The Rise of the New Media Star: Programmatic Advertising

programmatic advertising
Krista Kennedy, Flickr

The digital advertising world is buzzing about programmatic, and with good reason. Programmatic advertising makes media deals more time and cost effective. It allows media buyers and sellers to work together to deliver relevant creative to the right audience at the right time and in the right context. But programmatic isn’t just changing the way we buy and sell media. It’s also changing what it takes to succeed as a digital media professional…

A Departure from Traditional Media Trading Culture

Traditionally, media-buying success was built on a foundation of strong relationships and an intimate understanding of available ad inventory. Most media companies didn’t invest in programmatic capabilities. Of those that did, many treated it as a specialized discipline and isolated programmatic experts from the rest of their marketing team. Different parts of the team – search, TV, direct, and others – were separated into different silos within the organization and had only limited interaction with one another. The emergence of programmatic is changing that landscape. As media professionals turn to programmatic to execute their marketing strategies, they’re realizing that a more collaborative approach helps them reap the full benefits programmatic provides. This new approach brings with it a set of challenges: media buyers who aren’t experienced in programmatic have to learn how to navigate programmatic platforms, pull levers, and build data-centric skills. According to Peter Burton, head of operations at the agency trading desk Accuen, “the issue for media agencies is how to build culture when you have creative, strategy people and data scientists in the same building.”

Programmatic Advertising is Creating an Emphasis on Data-Centric Skills

What does this new media star look like? How are they different from the media stars who thrived before programmatic became a household name in the digital advertising community?

The new media star is the total package. They harness the creativity and relationship-building skills they’ve developed negotiating direct media buys and combine it with an intimate understanding of data. In the words of Caspar Schlickum, CEO at Xaxis EMEA, “we are competing for a whole new different type of industry person – the focus has shifted significantly to data scientists, analysts, developers and software technologists.” As AdAge reported recently, only about 23% of marketers understand programmatic at this point. Many marketers who have embraced programmatic as part of their strategies make the same common mistakes that cost them time and money. Because so few marketers understand programmatic enough to pick apart the data in a meaningful way, now’s a great opportunity to acquire data-centric skills and make yourself indispensable.

The Rise of the New Media Star

If you’ve been buying media for a while now, the idea of branching out deepening your understanding of data could seem daunting. Joanna O’Connell of Forrester Research, Inc. summed up the problem well: “Change is hard and scary. Plus, frankly, planners weren’t hired to be technologists or quants. Probably most of them are thinking, ‘Why am I not getting to work on the interesting custom brand building stuff?’ not, ‘Oooh, I love logging into platforms, pulling levers and looking at data.'”

This can be especially tough if you consider yourself a “people person” who focuses on the relationship-building aspect of media buying or a creative who’d rather dream up innovative new strategies. It’s time to put those concerns to rest. Quantitative skills are invaluable in this changing digital landscape, but they’re no replacement for human talent and ingenuity. Educating yourself about programmatic and how to use it can give you a competitive edge; it doesn’t take away from the other talents you’ve spent time developing. As programmatic takes off, you can combine these different skill sets in interesting ways to position yourself as an indispensible new media star.

Combining Strategy and Tech Savvy to Create the Total Package Media Trader

Learning to use programmatic can certainly make your life easier and your campaigns more profitable. But new media stars understand that programmatic isn’t a substitute for a winning marketing strategy. The more data you collect, the more strategic thinking it takes to assess potential media partners and optimize your buys over time. Programmatic is a means to an end. It can help take you where you want to go, but only if you have a long-term vision of what you’re trying to accomplish with your media buys. That’s where strategizing acumen comes in. Traditional media buyers might have isolated programmatic experts from the rest of their teams, but new media stars will embrace a more collaborative approach. They’ll work closely with the entire marketing team to develop an intimate understanding of the different campaign channels, and they’ll draw on the insights from programmatic to make their deals more profitable.

New media stars will also leverage programmatic to help them make the most of their unique talents. They’ll use programmatic to make media buying less tedious, freeing up time and energy to build key relationships and strategize. They’ll continue to develop those skills because they’ll recognize that programmatic requires smart, talented people to make it work effectively. If anything, programmatic will make strategic thinking and relationship building even more important. Media buying used to be about scale, as agencies leveraged their spending power to negotiate bulk discounts and get preferential treatment from sellers. But programmatic gives smaller buyers access to the same inventory. Because access is wider than ever before, the smartest and savviest media buyers will have to rely on their unique skills to come out on top.

Seizing the Exciting New Opportunities Ahead

Digital advertising is changing constantly. Staying on top of the latest technologies and trends requires media buyers to soak up information and continue to develop new skills. Savvy media buyers won’t worry about being replaced by programmatic, but they won’t hesitate to strengthen their data-centric skills. Doing this sooner rather than later – when practically everyone will be using programmatic – will give them time to develop their understanding and make themselves indispensable.

A new breed of media buyer is emerging. Having the whole package – strategic, data-centric, and creative skills – will reward these new media stars with huge opportunities and an edge over their competitors.