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Key Takeaways from the Digiday Programmatic Media Summit

6 MINUTE READ | June 14, 2018

Key Takeaways from the Digiday Programmatic Media Summit

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Ashley McMahan

Ashley McMahan has written this article. More details coming soon.

The Digiday Programmatic Media Summit was held within the beautiful swampland of NOLA this year, where I had the privilege to attend the first Digiday conference of my career. After five years in the industry, I was really excited to learn more about the business problems other agencies and brands are trying to solve for themselves and their clients, as well as meet new people within the industry. Within the first 15 minutes of the first session, it was clear there would be three recurring themes throughout the week: Brand Safety, Transparency, and In-House Programmatic.

It is also very apparent that brand safety and transparency are still issues within the marketplace while In-House Programmatic is gaining momentum and more brands are now bringing in platform expertise to build out their internal talent (even if they are still utilizing agencies to do their actual media buying).

Digiday Programmatic Media Summit

Ah, the annoying little sibling that you can’t seem to shake. Brand safety is the biggest topic of discussion in the industry every year, and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon – nor should it. Within the programmatic space, it’s nearly impossible to avoid every instance of an unsafe incident, even with the most robust tools technology has to offer. With no standardized categorization of content or universal definition of brand safety, it is difficult to have a blanket strategy that can remain consistent across all types of brand safety verification, and measurement platforms let alone set industry benchmarks that can be implemented globally.

The most common response around this theme during the conference was to be as proactive as you can with the tools available and set standards that your brand is comfortable with, while also maintaining performance and scale. Essentially, how much wiggle room are brands going to allow media buyers to have to produce results while also remaining within the guardrails set forth to protect the brand name? Each brand will have to determine the level of comfortability within the space and agencies will need to work together with their clients to assess best-in-class targeting options to meet both brand safety and business needs.

There are many iterations of transparency that prove difficult within the programmatic space as it currently stands. While there is no lesser of the three, there are ways to combat some of these issues:

Receiving transparency from partners is not always easy or cheap. Many partners are walled gardens that make understanding the full consumer journey difficult to measure. As these big name companies want to keep their data close to the chest, it puts brands and agencies at a disadvantage to gain insight into what works best for each initiative. Total transparency and communication between all three parties would allow for open discussion against what is feasible in order to gain “peeks behind the curtain.” If talking it out doesn’t work, the next best thing is to hit them where you will have the most impact – their wallet. The less brands and agencies spend on these platforms; the more these partners will be inclined to share their data.

While programmatic buying was created to drive efficiencies and eliminate waste, the “race to the bottom” mentality incentivizes supply vendors to be a black box inventory source where it is unclear of what is always being sold in. There needs to be a balance between efficiency in low CPMs and maintaining viewability and performance with KPIs.

On the flip side, being able to gain transparency into the quality of inventory you are purchasing can be costly. There is an array of different types of PMP buys but with direct executions still taking priority; scale can be cumbersome and CPMs increase causing inefficiencies. If running within the open exchange, layering on a third-party verification partner comes with additional fees and potential impression loss. Brands and agencies need to work together to determine the give and take of efficiency and transparency into the inventory their ads are running across.

If you are on the agency side on the business, hearing you are losing a client to in-house services is your nightmare. However, it’s not as easy as brands seem to think. Gifted, reliable talent is the hardest thing to come by within the industry and reigns true for brands as well. Many brands that have made moves to hire programmatic experts but still rely on their agencies to actually perform media executions.

The pros and cons of hiring, training, and funding internal teams with the technology necessary to house all campaign management is costly not just financially but is a large expense for the time it would take brands to become well-oiled machines and manage executions on their own. For now, brands need to weigh the pros and cons of bringing talent internally and keep close relationships with their agency partners to do what they feel is best for their bottom line.

When we weren’t sitting in on panels or in break-out sessions, there were plenty of opportunities to network with regular 15-minute breaks and eight-minute speed-dating sessions (yes, they were exactly what it sounds like) between agencies, brands, and vendors. Fitting for being the south, these eight-minute sessions felt a lot like going through sorority recruitment; with two parties exchanging opportunities that could be a fit to bring them on board for a test.

Starting my career out of school at a trading desk, I was told that this industry is small. Little did I know that would not be truer than here in the Big Easy where seven previous coworkers of my former employer would all be gathered in their new respective positions attending the conference to bring back learnings to their teams. PMG has gained a lot of employees and client business through relationships and network connections, and this conference was no different. Of all topics discussed during the week and great examples showcased by brands, this lesson was far superior to the others – this world is very small, and you will be surrounded by familiar faces.

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Thank you, Digiday for allowing me to attend such a great event with the experience of a VIP!

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