“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
For four years, I oversaw business development for a programmatic buying platform that integrated supply sources and data and third-party systems for top brands across multiple industry verticals. It was exciting work, and I loved it. The platform evolved constantly, and the work was challenging, exhausting and ultimately rewarding.
So why leave all of this?
I came to the supply side because it’s where I believe the next wave of programmatic innovation will happen. I recognized how publishers are taking the lead in innovating the next phase of the programmatic marketplace. Smart publishers have always excelled at creating the content experiences valued most by consumers, and now publishers have the tools and the understanding to make sense of their data and feed those insights back into the market.
The buy side defined the first wave of programmatic media. It evolved rapidly, but publishers largely took a more passive approach to the development of buying and selling platforms even as revenues from programmatic began to define their monetization efforts. The buy side has built an amazing foundation, but it will be up to the publishers to build the house.
This could not more important as brands look towards immersive consumer experiences that can harness the power of big data to create lasting equity with consumers. Many buy-side platforms developed core competencies around prospecting and branding. They are no longer relying on retargeting as their raison d’etre. But for branding efforts to continue to develop meaningfully, the buying platforms will need to collaborate directly with publishers, who can provide the audiences to make their marketing efforts more effective and memorable to consumers. Publisher data can elevate these ads beyond roughly relevant white noise, and into the realm of engaging brand messaging.
The modus operandi in programmatic is already experiencing its first big shift as the significance of cookies continues to decline, thanks to the proliferation of connected devices. Aided by strong Wi-Fi, consumers can access the content they want across any devices and operating systems, which renders cookies largely moot and the concept of appointment viewing impossible. In this environment, content is becoming a key proxy for audiences and their habits. Content will be the beacon for the most meaningful impressions and the highest CPMs. And buyers won’t be able to rest on their own in-house data to deliver these impressions; they’ll need publishers to provide the transparency necessary to find the audiences brands desire.
Furthermore, publishers are positioned to help buyers develop the best creative content for their ads. Creative has long been an afterthought in so many programmatic campaigns. But publishers have a unique understanding of the consumer’s experience with content. That understanding will be intrinsic in creating the most thoughtful and impactful design experiences in ad campaigns. Publishers will advise and inspire ads that go beyond standard ad units that we’re all familiar with, and that create immersive, innovative experiences for the user.
In programmatic, the pendulum is swinging in the publisher’s favor, and publishers need to embrace it. Publishers must bring their data into play to serve the programmatic marketplace. This means that instead of just focusing on the revenue their inventory can generate, they need to consider how their ads are performing with their audiences and what value those insights can deliver. This also means no more hiding domains and setting arbitrary price floors. Brands demand transparency, quality data and impact – and they are willing to pay for it. Quality content and audiences command higher prices. When publishers embrace programmatic systems and push their data into them, they will benefit from that demand. The insights only publishers can provide will change programmatic, for the better, and for everybody.
The buy side in programmatic has evolved rapidly, and the entire industry is the better for it. But now that it has established a tried and true framework for delivering results to its clients, the supply side will pick up the baton and lead programmatic to its next peak. This is why I joined the supply side, and why the supply side is the most exciting and, as I see it, the most impactful place to be.