Auto And Sports Publisher TEN Sees Fruits Of Programmatic Hire

TEN Dana CaputoSince The Enthusiast Network (TEN), which owns 60 automotive and outdoor sports publications, hired Dana Caputo as its director of programmatic in December, it’s gotten its programmatic house in order.

“I came on board to do yield optimization and also empower the sales team to sell programmatic,” Caputo said.

Before hiring Caputo, TEN didn’t have a dedicated programmatic resource.

That’s not unusual for smaller publishers – a recent survey found more than half of them have no one dedicated to programmatic, while all the largest publishers do. But TEN isn’t a small publisher.

Programmatic evangelists in its ad ops team voiced the need to hire someone solely to focus on programmatic, and the results are paying dividends. In the first quarter of 2015, programmatic revenue increased 213% from the previous year.

One of Caputo’s initial mandates was to set up TEN’s first private marketplaces. That required training salespeople to understand programmatic and bring offerings like private marketplaces up in their conversations with media planners, and putting programmatic in the standard sales deck.

To start the education process, TEN selected two savvy salespeople out of its salesforce of almost 70 to serve as “shepherds in the sales organization to get our feet moving,” explained Eric Schwab, who heads up the sales team as EVP of sales and marketing.

The salespeople learned how to start conversations about a client’s programmatic needs.

“At the beginning, it’s making sure they’re asking questions to clients that have had relationships for years,” Caputo said. Those questions include: Are you spending programmatically? What percentage of your budget is moving that way? Who is your trading desk and DSP?

Selling programmatically also meant calling on new buyers like Magna Global, Xaxis and Turn, Schwab said. Those buyers ask more complex questions, which is where Caputo comes in, attending meetings when needed.

Caputo continues that conversation once the private marketplace deals are live.

“Transparency with buyers is critical to having a successful PMP program,” Caputo said. “We can set them up with the pipes, but unless we know what their KPIs are or if they’re frequency capping, we can’t make it as successful as we can.”

Capturing private marketplace deals requires that publishers offer compelling technology and data for buyers to use. That’s something that Caputo is developing by vetting vendors and implementing technology where it will help buyers achieve their goals.

“Tech is a huge piece of the puzzle,” Caputo said. “With programmatic you have to be progressive and know what vendors have to offer.”

To help programmatic buyers gain higher priority, TEN implemented a header bidding partner, Sonobi, a month ago. It also makes sure to offer programmatic buyers a wide range of units.

“Mobile, desktop, video, interstitials, rising stars – the thought process in those offerings is that if the technology can support it, we’ll offer it,” Schwab said.

“This is the way dollars are moving,” Caputo added, “and the quicker you can adjust to client demand the better place you can be in moving forward.”

Programmatic brings data front and center, and that has made TEN a more attractive option to buyers.

Its private marketplaces have so far have attracted some of its direct buyers and “opened up our world to a lot of our clients that haven’t known about our audience otherwise,” Schwab said.

Reebok, Chevrolet, Fiat Chrysler and Geico are among the advertisers running private marketplaces with TEN.

“We’ve always had a valuable and engaged audience, but programmatic and data proved out the value of our audience,” Schwab said.

Enabling buyers to access the right audiences, not just the right content, works in everyone’ favor: Advertisers get more scale and TEN diversifies what it sells, and to whom.

”Now, they’re not just buying auto on auto, they’re buying the audience, which is 60 brands and 30 to 40 million monthly uniques,” Schwab said.

TEN is even dabbling in allowing partners to take its data off site, though it’s still doing so on a case-by-case basis.

“Data is becoming a bigger and bigger sell on TEN,” Caputo said. Via Krux, its data-management platform, it sells segments like BMW enthusiasts on network and off. Instead of doing audience extension on behalf of its clients, it lets its customers buy their own media using TEN’s data. Advertisers pay a CPM add-on to each impression they buy using the data.

As Caputo continues her efforts to educate salespeople and strengthen TEN’s programmatic offerings, she’s also devoting attention to setting up the ad stack and managing yield – a task Caputo, who has clocked time at Condé Nast and on the vendor side with SpotXchange, felt poised to handle.

Working on the tech side “definitely gives you a broader perspective,” Caputo said. “My technical knowledge improved tenfold: what information is in the bid request, who has custom integrations and who is on the OpenRTB spec – all that type of technical information helps you have a holistic view of the marketplace.

Yield management of the open marketplace involves a number of usual suspects – testing different floor prices, creating price rules, looking at what advertisers are bidding on or passing on certain open marketplace buyers as leads to the sales team.

“The goal of any company is to maximize revenue,” Caputo said of her yield management efforts.

As she toggles between helping the direct salesforce create private marketplace deals and managing the ad stack to create more efficiencies in the open marketplace, Caputo is looking ahead.

True to TEN’s mantra that it wants to enable all the ways buyers want to buy, Caputo is set up for programmatic direct and awaiting solid budgets – like many other publishers.

“It’s definitely coming to fruition,” Caputo said. “Clients are looking to execute this way.”

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