Programmatic Ad Buying: Are You Thinking About It?

November 10, 2014

No doubt, as a BtoB publisher, you’re constantly evaluating your ad models to meet the changing landscape of digital advertising. Perhaps you’re thinking about including programmatic buying in your offerings to advertisers? Or maybe you have some idea of what it is, but not enough to be interested, until now. We’ll give you a place to start.

What is programmatic buying, really?

That's a good question, because there is some confusion about how the term applies to BtoB media: many assume it’s the same as real-time bidding or auction style buying. That’s a fair assumption because that is one form of programmatic buying, but it’s not the whole potato. 

AdAge describes it well:

The term covers a wide range of technologies that have begun automating the buying, placement and optimization of advertising, replacing human-based methods like phone calls, faxes and, yes, three-martini lunches. Through programmatic technologies, advertisers can buy ads the way they pick up something on Amazon or bid on eBay.

Predictions have programmatic spending reaching $21 billion worldwide in 2014.

Proponents offer many advantages:

Curious? Watch Tribune Publishing

In August of 2014, Tribune Publishing was born. For years, Tribune Company dwelled in the shadow of bankruptcy and management turmoil and it was time for a change. So, the publishing division, with eight daily papers that included The LA Times and The Chicago Tribune, spun off into Tribune Publishing. Now, CEO Jack Griffin is focused on a digital-first approach.

Of course, they are moving into the realm of digital subscriptions, starting with The Chicago Tribune. But, they are also leveraging the 50 million unique views across their portfolio to provide greater advertising opportunities. Programmatic buying is one big potato they’ve added to the pot, citing that their move away from ad networks to a private marketplace gives advertisers more targeting power and control over the inventory they want, while Tribune gets to build direct relationships with the agencies.

Digiday shares a few key steps they’ve taken:

How’s it cooking up?

So far, Tribune is seeing an increase in digital-only ad customers, with a wider array of advertisers.  It seems that customers formerly deterred by higher costs or narrower targeting opportunities see the value in digital-only programmatic buying.

This is, by no means a comprehensive review of the potential for programmatic buying, but watching Tribune Publishing’s efforts play out, may give you great insight to how it could (or couldn’t) work for you.

  • Helps advertisers engage with consumers more effectively, with greater targeting and verification.
  • Makes transactions more efficient.
  • Saves money.
  • Frees humans from data-heavy tasks so that they can focus on the more creative work.
    • Restructured their sales organization to accommodate a programmatic focus.
    • Trained their sales team to sell programmatically and buy in to it, even though it changes their pay structure.
    • Hired a programmatic sales expert to work with the team.
    • Started by selling programmatic ads to print customers.

Don't forget a key ingredient:

If you do start to think about it, remember you can sweeten your programmatic offering to advertisers with taxonomy-driven ads. As we've talked about before, using a multi-layered taxonomy system allows you to deftly target ads to your audience--serving up relevant insight in with contextual savvy.