys. Why can't certain sections and/or editorial items on a publisher's website be reserved only for private direct buys and publisher placement---at premium CPMs, but with an ad-friendly, low clutter, environment---while the low ball, automated network buys get crowded into the less important, ad cluttered, sections of the website?That type of differentiation would enhance the appeal of the private placements, I would think, and, over time, shift more and more of a publisher's ad revenues to higher yield deals.

  2. Scott Bender from Prohaska Consulting replied, March 16, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.

    Thank you Ed, and great feedback!  And yes, that is one example of the type of differentiation publishers need to provide if they are going to be competitive to both their own open RTB offerings, as well as that of the general marketplace.  Thank you again for the thoughts.

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