The Audience Engineers: How Programmatic Is Changing the Way Salespeople Work with Ad Operations
Digital ad spending through programmatic channels continues to grow at a rapid pace. According to eMarketer, digital spending through programmatic channels will account for 78% of all digital revenue in 2017 from just 9% in 2011. Programmatic direct or private marketplace (PMP) transactions will account for 56% of that revenue this year. While programmatic advertising is already having significant impact on the overall marketplace for publishers, we are just starting to see how it’s changing they way salespeople work with their agency partners externally, and their ad operation teams on the inside on a day-to-day basis.
Selling Audience NOT Media
In contrast to the standard way much media is sold today, programmatic direct buyers focus on an audience-based approach sometimes called “people-based marketing”. While content and context are factors, the approach is targeting specific audience segments versus just buying inventory within a section of a publisher’s property. Where in the past the focus of a salesperson would be mastering the content and sponsorship elements of their property, they now also need to demonstrate an understanding of their audience and how it could be put to work to solve the particular marketing challenges of their clients. Many clients will come to the table with their own specific targets and objectives, not something that could be answered with just a ratecard and inventory sheet.
It’s at this point in the process where ad operations and sales need to work together in determining what works for both sides. Is there enough of the audience that the advertiser is seeking to make a deal worthwhile? If the deal is not based on a fixed price but instead through an auction process, what CPM will allow the buyer to clear enough inventory to reach its goals? Successful salespeople work closely with ad operations in answering these questions during the negotiation, not after it closes. The lone wolf salesperson operating in a vacuum doesn’t work well in this new programmatic world.
Deals Without Borders
In the “old” world of digital there was very set and clear hierarchy: Direct sold deals are the first priority (top of the “waterfall”) and everything else fell into remnant or unsold inventory. While unsold inventory, usually monetized through third parties such as Ad Network, was a critical revenue stream, it was also an afterthought for many CROs and sales leaders. This was something for ad operations to worry about.
Programmatic has changed this digital world order. Depending on how they are structured, private marketplace deals may take precedent over direct activity. Header bidding, which allows individual impressions to be sold at the highest CPM regardless of other priorities, is also changing the dynamics of the marketplace. Operation teams have evolved from traffickers and disposal team for remnant, to true managers and optimizers of the full Ad Tech Stack. Thus, publisher inventory no longer resides in separate silos, but in a dynamic marketplace where ad operations is charged with maximizing value across all channels.
Programmatic Doesn’t Have A Post Sales Process
There is no post sales process in PMP, because you never really stop selling. Once the agreement is made, sales and operations work together to not only get the deal in place, but to make sure everything is delivering and billing to both sides’ expectations. It’s never a “Set it and forget it” approach. Ad operations is monitoring and making necessary adjustments, not after the first week or month, but in the first day. As most PMP activity is not guaranteed for either side, there is the need for regular communication or check-ins on how activity is performing. How can a buyer buy more? Where in the past, the operations team was brought in when there is a problem (or to throw blame), they are now an integral part of the solution. As a best practice, publishers should include the operations team in the regular check-ins they have with a trading desk or agency group.
A New Type of Sales Engineer
For all of the change the digital marketplace has seen over the last five years, it’s still early. While the platforms and vendors are in place (and there are many of them) the process and approach to selling in this marketplace is far from mature. An audience-based approach to ad sales is different than selling media. It can require different skill sets, and arguably is more consultative approach to sales. As a salesperson you are charged with not only knowing your property and audience but also knowing how you can best solve the marketing challenges of your client. There are intricacies and nuance in shaping audience segments that best meet those objectives. Not unlike the sales engineer that partners with a SaaS salesperson to craft that optimum solution, operation teams are the product manager of the audiences a publisher is monetizing.
As adtech continues to evolve, so will the publisher sales teams that navigate it.
Related story: How Hearst Pivoted to Native & Programmatic Advertising