Premium Vertical Balancing Act: Blending Direct Deals With Automation

darentrousdellsellsiderThe Sell-Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Daren Trousdell, CEO at OneUp Sports.

Some of the most innovative publishers can be found in premium digital media verticals, especially within the sports and entertainment categories. These verticals have historically given brands a platform to do amazing things that engage their desired audiences via content and context.

With the shift to programmatic technologies, the art of placing and pricing digital media in premium verticals could quickly take a backseat to the science and efficiency. But, it shouldn’t – at least, not completely.

With a staggering $53 billion expected to flow into the channel by 2018, it looks like programmatic is here to stay. Even so, I’m still convinced that the best media deals happen when the buyer and seller meet face-to-face and work on a deal. I believe there are ways to ensure that both strategies coexist and drive even more opportunity for publishers and advertisers.

Infuse Audience Data

One strategy that yields benefits for both publishers and advertisers is combining programmatic technology with unique audience data. This starts to bring relevancy into the equation, offering advertisers more value for their money, in addition to programmatic’s usual advantages in speed and price controls. At the same time, the publisher’s cost of sales goes down while creating the opportunity for the advertiser to raise the price in an exchange environment. The premiums generated on the additional data points drive the highest eCPMs. That is critical for growth.

Leverage Platform Intelligence

Publishers and advertisers need to use the multivariate data and insights generated by a strong programmatic strategy to maximize ROI. Insights into demographics, geography, lifestyle and category interests give advertisers the tools they need to optimize campaigns in real time.

As more controls are added to programmatic efforts, the mutual value will become more apparent, and both buyers and sellers will reap the rewards.

Relationships Matter

I’ve found that some of the pricing and volume issues that crop up in in a typical early-stage programmatic strategy can be avoided by building strong relationships with programmatic partners.

One would think that an automated process would eliminate pricing errors, but in my experience, unless someone is closely managing the process, relying on programmatic actually results in more mistakes. While programmatic improves some efficiencies, relationships do matter and human involvement is still important. It is possible, for example, to increase programmatic eCPM by simply communicating and sharing unique product attributes, expanded first-party data and creative opportunities. It’s also helpful to develop a programmatic-specific presentation for buyers to bring them on board.

The industry can successfully blend the creativity and innovation of the direct deal with the efficiency of programmatic. After all, brands are part of the fabric of premium verticals and publishers, and you can’t automate every moment with the consumer.

Follow Daren Trousdell (@dtrous), OneUp Sports (@oneupgames) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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