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So…What if You Actually Do Want to Change Your Programmatic Operating Model in 2019?

You know, we kind of poo-pooed that whole programmatic in-housing thing in 2018. It’s not that we don’t believe some form of it can work. It’s more that we just don’t think most brands are anywhere near a place where they can fully in-house their operations and say good-bye to their agencies (never happening).


We understand that we live in a world where data privacy, brand safety and the ability to prove ROI as a marketer are more important than ever. Brands must take more control over their media buying, getting rid of black-box technologies and non-transparent providers, lest they suffer damage from which they might never be able to recover. Plus, powerful buying segments like millennials pledge to abandon brands with crappy advertising policies and who don’t stand for something in today’s world. If you are one of those brands that is looking to perhaps, maybe, potentially, bring some component of its media-buying technology in-house in 2019, there’s good news. There is a path you can follow to get there instead of trying to build the road yourself.

There is one goal and one goal only

And that is: performance. What else could it be? But, you must understand the true measure of performance for your business. We can tell you with confidence that it’s not clicks. It’s something more like sales or revenue. There are a number of KPIs that correspond here like ROAS and incremental lift. What you need to get to—before you even daydream about a change in operating model—is what performance is for you.

The biggest issue is talent

It’s only once you have your goal in mind that you can begin thinking about how a change in operations might help you better achieve it. Not all in-housing is the same, and how you choose to go about it has a lot to do with the tech stack you’re building and the talent pool from which you have to pluck to build your “internal agency.” There is still a talent shortage in digital. It will be even harder to find talent if you’re not in a major city. And even then, the turnover is likely to be high.

You need to think beyond immediate needs for your long-term, organizational in-housing project and consider succession planning and cross-functional collaboration. The good news is that training programs are springing up through ad tech providers and major industry bodies like the IAB that will increasingly—if slowly—skill up new digital marketers. And while you wait, the right technology partner will be able to lend staffing or professional services resources to do things like trading.

Leaning on your partners

Increasingly, brands are trying out an operational model whereby they partner equally with their agency and technology provider to execute strategy and operations. The technology provider runs the campaigns, but the agency manages operational activities. The technology partner will present performance reviews and insights to the brand, in addition to bringing forth ideas for innovation and testing. If you’re thinking about taking more control of your technology in-house, this model might be a good way to try out different functions and roles for your internal team as you lean on partners for guidance.

Photo from Creative Commons

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