“There are examples of campaigns we’ve run this year programmatically that we ran direct last year, and the programmatic teams aren’t sophisticated,” Sutton said. Publishers can optimize within a site, moving a campaign to different content sections to gain better performance, for example. Programmatic optimization lacks that precision. Often, agencies just cut sites, Sutton lamented.
The publisher is also seeing traction in programmatic guaranteed, enabled via PubMatic. While it offers first-party data, Sutton sees “demand for data in every flavor imaginable.” Buyers also want to access larger, more impactful ad units through programmatic guaranteed.
Programmatic guaranteed and private marketplaces require communication to work, unlike open marketplaces. That’s why Reader’s Digest assigns salespeople to manage private marketplaces, rather than just relying on the programmatic infrastructure. As a seller, Sutton hopes that programmatic will enrich the conversation between buyer and seller, not eliminate it.
“There’s no getting around it that programmatic is the delivery method of the future,” Sutton said. “The question is if the future is a human being on each end pushing a button, or if programmatic is more of a delivery system that allows advertisers to get very rich data about the programs they run and allows publishers and salespeople to provide really rich data to their advertisers.”