A five-step guide for brands getting started in programmatic media | M&M Global

A five-step guide for brands getting started in programmatic media

TUI’s newly-appointed head of media Sammy Austin outlines the steps advertisers should take when approaching programmatic for the first time.


Brands across the world are looking to adopt programmatic, in an effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their media buying. However, for those advertisers just arriving at the programmatic ecosystem – particularly SMEs – it can appear a bewildering and complex landscape.

Earlier this year, former MoneySuperMarket.com head of programmatic Sammy Austin joined European travel company TUI as head of media, with a remit to devise a cross-market strategy for programmatic buying. Here she tells M&M Global about the priorities for taking those first steps into the world of automation.

Step one:  Work out what is being done today

“The first couple of months of my role was really going to all the markets, meeting the teams on the ground and getting an understanding of how they were structured, what they resources they actually had, and the levels of expertise in programamtic,” says Austin, who previously held roles with Amnet and iProspect.

“Different markets have different levels of maturity in programmatic. I spent the next few months going back into the markets and delivering education workshops. This way, I could get them all using the same definitions and terminology, so when the markets are having conversations with one another, there is a lot more consistency and alignment.”

Step two: Ensure key building blocks are in place

One of the challenges for marketers, argues Austin, is separating programmatic fact from fiction. With ad tech companies and agencies tending to “over-sell” products and neglecting to mention “limitations”, a key first step is having a firm grasp on the “opportunities” programmatic presents your brand, she says.

“I’ve seen in the past that not being able to measure programmatic properly leads to a lack of confidence. You need to work out how you are going to measure performance, and that could take anything up to two to three months,” she says. “In the end it will be worthwhile.”

Austin lists some of the key pillars brands must build before attempting programmatic buying: “There are 10 components for a successful programmatic strategy – things like measurement, data, dynamic creative optimisation, viewability, content verification and fraud, cross device reporting and targeting to name a few.

“You need to identify the priorities in each of those markets to lay the foundations.”

Step three: Identify suppliers – and what can be kept in-house

While Austin advocates a consistent approach to elements such as data management and measurement, she does not agree that advertisers should insist upon international relationships with ad tech providers, due to nuances in the budget and available inventory in each market.

“The model we are discussing about implementing at TUI is where you have best practice you follow with all suppliers and agencies,” she says. “As long as you have transparency with that supplier, as long as you have efficient cross-device reporting, then it allows you to be agnostic across markets and not to try to impose one solution which might not necessarily fit.”

“One thing that I think should sit independent of an agency is your DMP and attribution management”

There is much discussion about advertisers taking the management of programmatic buying in-house – something Austin experienced at MoneySuperMarket – but she does not believe it presents a realistic option for many brands. She does, however, argue that data management and attribution management platforms ought to sit as closely to marketing teams as possible.

“One thing that I think should sit independent of an agency is your DMP and attribution management. With data, it is so important to have control and ownership, and to be able to use it across all marketing channels. And with attribution, it is so important you don’t have a situation where someone is marking their own homework,” says Austin.

Step four: Forge a new relationship with agencies

Scarred by controversies around ad fraud, viewability and the like, Austin admits some brands now feel a sense of “distrust” towards agencies and suppliers. But this negative situation is driving a new relationship, with agencies working harder to be more transparent and supportive of clients’ needs.

“The issue with some tech providers, partners and even agencies is this tendency to sell, sell, sell, and not tell you about the limitations of programmatic, such as viewability,” she says. “A lot of advertisers now have this element of distrust with their agencies. It has caused a detrimental effect, and they are asking more questions as a result.

“But I do think the agency has a role to play. Not every organisation has someone like me, who has time dedicated to just programmatic. From an educational side, the agency can keep you up to date with all the latest trends and innovations. They also have a role on the operational side of things, handling relationships with partners,” she says.

Step five: Education, education, education – especially at C-suite level

“The other big thing [advertisers] need to address is education, making sure everyone is on the same page, and understands the opportunities and limitations,” says Austin.

Marketing teams across territories should share best practice tips and advice, while it is also important for marketers to learn from other brands, in the quest to justify what is being spent and to secure further investment in the future, she says. And it is vital to help senior management to understand the benefits of programmatic.

“Another important thing is not just educating teams on the ground – the more senior stakeholders need to understand what programmatic is, too, albeit not to so much detail. It will make it easier in the future to encourage more investment,” she says.

“Key stakeholders like finance and procurement will have an impact on what you’re doing in programmatic. The biggest challenge is that last click devalues programmatic quite a lot, and it means we don’t understand the impact across customer touch points. We have to work across those teams to understand that last click is not an effective measure of attribution.”

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