Tim Gentry of Guardian News and Media -- The Jay Sears Interview

By Archived Rubicon Project Archives
Cover image for  article: Tim Gentry of Guardian News and Media -- The Jay Sears Interview

Today we present a Q&A between advertising automation executive Tim Gentry of Guardian News & Media and Jay Sears of Rubicon Project.

Your Name: Tim Gentry

Your Company: Guardian News & Media

Your Title: Revenue Director

SEARS: What flavor of ice cream best describes your management style?

GENTRY: Mango Sorbet - Distinctive, refreshing and a little bit healthier.

SEARS: On average -- out of each $1.00 of advertising revenue received by your company, how much today is from automated or programmatic channels?

GENTRY: £0.18. We’re at a point where secondary open exchange markets are somewhat passe but still relevant, PMP is normal, and programmatic direct is fast becoming the new normal. And with Guardian Response+, 2013 saw The Guardian active on both buy and sell side for the first time.

SEARS: What was this number in 2011?

GENTRY: £0.09

SEARS: What will this number in 2015?

GENTRY: £0.27. Today, £0.18 in every pound is delivered through programmatic trading.

In 2011, this was £0.09 and in 2015 we expect this to be £0.27.

SEARS: Describe how most media (all media, digital + non-digital, non-programmatic media) is sold by your company today.

GENTRY: The majority of digital revenues are still booked at least a month in advance. Programmatic briefs are currently much more tactical and have shorter lead times. There is a trend towards shifting guaranteed budgets through programmatic technology; however this is still on a relatively limited scale. The introduction and adoption of “programmatic guaranteed” functionality on both buy and sell sides is crucial.

SEARS: Tell us about Guardian News & Media.

GENTRY: Guardian News & Media (GNM) publishestheguardian.com, the third largest English-speaking newspaper website in the world (commodore, January 2014). Since launching its US and Australia digital editions in 2011 and 2013 respectively, traffic from outside of the UK now represents around two-thirds of the Guardian's total digital audience.

In the UK, GNM publishes the Guardian newspaper six days a week and the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, The Observer. The newspapers were named the most trustworthy, accurate and reliable newspapers in the UK in 2013. The Guardian, which was first published in 1821, is most recently renowned for its agenda-setting NSA and GCHQ revelations following disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden, its globally acclaimed investigation into phone hacking, the launch of its ground-breaking digital-first strategy in 2011 and its trailblazing partnership with WikiLeaks in 2010.

Please tell us:

  • SEARS: Percentage increase, advertising revenue via automated systems 2012 vs. 2013.

o GENTRY: +148% YOY (or 2.5x)

SEARS: How many employees do you have globally?


▪ Worldwide: 1638

▪ Europe: 1539

▪ The United States: 57

SEARS: What are Guardian’s three biggest initiatives for 2014?


1. Beautiful new products for readers and advertisers with our responsive Next Generation Apps & Web

2. Guardian Labs - our branded content agency

3. Going Global - bringing our global audience to life for advertisers

SEARS: By 2015, what percentage of total advertising sales across your company will be from automated or programmatic channel?

GENTRY: 27% of digital display revenues will come via programmatic channels.

SEARS: To reach a higher adoption of direct order automation (also known as programmatic premium) and use of the programmatic channel, what are the major impediments to overcome? Rank these in numerical order:


3___ Operational or workforce issues inside the holding companies or operating agencies

4___ Premium (direct deal) inventory availability via programmatic

2___ Lack of proper ad technology

5___ Alignment of agency compensation models

6___ Alignment of publisher compensation models

1___ Other: Brand budget from the demand side

GENTRY: Our experience is that direct is still the preferred method for executing premium campaigns, and that trading desks’ predominant focus is in performance. And that whilst the technology works well when implemented well, many implementations, particularly in the premium space can result in challenges around cookie synching and delivery.

SEARS: Tell us about your first party data strategy -- do you currently have a DMP (data management platform) for your first party data?

GENTRY: We do currently use a DMP and offer first party data through private marketplaces. This has been well received by buyers and we have seen demand and complexity increase over the course of the past 6 months.

