Amnet CEO Art Muldoon On Dentsu’s Programmatic Strategy

Trading desk CEOs want to change the narrative around programmatic to one of quality rather than cost efficiency.

For Amnet co-CEO Art Muldoon, who joined Dentsu Aegis Network when it acquired his programmatic shop, Accordant Media, in August, the ability to tap into a network of creative and data assets helps push that narrative to his clients.

“It’s not just about planning and delivering media and depositing it on the client’s doorstep,” he said on stage at the 4As Transformation show in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “We want to help them interpret insights they can take to other parts of their strategy.”

Muldoon sat down with AdExchanger at the show.

AdExchanger: Do your clients still think of programmatic as a cost solution?

ART MULDOON: Marketers are recognizing that this isn’t about the cheapest media. We’ve been there and we’ve seen that opens up questions around fraud and viewability.

Higher-priced media, when targeted well, results in greater efficiency. We’re looking at it as more of a yield curve in understanding the value of reaching the audience at the best volume.

Some advertisers are still wary about programmatic. How have heightened concerns around brand safety impacted its perception?

I believe that [negative] reputation is going away. I also believe that reputation has been created by the least experienced practitioners who seem to have the loudest voice when things don’t work as expected.

Programmatic media is not for amateurs. It requires professional discipline and a range of expert capabilities. It isn’t as fraught with as many problems when done by experienced teams. It isn’t perfect and that’s why it requires experts to maintain inventory quality controls.

What’s an example of an amateur programmatic player?

Clients may have a few internal champions who have enthusiasm for leveraging audience data in a proprietary way. There’s the sense that they can access and activate media through consoles themselves.

Marketers have to make a very large commitment to successfully taking programmatic in-house because it’s more than just managing a data management platform (DMP) and a demand-side platform. It becomes about taking a position on ad serving, dynamic creative, ad verification and viewability.

Soon it’s clear that it’s more complex than they may have realized. Their internal champion may be their one key source of knowledge, and what if they leave? It creates a risk of continuity. I don’t envy marketers who wish to take programmatic in-house and think they can scale it successfully.

What added value can Accordant, Amnet’s direct-to-brand solution, bring to clients?

We manage audience data through our Audience Targeting System. It’s a managed-service programmatic solution that encompasses the DMP, media activation, analytics, insights and reporting. For a mid-tier marketer, it’s an efficient way to engage in audience targeting.

At Accordant, clients understand the media we’re planning, the costs of that media, the publishers we’re working with and the tools and tactics we’re using to reach their audiences.

How integrated is Accordant with Amnet? 

Fully. Our teams sit together and both operations leverage the same solution set from Amnet’s owned technology and data. We’ve combined Ammet’s buying power and publisher relationships with the proprietary technology and data solutions that Accordant brings.

Amnet’s clients are large Dentsu Aegis Network clients and Accordant’s clients are mid- to large-tier marketers. Accordant has put Amnet on a trajectory focused on owned technology and data solutions. We’re moving from a tech-agnostic to a tech-opinionated approach to programmatic.

You also now have Merkle as part of the family. How will you tap into its M1 platform to enhance programmatic at Amnet?

We’re exploring opportunities for Amnet to leverage not only Merkle but the other assets across Dentsu to better manage and activate audiences and provide insights. The plans are still coming together in terms of exactly what the M1 data set will offer Dentsu agencies.

What’s the role of a trading desk in a modern holding company?  

I would not call Amnet a trading desk. Trading desks to me connote organizations renting technology. We have more of a bias on technology to help marketers understand how to extract value from their audience data.

Edited for clarity and length.

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