Publishers and Programmatic -- Six Questions to See If You Are Embracing Automation -- Jay Sears

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Ad holding companies are slashing the number of publisher vendors they contract with annually by up to 90% from an average of 3,000 today to a goal of 300. Ad holding companies are looking to leverage programmatic and advertising automation across all media buying, not just the unsold or performance market. If it can be automated, it will be automated. Ad holding companies are expecting programmatic and automated delivery to be part of every upfront discussion—and that discussion will be about leveraging automation to access unique opportunities around both media and first party publisher data.


For publishers, it will be a tale of two cities. Successful publishers will know how to identify, package and sell unique opportunities around their media and first party data via the automated channel. The automation is simply a means to an end—a required tool to allow you to successfully package and sell.

How do publishers wind up on the top of the heap versus struggling in a bloated, growing sea of irrelevance? If you are a publisher or chief revenue officer, can you answer these six questions?

1. Unique media + unique data. Do your conversations with advertisers include leveraging not just unique media assets but unique data assets as well? Have you connected your DMP to your order automation and auction platform?

2. Pricing segmentation across channels. Do you have an offer and pricing segmentation strategy to offer your best, most important advertisers access across “direct and indirect” channels? Don’t you already use this methodology in direct sold business to extend the impact of a custom program or reach a blended cost basis? The controls exist today to claw back “indirect” and make this part of the discussion with your best customers. Manage the channels; don’t let the channels manage you.

3. Direct order automation. Have you built out your direct order automated channel? If a media planer or buyer can look on your company’s web site or call a sales rep and see a full media kit, a full editorial calendar and a full rate card, can they do this via your direct order automation channel? Have you adequately represented your unique media and unique data assets? Do you and your reps know selling and negotiation skills are needed more than ever to leverage automation? Do you know you can maintain full pricing and channel control?

4. Use transparency to your advantage. Want you know what buyers really think? Go naked on your terms. Every day you put your company’s brand and your own sales team’s best foot forward. You segment and manage your channels. Why don’t you do the same thing via your automated channel? Manage it. Do you know how your best advertisers behave in the overall market? Could you leverage these insights to deepen your mutual commitments? Do you want to know other advertisers who might be showing an affinity to your media property?

5. Your sales compensation plan. Is your sales group incentivized or dis-incentivized to leverage automation? The automation train has left the proverbial station. Advertisers are deploying budgets via automated buying. They are now looking for unique media assets (home pages, IAB Rising Stars, rich media capabilities) and unique data assets (the insights only you have about your customers). Make sure your automated and programmatic capabilities are fully integrated into your revenue organization.

6. Manage a unified marketplace. Do you view automation as simply another way for you to sell and to manage your advertiser relationships? Are you comfortable you have the right systems in place to manage your advertisers safely? Or do you view automation as a threat to your business? Stop thinking about “direct and indirect” and start thinking about a holistic view—how can you use a unified marketplace and unified approach to create the highest level of advertiser competition for your business.

Programmatic and advertising automation is the new tool set. But the skills to be successful as a publisher today have not changed. Embrace automation to do what you already know how to do—identify your unique assets, segment your advertiser customers, put your best foot forward, motivate your team and sell.

It’s a brave new world. The good news is you are already equipped to tackle it. See you out in the hustings.

Jay Sears is GM, REVV buyer for the Rubicon Project. Sears is responsible for global relations with the buy side including ad holding companies, ad agencies, agency trading desks and demand side platforms headquartered in North America. Jay can be reached at

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