SEARS: Salesforce compensation. Do you compensate your salespeople for every dollar [or local currency equivalent] sold, regardless if the media is sold via insertion order (IO) manually or via an automated channel? Which of the following applies?

1. Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold -- manual, direct order automation [Connect] and auction.

2. Our salespeople are compensated on manual and direct order automation only. They are not compensated for advertisers sold via auction.

3. Our salespeople are not compensated on sales made via our automated channel

GENTRY: No. 1: Our salespeople are compensated on every dollar sold -- manual, direct order automation [Connect] and auction. Our sales approach is “channel agnostic.” The team handles agency relationships both on the direct and programmatic side. This enables us to always have a holistic view of agency performance and to maximize revenues across the board.

SEARS: Direct sold inventory is often sold three to 12 months in advance. Which of the following choices best describe how you use direct order automation and Connect -- check all that apply:


1. X___ We use direct order automation and Connect to leverage our first party data and bundle it with our media;

2. X___ We use direct order automation and Connect to make available an “electronic version” of our media kit and related editorial calendar inventory packages (example: holiday or back-to-school themed packages) to buyers;

3. X___ We use direct order automation and Connect to make available premium placements such as home page, section pages and other opportunities that are not available in the open market;

4. X___ We use direct order automation and Connect to make available IAB Rising Star ad units and rich media ad units.

5. ___ We do not use direct order automation and Connect and believe all inventory should be sold via auction (with appropriate business rules, of course!)

GENTRY: We use Connect to surface our range of contextual and audience private marketplace opportunities, and increasingly to streamline the booking process for direct buys.

SEARS: What advertising opportunities will never be sold via advertising automation?

GENTRY: Genuinely bespoke, innovative branded content creation, like Guardian Witness or Live Better Challenge from Guardian Labs.

SEARS: Have you received “Programmatic RFPs” for your inventory? What do these look like and how are they different than traditional RFPs?

GENTRY: Yes, we receive requests for inventory and format availability and rate cards from new customers. On a more frequent basis, we work closely with established buyers to respond to live briefs and deliver the best possible solution for customers.

SEARS: What should top publisher chief revenue officers (CROs) do to build their direct order automation and programmatic selling business with trading desks and operating agencies?

GENTRY: A seamless approach is required across the direct and programmatic business -- where pricing, inventory and formats are aligned. This enables the efficiencies of programmatic buying without the fear of channel cannibalization or yield erosion. At a top line level, spend commitments with agency customers can be broadened to include programmatic revenues and therefore protect overall spends from customers. The sales team should be integral to this journey, not isolated.

SEARS: Why is direct order automation so important? Is it important?

GENTRY: Programmatic allows us to realize the full value of the Guardian’s progressive audience through our first party data. It also enables efficiencies to automate the commoditized buying that currently takes up so much sales resource. This time can be better spent creating truly bespoke partnership solutions for our clients, such as the Guardian’s Audiences Not Platforms cross-channel audience buy.

SEARS: What global markets are the leaders and laggards in programmatic?

GENTRY: In our view, the UK market has led the way in terms of demand for high-value audience segments and with the migration of brand spend into the programmatic space.

Tell us a bit more about you.

SEARS: If you could travel for pleasure anywhere in the world, to a place you have never been, where would you go?

GENTRY: Brazil has a certain appeal this summer.

SEARS: If you were trapped alone on a desert island and needed to choose one ad holding company CEO to accompany you, which CEO would you pick and why?

GENTRY: Caspar Schlikum, CEO Xaxis EMEA. He flies drones for a hobby and I’m sure he’d help us find a way off. And in the meantime he has very good chat.

SEARS: When was the last time you went out for a three martini lunch?

GENTRY: Three martinis? Never! There were a few that involved an additional bottle of wine in 2012, but nothing last year -- these days there is too much to do and it would get really, really dangerous cycling home.

Thanks Tim!

Jay Sears is Senior Vice President, Marketplace Development for the Rubicon Project. Sears works with 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 jsears@rubiconproject.com.

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