Publishers and Programmatic — Nine Publishers Answer Six Key Questions About Embracing Automation — The Jay Sears Interviews

This article was originally published in Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers.

Ad holding companies are slashing the number of publisher vendors they contract with annually by up to 90% from an average of 3,000 today to a goal of 300, according to anecdotal reports. Ad holding companies are looking to leverage programmatic and advertising automation across all media buying, not just the unsold or performance market. If it can be automated, it will be automated. Ad holding companies are expecting programmatic and automated delivery to be part of every upfront discussion—and that discussion will be about leveraging automation to access unique opportunities around both media and first party publisher data.

For sellers, it will be a tale of two cities. Successful sellers will know how to identify, package and sell unique opportunities around their media and first party data via the automated channel. The automation is simply a means to an end — a required tool to allow you to successfully package and sell.

How do sellers wind up on the top of the heap versus struggling in a bloated, growing sea of irrelevance? If you are a publisher or chief revenue officer, can you answer these six questions?



(VIDEO: We presented the topics covered in this article during a presentation at the Festival of Media Global in Rome, Italy on April 7, 2014)

1. Unique media + unique data. Do your conversations with buyers include leveraging not just unique media assets but unique data assets as well? Have you connected your DMP to your order automation and auction platform?

At The Financial Times, Commercial Director,Global Advertising and Insight Jon Slade reports: “We are happy to surface our first party data… why wouldn’t we add value by doing that? We’ve said that from day one. Every impression on has up to two dozen targetable data points against it, so our task is to bring that data together and create smart packages for our customers that help them reach the perfect audience target.” For Matěj Novák of the Czech Publisher Exchange , a cooperative of 5 leading Czech online publishers who joined to sell programmatically to better face the competition of global players like Google and Facebook, the implementation of first party data strategies is a key priority in 2014. First party data “is very important for the development of programmatic trading as a data market is virtually nonexistent in the Czech Republic,” says Novák.

2. Pricing segmentation across channels. Do you have an offer and pricing segmentation strategy to offer your best, most important buyers access across “direct and indirect” channels? Don’t you already use this methodology in direct sold business to extend the impact of a custom program or reach a blended cost basis? The controls exist today to claw back “indirect” and make this part of the discussion with your best customers. Manage the channels; don’t let the channels manage you.

At USA TODAY Sports Media Group, Chris Pirrone, General Manager, Sports Digital Properties, reports they are “fully engaged with programmatic across all channels [direct, private and open marketplaces] and see it as a necessary source to drive demand for our large set of display, mobile and pre-roll inventory.” Over at Telegraaf Media Groep in the Netherlands , Head of Revenue Development Martin van der Meij says, “Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold — manual, direct order automation and auction. Salespeople have a responsibility at an advertiser level. This means we don’t care how they spend their money. As long as they spend budgets with us.”

3. Direct order automation. Have you built out your direct order automated channel? If a media planer or buyer can look on your company’s web site or call a sales rep and see a full media kit, a full editorial calendar and a full rate card, can they do this via your direct order automation channel? Have you adequately represented your unique media and unique data assets? Do you and your reps know selling and negotiation skills are needed more than ever to leverage automation? Do you know you can maintain full pricing and channel control?

“Workflow efficiency and the opportunity to blend brand publisher data pools into the buy and layer across inventory are the obvious reasons for us,” says Slade at the Financial Times on direct order automation. For Rob Brett, Vice President of Programmatic Sales at Viacom Media Networks , “Allowing clients and agencies access via automated channels is critical for the digital business, the scale and speed will demand it.”

And at Tribune Digital, Lori Tavoularis, Managing Director, Revenue Partnerships reports order automation and its adoption are evolving and already include premium placements such as home page, IAB Rising Stars and rich media ad units. “At one point we did not think we would allow Rising Star or Rich Media via programmatic and now we are,” says Tavoularis.

4. Use transparency to your advantage. Want you know what buyers really think? Go naked on your terms. Every day you put your company’s brand and your own sales team’s best foot forward. You segment and manage your channels. Why don’t you do the same thing via your automated channel? Manage it. Do you know how your best buyers behave in the overall market? Could you leverage these insights to deepen your mutual commitments? Do you want to know other buyers who might be showing an affinity to your media property?

Martin van der Meij at Telegraaf Media Groep says, “Most publishers focus too much on technology or on the difference between auction based and deal IDs. The conversation the CRO should be having is, ‘How can I maximize my revenue?’ That’s much simpler. We still think that the airline industry is the best example. You have a certain amount of goods to sell (advertising space/seats) and you want to maximize the revenue per day/flight. This means price differentiation is crucial.” Brett at Viacom Media Networks reports using its DMP to deliver insights around content consumption for brands. “We believe that the environment, the context for clients messaging remains the overwhelming driver for key brand performance,” says Brett.

5. Your sales compensation plan. Is your sales group incentivized or dis-incentivized to leverage automation? The automation train has left the proverbial station. Advertisers are deploying budgets via automated buying. They are now looking for unique media assets (home pages, IAB Rising Stars, rich media capabilities) and unique data assets (the insights only you have about your customers). Make sure your automated and programmatic capabilities are fully integrated into your revenue organization.

Brian Quinn, Chief Revenue Officer at Triad Retail Media , says, “Invest in a dedicated, tech-savvy programmatic sales team that is integrated with your existing display teams. Implement “everyone gets paid” comp plans to reduce internal friction/turf issues.” At the Financial Times, Jon Slade says, “Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold via private marketplace, fundamentally because it still needs a sales job done if it’s going to be done properly.” And Swedish publisher Expressen, part of the Bonnier Group, is just implementing its programmatic strategy. They “are looking into a programmatic sales commission model,” reports Dilem Guler, Head of Business Digital Web at Expressen.

6. Manage a unified marketplace. Do you view automation as simply another way for you to sell and to manage your buyer relationships? Are you comfortable you have the right systems in place to manage your advertisers safely? Or do you view automation as a threat to your business? Stop thinking about “direct and indirect” and start thinking about a holistic view—how can you use a unified marketplace and unified approach to create the highest level of buyer competition for your business.

At La Place Media in France , a premium media universal exchange with supply from 24 major premium sales houses and more than 150 sites, Managing Director Fabien Magalon reports programmatic premium an holistic yield is one of the three biggest initiatives for 2014. “Our top 25% demand is now highly competitive with the bottom 25% of our premium publishers sales, consequently we are now willing to more intelligently allocate impressions between the direct channel and the indirect channel,” says Magalon. A final bit of advice for chief revenue officers? Slade at the Financial Times says, “It’s old school, but it works: Talk to the agencies. Tell them why you’re worth dealing with, what makes you special, what value you are bringing to the party and how you’re interested to experiment in this brave new world. (It’s not so new now!) Don’t just sit on the edge of the party over-thinking it — participate and help create the rules of engagement.”

Programmatic and advertising automation is the new tool set. But the skills to be successful as a publisher today have not changed. Embrace automation to do what you already know how to do — identify your unique assets, segment your buyers, put your best foot forward, motivate your team and sell.

It’s a brave new world. The good news is you are already equipped to tackle it. See you out in the hustings.

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