By Brynn Smith-Raska - January 27th, 2016

We recently sat down with Brett to get his advice and hear his personal experiences with programmatic.

Brett Herter is Manager of Programmatic Strategy at, the leading online destination for car shoppers and owners. We recently sat down with Brett to get his advice and hear his personal experiences with programmatic.

In your opinion, whose role is the most disrupted by programmatic – the brand, the agency, the publisher?

Brett Herter: All 3 entities are really disrupted pretty significantly. If I had to choose, I’d probably pick the agencies, but I think it’s a toss-up.

And why?

Brett: For brands, in essence, the strategy had to change. Brands have always been interested in who their customers truly are, but with the rise of programmatic and audience data, it’s become even more important to understand who your customers are, what they are doing, where they are doing it, how to reach them, and when to reach them. It’s a new era for understanding the nuances of a customer base and an opportunity to really hone in on the key segments.

For agencies, the tactics need to change. Programmatic introduced so many new tactics for buying media and understanding precisely what is being purchased. It required building new relationships with DSP providers, DMPs, trading desks, etc., and the possibilities grew exponentially with the ability to leverage data in a variety of different ways. The existing model had to totally revamped.

And for publishers?

Brett: The publisher got great benefit by being able to offload inventory, but as programmatic has evolved away from pure open auction buying to more private programmatic deals, publishers have had to rethink their strategy and positioning for clients. Programmatic is no longer just a way to monetize excess inventory – it is now an important channel that works in conjunction with direct sales and has to be positioned properly to avoid potential problems. This has had an effect on the sales team, the operations teams, the yield teams, etc.

What is your current approach to programmatic? How has it changed in the past 12 months, and how do you expect it to evolve in 2016?

Brett: Our current approach is to use programmatic as another channel for capturing revenue with our existing national client base. We do not play in the open auction space, and are not likely to. We try to maximize the value of every impression, and we use this more as a “direct” product than a totally separate avenue for new clients. We try to offer unique targeting through programmatic that we don’t through direct buys to encourage clients to move into this space while maintaining current spend levels on the direct side. 2016 will be a year for continuing to build out the program.

This year we are going to tackle the local advertisers, which will be a totally different approach. As we’ve only just started down this path, I don’t have too many insights yet, but that will change in the very near future.

Where does your programmatic team sit? Are they their own entity, or part of a larger team? Do you have a specific “programmatic” role?

Brett: We are part of the Yield and Revenue Management Team, but we are an autonomous group that doesn’t really operate within the typical team framework. We are essentially our own entity when it comes to managing the program.

What’s the most important relationship / collaboration in your role? Is it internal or external (platform, publisher, etc.)?

Brett: Tough call. The relationship with the sales team is critical since we rely on them to get the word out to the agencies about what we are doing. Educating them on the landscape and our specific approach is very important so they can speak to this when we are not around. That said, we also get very involved with selling to the clients. It’s also important to maintain this relationship because there will always be a constant fear of automation replacing people’s jobs. I view it the other way around – in a time when the technology is getting better and more complex, our sales team is more important than ever in managing these relationships and helping the client understand the best way to leverage their marketing dollars.

What’s the most challenging part of programmatic, in your personal opinion and experience?

Brett: Lack of transparency, insight, and education all around. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to truly understand just what is happening on our site, with our advertisers, and in the space in general. DSPs and ad servers aren’t nearly as integrated as they need to be. Our clients, their agencies, and the trading desks can be on totally different pages in terms of strategy, tactics, execution, as well as level of education regarding the programmatic space. 

Do you plan on increasing resources devoted to programmatic this year? How so – in number of employees or budget, or both?

Brett: Increasing. Our program is growing rapidly so we need to increase the number of people managing the operational aspects. As a publisher, the budget will increase as we invest in new technologies but for general management of the program.

If you met someone brand new to programmatic technology, what would you advise they do to implement a successful strategy? What one tip, or tool, or mind-set is indispensable when it comes to programmatic?

Brett: On the buy side, either hire a great trading desk or hire somebody who knows what they are doing. DSPs can do so much when it comes to the levers that can be pulled and the tactics that exist – make sure you are maximizing it. Just as important, get your 1st party data figured out immediately. You should always be retargeting your own consumers, but you should also be learning who they are and using that to find other people like them.

In your opinion, what is the best adtech platform out there? And why?

Brett: Loaded question. There is no great ad tech platform and I don’t see there being one any time soon. Everybody has their own uses and own ideas about how what these platforms should do, so there’s often more focus on adding new features (usually through acquisition) rather than refining what already exists. The space is too fragmented and the direction too unclear for any company to develop a great platform that nails even the basics.

Brett Herter will be speaking at the upcoming Incite Programmatic Summit. Taking place on June 8th and 9th in Chicago, this event is the premiere gathering of the best and brightest minds from across the industry. Brett joins speakers from EA, Dell, USA Today, VivaKi, Almighty and more great programmatic minds.
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