Brands Want To Buy Programmatically From Publishers - Are They Ready?

According to an Infectious Media study, 71% of recently surveyed advertisers, agencies are struggling to adapt programmatic and want to “shake up” the agency-client relationship.

Some brands believe they are better staffed to handle programmatic in-house and that managing it on their own will increase buying transparency and supply better control of the overall process.  It sounds great, but it begs the question: Are publishers even ready for the technology and process change to come?

While the percentage of programmatic ad deals may be increasing and brands eager to jump on board and buy programmatically directly from publishers, there remains an asymmetry between the two. Although most large consumer publishers have embraced programmatic selling, many of the smaller consumer ones have not — and most b2b publishers are not yet selling programmatically.

For many publishers, programmatic simply is too great a divergence from how they’ve traditionally done business. Publishers value direct relationships with more information, so that they can better ensure the success of the campaign. The closer the relationship with the client, the better able they are to support the marketers goals and ultimately help them be more successful.



Publishers want to deploy more high value solutions that specifically address the client's challenges in the market. The hope is that clients will already value publisher’s inventory and audiences; they will be willing to pay more for those audiences given their knowledge of the sites.

They don’t want to be so focused on the lowest common denominator (price). This would explain why programmatic only accounts for roughly 10% of publishers digital ad revenue, per Omniture.

Conversely, publishers see that brands may simply use available data to find their target audience anywhere (open exchanges) that customers go. As many brands are in the beginning stages of bringing programmatic in-house, this may seem like the easiest option to them.  

Brands may also begin to see the publisher as an “agency” and put pressure on them for “agency” type jobs that are not resource appropriate for publishers. Since there is no filter between the client and the publisher, if something goes wrong, the publisher can be left holding the bag and ultimately blamed for lack of success. 

Finally, programmatic it is still a very manual process, particularly for it to be successful. Unless the client is willing to invest in the people and platforms, they will not be able to fully support programmatic in a way that it will work for them.

Programmatic is not a panacea for the complexities of digital media.

Ultimately, a direct relationship between publisher and brand is always better for the publisher.  It gives them incredible access to the client’s success metrics, stakeholders and builds a partnership that is reliant on mutual success. Having direct relationships gives them access to key stakeholders, success metrics, and closer relationship to make adjustments when things don’t go as planned.

Smart publishers should prep for this change by building out internal processes to handle all clients requests. They should also look at the impact it will have on their sales team and incentivize the same for direct sold or programmatic campaigns. The sales team should be focused on doing what is best for the client and what will ultimately drive more revenue for the publisher.

For publishers, the key will is flexibility and a willingness to invest in the systems and people that give them the best chance to support clients, however they buy media.

1 comment about "Brands Want To Buy Programmatically From Publishers - Are They Ready?".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, June 19, 2018 at 2:37 p.m.

    Very good points. I agree as a first step. The changes you suggest can be taken further. You can also add coded text link sales. This is what we sell the most and we have worked directly with a number of major brands and agencies. Coded text links have been around since the beginning but have fallen off the table. Bring this back. 

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