Talking Automation, Programmatic and TV with Patrick Hounsell of Merkle -- The Jay Sears Interview

By Archived Rubicon Project Archives
Cover image for  article: Talking Automation, Programmatic and TV with Patrick Hounsell of Merkle -- The Jay Sears Interview

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with leading buyers titled “Automation, Programmatic and TV.”

The executives in this series discussed these topics with Jay Sears, SVP Marketplace Development of Rubicon Project at the Cantor Fitzgerald’s 2nd Annual Internet/Technology Conference in New York City.

Your Name: Patrick Hounsell

Your Company: Merkle

Your Title: Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with politics, art and culture?

HOUNSELL: I still get home delivery of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on the weekends. During the week I read Business Insider pretty frequently and on the ride home on the train I relax a little with the New York Post.

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with friends?

HOUNSELL: I check Facebook pretty frequently but rarely post anything. I’ve come to really like Instagram and so I’m starting to spend more time with that app.

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with our industry?

HOUNSELL: I scan AdExchanger daily and read Ad Age. But I also spend a lot of time reading referred articles from my newsfeed on either Twitter or recently LinkedIn.

SEARS: What’s your favorite commercial of all time?

HOUNSELL: My wife worked in Brand Marketing. She was on the brand team that launched Stride Gum and it was her first commercial. So I would have to say it was the first Stride Gum commercial. Apart from that, most campaigns I can think of off the top of my mind are very recent. The North Face holiday ad is one that keeps jumping to mind.

SEARS: With regards to advertising automation and programmatic, what are Merkle’s three biggest U.S. initiatives in 2015?


1. Our biggest initiative is the development of an internal platform that will allow us to build and syndicate customer lists from CRM data into addressable media platforms.
2. The second biggest initiative is to redesign our media planning and optimization process to incorporate our database marketing analytics skills around known customer analytics into our digital programs.
3. On top of that, we are focused on developing data partnerships with major leading platforms to help our customers to leverage our proprietary data assets in digital media.

SEARS: Draw an analogy between the automation of television and a baseball game. Are we in the Pre-game? 1st inning? 9th inning? Still driving to the stadium?

HOUNSELL: I guess I would have to say that I don’t believe we have established enough of the definitions, rules and processes to be called in the game yet. So, driving to the stadium to see what kind of game breaks out.

SEARS: How can advertising automation help the strategy and planning functions (directly or indirectly) at an advertising agency?

HOUNSELL: Most people think that automation through programmatic should lead to better efficiency for agencies. The reality is that it’s a whole new set of skills, partners, processes and technologies that need to be relearned. So agencies aren’t yet benefitting with any efficiencies. But where we see the opportunity is that it is flipping the whole focus on planning and strategy to be about prospects and customers and where they are in their relationship with the brands. When you plan against a known individual versus an anonymous cookie it changes the focus.

SEARS: Can linear TV be automated, yes or no?

HOUNSELL: Many parts of TV will be automated. It’s easier to think of the sellers of TV in two broad buckets -- MVPD’s and Networks. The MVPD inventory will go through automation quicker because they already deal in so-called “remnant” inventory. They will be able to adapt their buy flow more easily. The Media Networks will experience automation in a different way. There will still be a required in-person ideation and negotiation to leverage the truly premium content. But ultimately they will use audience data in a better way.

SEARS: What two or three events or happenings will accelerate the automation of television?


1. More consolidation of the MVPD. This will give them the scale to build out their tech stack and offering. It will also provide a scaled audience that will make the aggregation of addressable media viable.
2. Better use of 1st and 3rd party data for the Media Networks. You can already see the beginning of that with the Audience Targeting Platform (ATP) announced by NBC.

SEARS: Transparency -- on media costs, on data, on inventory -- has become a lightning rod issue. Should transparency be a negotiated benefit for the advertiser client, yes or no?

HOUNSELL: Lack of transparency is a huge mistake. It should not be a debate.

SEARS: Which of the following will accelerate the automation of site direct (direct orders) budget? Pick all that apply. [Hounsell’s answers are in brackets.]

a) Dynamic access to all publisher inventory vs. just “remnant” or “auction” – [Yes]
b) Ability to leverage publisher first party data – [Yes]
c) Ability to leverage advertiser first party data [against all publisher inventory, especially premium] – [Yes]
d) Availability of rich media, expandable units and larger IAB Rising Star formats – [Yes]
e) Ability to more easily curate audiences for specific advertisers across the premium content of multiple publishers – [Yes]
f) All of the above – [Yes]

SEARS: If you could go to the airport right now with friends or family and fly anywhere in the world for vacation, who would you take and where would you go?

HOUNSELL: I would take my family skiing somewhere in either France or Italy. I have 10-year-old twins and they are at that age where they are still hanging out with us and can keep up with us skiing. I’ve also never been skiing in Europe.

SEARS: If you could create an endowment to fund any existing non-profit you designated, what lucky non-profit organization would that be?

HOUNSELL: I was actually on the Board of Directors for a non-profit called AIESEC. It’s a student based organization designed to promote cultural understanding while providing students with real world experience through paid internships in a country other than their own. It operates in over 100 countries and facilitates over 5,000 students a year to have an international experience that will forever change their global perspective.

SEARS: Thanks, Patrick!

Jay Sears is Senior Vice President, Marketplace Development for the Rubicon Project. Sears worksJay Searswith leadership and business unit heads across the company to expand Rubicon Project’s potential market. Sears has also served as General Manager, REVV Buyer, where he was 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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