As a WPP Group agency, MediaCom works closely with the holding company's Xaxis trading desk to execute data-driven media strategies. In such relationships between agencies and trading desks, it can be hard for a client to know where the desk stops and the operating agency begins. That creates a tricky problem, since first party data is sensitive and the more "hands" on that data, the higher the perceived risk.
In a recent talk with AdExchanger, MediaCom Managing Partner Vik Kathuria acknowledged the sensitivity and said his agency deals with it by making sure client teams drive programmatic media strategy.
"You're going to need intensive data insights," he said. "That's something you have to be very clear, that in no way, shape, or form are you willing to cede control of."
Kathuria describes Xaxis as a crucial partner on execution. "We use Xaxis extensively across multiple clients and we've seen stellar results."
He said the close working relationship with Xaxis, as a partner agency under GroupM, makes the trading desk more accountable to MediaCom than a vendor partner might be. "If for whatever reason a campaign does not perform as well as it should, it's easy enough for us to look them straight in the eye and say, 'Hey, you were the hook. You have to make this work.'"
He adds: "They're going to see you every day, as opposed to a third party or whoever. It's so important to have folks who are experts and can help guide you."
Job Loss From Programmatic Media
Another oft-voiced concern within media agencies is that the automation of digital media buying will eventually lead to reductions in headcount. Kathuria makes a forceful case that this will not happen.
"I've got people all the time who go, 'Vik. Oh, my God, programmatic buying. They'll take our jobs! We'll lose jobs!' No. Programmatic buying, is not, I repeat, is not about efficiency. It's about efficacy," he says.
Rather than automating roles, MediaCom's leadership believes audience buying is about giving media buying teams the tools and time to do strategic thinking and focus on client relationships.
The latter half of 2012 brought an increase in rallying cries for guaranteed or "premium" programmatic. While the term's definition is still elusive, MediaCom says it's already a reality in its relationships with big media partners.
Kathuria puts it this way: "We [at GroupM] happen to be the biggest media buyer in the world.With that buying power comes the ability to work very closely with our premium partners.At NBC, for example, we have deals in place for access to premium inventory via our audience buying platform. We have to have the ability to access in real time clear inventory."
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