Is the industry ready for programmatic premium? And what does that really mean? We sought to answer those questions and more today at Advertising Week New York, in a panel discussion titled, “Programmatic Premium: Context and Audience in an Automated World.” Ad Age’s Alex Kantrowitz moderated a panel with our own Wade Rifkin, VP of Programmatic; Tony Katsur, Head of Buyer Cloud, Rubicon Project; Carrie Nicholson, VP, Ad Innovation and Programmatic, Turner; and David Murnick, VP, Sales Strategy & Client Services, Gannett.
The first question, right off the bat – what is programmatic premium, really? Is it even a thing? The answer from all the panelists was yes, but with slightly varying definitions. Nicholson explained that at Turner, they define it as premium environments and premium ad executions—and that ultimately, they’re seeking to move towards a place with a guarantee. Rifkin talked about how what’s premium to one brand isn’t premium to another. As he put it, at DigitasLBi, what we generally look at is the context, the format, and the audiences, that by and large, outpace the supply.
With two publishers onstage, the panel also explored some of the challenges that took place early on as their organizations moved into selling inventory programmatically. As Nicholson explained, the original concern was, “Is programmatic a place that puts audiences above all else?” But the buying landscape has evolved so much, with maturation in the marketplace for context and audiences in just the last year – creating a lot of programmatic successes with advertisers. Murnick also addressed some of the other internal challenges for any publisher who moves into programmatic – evolving infrastructure and teams, figuring which sales team is covering what and what the compensation plan is.
As this space evolves so quickly, there was also the question of what kind of talent do you recruit? Much has been said about the importance of mathematic backgrounds and hiring “quant people”, but Katsur explained that it’s not just necessarily about hiring quant people – it’s finding people who can think analytically. And while you need analytical thinkers, storytellers are also crucial—there’s still an art side to this entire industry.
And finally, there was the question of why now? Why is this the year when suddenly there’s been such a big shift in how much is being bought via programmatic? Rifkin attributed that to two things: better tech infrastructure for the industry, and the release of inventory on the sell side that makes it worth it on the buy side.