How Programmatic Will Change the Brand-Agency Relationship


Parker NorenParker Noren, Senior Director, Programmatic Strategy & Optimization, MediaMath

Ten years after its birth, programmatic advertising is in its awkward teenage years. The existing technology has allowed those who have fully embraced its capabilities to build relationships with their consumers in ways previously inaccessible. But, we need to look forward to see when programmatic will fully deliver its value for all brands. Programmatic allows us to achieve greater brand growth as the result of algorithm-driven optimization and a better understanding of the consumer—all accomplished with less manpower due to automation.

Technology improvements will play a critical role in making this value more accessible. Algorithms will get smarter and more independent from human guidance. More touchpoints will become addressable as we’ve seen with channels like out-of-home. And, we will get to full integration of what today are considered separate but connected silos (e.g., DMP and DSP). Yet, what’s potentially more interesting is how the improvements in technology will influence the roles of brand and agency in advertising execution. Brand marketers will take direct control of the execution of their advertising dollars, while media agencies will need to find new avenues to prove value.

Some brands are already there, especially those with a heavy e-commerce presence where the benefits of direct control were most obvious from the start. But, for many brands, the marketer is still far removed from actual execution. The disconnect was necessary (and still is in linear channels) because of the heavy lifting and knowledge required to execute an ad buy. As we look forward, tactical skills specialization will no longer be needed to execute media to the degree necessary in the past or even today. Scalable technology will fulfill this role, and the job of a campaign planner/manager will shift towards campaign definition and strategy.

The move in this direction—enabled through technology—will reshape roles, activation strategy and success criteria:

Media agency as a strategy agency.

Agencies will largely pivot from value provided in execution manpower and knowledge to value as a strategic adviser. They’ll consult their clients on how to form the proper tech stack for their business needs and push them to update their approach to campaign definition so those capabilities can better be leveraged. This includes helping the brand reform channel- and product-based budgeting systems to focus purely on the relationship with the consumer.

Greater connective tissue between marketing strategy and advertising execution.

With marketers directly involved in execution, brands will gain ownership of a holistic view of their data and begin to develop a feedback loop between marketing strategy and advertising execution. This will produce more purposeful approaches to campaign definition, supply curation and consumer targeting better aligned with the marketer’s ingoing strategic intent.

Heightened pressure on marketers to demonstrate real performance.

Those easy, unsophisticated (“spend the budget”) dollars will all move towards accountability in true business outcomes. The move will be spurred by greater ease of accessibility to sophisticated measurement approaches, marketers having direct transparency and control of how budgets are spent, and the overall trend towards marketing as an accountable revenue center.

About the Author: Parker joined MediaMath in 2015, and has since been focused on research to improve programmatic campaign performance and consulting with clients on how to apply these learnings to their specific situations. Prior to MediaMath, he spent 6 years with Nielsen consulting clients on brand growth strategy and innovation.

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