Programmatic Consultancies Help Publishers Play Catch-Up

Matt ProhaskaJust because there’s a push to adapt programmatic strategies doesn’t mean everyone is equipped to handle them. Publishers, in particular, have lagged behind advertisers in embracing programmatic.

While agencies now have trading desks and brands like includes Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Heineken and Mondelez International are taking it one step further, bringing programmatic brand in-house, many publishers are just starting their programmatic operations or have just dipped their toe into the waters. It’s a situation that’s led to the rise of a handful of programmatic consulting groups.

Last August for instance, two architects of IPG’s trading desk founded Unbound, which offers technology- and service systems-integrator services. And five months ago, Matt Prohaska reopened the doors of his consulting business, Prohaska Consulting.

“As the industry matures, programmatic has become part of doing business,” Prohaska said.

Prohaska resumed his consultancy after his position at The New York Times was eliminated 10 months into his tenure, reactivating the business he ran for two years prior to his hiring at the Times. His client base is dominated by publishers, but also includes ad tech vendors and the IAB.

Business for consultancies like Prohaska’s is driven by publishers that buy programmatic technologies, but either don’t have the staff or the skills to sustain and grow a program.

“Most of these start out as short-term projects, to deliver positive ROI, gain comfort levels and give them knowledge,” Prohaska said. But even as publishers learn about programmatic, they often find they don’t have the staffing to sustain efforts. “That’s why we’ve expanded our services beyond strategy and project work, and know we’re doing day-to-day support. For one client, we’re running their entire programmatic operation for them for a year.”

Prohaska sees outsourced programmatic as a way of the future, similar to how publishers have outsourced ad operations for the past decade. “The same way they’ve helped publishers outsource their trafficking, we’ve helped publishers in leveraging yield management and day-to-day engagement to drive higher CPMs and make sure that goals are being met with data.”

Most of the publishers Prohaska works with fall into two camps.

One group has started setting up operations but often feels like they’re not realizing the full benefits of programmatic. The other camp has never done programmatic, and “realized they’re missing out on a lot of money,” he said. There’s also a small minority that do have more sophisticated operations that are looking for a continued edge. Larger publishers like Condé Nast and Hearst have already built out their programmatic apparatuses.

One pressing issue for publishers is data management. Many advertisers know more about a publisher’s audience than the publisher does. “The No. 1 thing we are helping publishers do around their first-party data is offsite audience extension,” Prohaska said. “We help them select a DMP and help them build out ad products against it.”

Prohaska Consulting has a dozen employees and 23 clients, two-thirds of which are publishers.

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