Home Data-Driven Thinking Going Solo: Hiring for In-House Programmatic

Going Solo: Hiring for In-House Programmatic


lindasughrueData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Linda Sughrue, director of service operations at DataXu.

There’s no denying that bringing programmatic media buying in-house is hot right now. The topic makes the rounds in articles, sales pitches and meetings every day.

There is, however, one aspect that is crucial to making the in-house trend a reality, but it hasn’t received much attention: hiring.

I’m all for savvy marketers bringing media buying in-house when it makes sense, but there are key roles they must fill in order to be successful.

The Must-Haves

The platform operator: This “hands-to-keyboard” operator creates the flights that focus on particular tasks such as retargeting or audience buying. The operator also traffics the ad creatives, manages and optimizes pace and performance and reports on key metrics.

The strategist: This planner determines how to allocate the budget across channels and tactics, and analyzes campaign data to understand how the campaign performs and consumers respond to the message.

The operator and strategist roles can sometimes be combined, depending on the size of the organization.

Supply chain manager: If you plan to use your platform for a lot of private exchange buys, access numerous proprietary data sets or integrate several vendor technologies, such as on-ramp anonymized CRM data, you may need to hire someone to manage these tasks.

The reconciler: The paperworker. This doesn’t necessarily require a full-time equivalent, but someone needs to handle things like billing and reconciliation with supply partners and ad servers.


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Search For Future Gurus

How do you fill roles? Ideally you’d hire people with experience operating a programmatic platform, possibly the one you’ve chosen. In reality, those people are already employed by a DSP provider or are considering offers from them. They’re also expensive, typically commanding both cash and equity.

That means you might look at people with experience with digital advertising, but will need to grow into the role of programmatic gurus. Good candidates include:

Media planners: Digital planners can be good choices for programmatic teams. They understand the space and what you’re trying to achieve. And they know inventory, seasonality and channels, all of which are topics that apply broadly to all digital marketing. On the flip side, media planners often lack hands-on experience with platform operations, so expect your candidate to need time to ramp up.

Search specialists: These can be strong additions to your programmatic team. They’re familiar with media platforms and understand auction-based buying, as well as targeting and optimization. But search is a different animal than digital display, mobile and video, and your candidate may struggle with strategic and analytical requirements.

Ad ops: Folks who have worked in ad operations – a broad term, to be sure – probably have a high level of confidence and comfort using technology platforms, and they understand all the components of campaign setup.

Where they may fall short lies in actively assessing and optimizing campaigns in real time. Knowing how to tweak targeting, frequency, pacing and dayparting to improve performance is an art that takes time to acquire.

Analysts: Analysts will do a great job analyzing campaign data and identifying potential and nonobvious areas for optimization. They’ll also help you make strategic decisions about your marketing initiatives and target customers. For instance, they can detect data signals that point to key influencers as well as untapped pockets of demand.

They are great qualifications but none of that can happen if the analyst isn’t comfortable setting up and managing campaigns or operating technology platforms. Knowing how to traffic a campaign so it’s optimized on specific goals is an essential part of the job.

Other helpful things to look for in a candidate include:

  • Experience with digital advertising campaign management, including strategy, tactics, execution and reporting
  • Experience with one or more digital media channels
  • Analytical and data-driven skills for creative problem solving
  • Willingness to experiment and a high degree of comfort with test and learn techniques

Other Considerations 

When interviewing candidates, be sure to set the stage properly. Openly recognize that the perfect candidate may not exist, and that the successful candidate may need to step outside of his or her comfort zone to do the job. Some candidates are game for that kind of challenge but others are not.

Finally, there’s the question of head count. How many people do you need? Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to this one. Partly, it depends on the complexity of our campaigns, as well as how much media you intend to run through the platform. One solution: Pay your platform team to assess your needs based on your goals.

Your in-house execution will take some time to get going, but with the right team in place, it can provide great benefits to your organization.

Follow DataXu (@DataXu) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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