Harmelin Media Builds Agency Trading Desk To Be ‘Better Stewards’ Of Client Business

TradeDeskIndependent media agency Harmelin Media, whose clients include BET and Blue Diamond Almonds, is constructing its own in-house trading desk. Working with TubeMogul, Harmelin, which used to work with a dozen vendors, will commit programmatic video buys to a single platform.

Harmelin is doing this so it can be a better steward of client campaigns. “Harmelin was out in front of the trend by 12-18 months, but I think we’ll see more traction from independent agencies in building their own desks,” said Keith Eadie, CMO of TubeMogul.

Tech and automation enable standalone agencies to usher more efficiency into the buying process while simultaneously leveling the playing field with larger holding company equivalents.

Brad Bernard, Harmelin’s VP of online media and analytics, spoke with AdExchanger about the initiative.

AdExchanger: What’s Harmelin Media?

BRAD BERNARD: Harmelin Media is an independent agency that has about [$500 million] in media billings. About 20% of that is in digital. The digital team consists of about 40 people of the 200 at Harmelin Media in total. We have a robust TV buying, digital activation team, and when it comes to video, we also have a virtual team that is centered on convergence and video is at the center of that.

Do you divide digital video and TV responsibilities?

We’ve created two separate mechanisms to activate video for our clients. One channel is television-centric – adding digital video onto a television buy as an extension of television. We set up processes internally to make that happen really smoothly for the planners and buyers. It touches the digital team really only in the aspect of the operational side of it. It doesn’t touch digital buyers. When clients want to leverage digital video beyond just an extension of television to do sub DMA targeting, behavioral and audience-based targeting, interactive video and all of the other things digital video does that television can’t, then it goes through the digital activation team.

Why build your own agency trading desk with TubeMogul?

The biggest one is taking more ownership and stewardship of the campaigns. The name of the game of marketing is scale and you can get scale through ad networks and exchanges, but you don’t have the degree of control or transparency unless you have the trading desk capability. Because we’re supposed to be good stewards of our clients’ business, we need to own that more.

Do any of your clients have direct relationships with TubeMogul or is there any contractual crossover?

It doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue with our clients because we’re not a huge holding company with clients with deep marketing departments. We have great clients but their marketing departments are smaller and they rely on us more heavily as an extension of their marketing department. Most of our clients don’t have an interest in bringing media services in house.

In constructing your trading desk, are you working with any other DSPs, DMPs or ad tech vendors to round out your stack?

On the display side, we have an agreement in place with MediaMath. We’re going to get through this onboarding with TubeMogul through the summer and I expect we’ll bring another vendor into the fold, unlikely on the video side, but more likely on the display side.

What headcount or resources are you appropriating to the trading desk?

A portion of our ad ops department manages the trading desk. Our ad ops department has evolved to a traditional ad ops team that’s working in the ad server for our non-programmatic buys. A larger part of it is actually working directly in the platforms and there’s about three full-time dedicated people working in the platforms. There are two individuals overseeing that.

Can you discuss clients that will or are using the trading desk?

I can’t share that. I wish I could but I can tell you the fast adopters of digital video in general are fast adopters of programmatic and that includes CPG brands, as well as some others.

One of the benefits of the TubeMogul partnership is the agency’s ability to buy on a GRP basis comparable to TV. What’s on your mind in terms of measurement?

Philosophically, some of the debate is, [whether we are] moving backwards by moving to a GRP model vs. all the great things digital can do. And I used to be in that camp. I used to think it was a giant step backward. But from a pragmatic standpoint, if we are going to vie for the television dollars, we need to speak their language and have their currency. It’s putting a value at the impression level and too long digital has been viewed and treated as a direct-response vehicle with click and post-click metrics, completely devaluing all the targeting of reaching that individual and changing perceptions. If that’s what we’re charged to do, we need some type of measurement to put a value on that perception and impression. The GRP is a step in that direction.

Can you share what percentage of client spend is transacted programmatically?

If I don’t include search, it’s less than 20% right now in the programmatic space. But it’s growing. Will it be 100%? I don’t expect it will be. But I think there’s going to be (some people who are closer to the) 50% range.

What’s your top priority as a media agency?

Programmatic direct outside of the RTB area. That’s something that we have not done a lot of and I recognize it is something we need to be experimenting with to see if it can deliver value. That’s probably the next iteration of this. It’s a tough space to predict. The one thing I’ve learned is the infrastructure has to evolve faster and quicker than clients do. What we may plan for clients now may be irrelevant a year from now. That’s why we need partners like TubeMogul who have expertise in the game.


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