By bsr - January 26th, 2015

We recently sat down with Jeffrey Mayer, the Senior Analyst of Inventory and Programmatic Sales at Whitepages Inc. to pick his brain on all things programmatic.  From why brands should be using programmatic, to the challenges that exist across the ecosystem, Jeff shared with us all the pros and cons that publishers, brands and agencies face when adopting programmatic. 

whitepagesIn your opinion, why should companies (brands, agencies and publishers) be interested – or uninterested – in programmatic advertising?

Jeff Mayer: From a publisher perspective, programmatic advertising offers several advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is the introduction of new and elastic revenue opportunities not available through direct channels. We had already been augmenting our direct sell-through rates with programmatic RTB demand via the Open Auction, but now with Private Marketplace, we are able to provide buyers more scale with brand safe inventory at premium rates through Preferred Deals and Private Auctions.

We have also re-categorized our inventory away from “Premium vs. Remnant”, and toward either “Direct Sold vs. Indirect Sold” or “Guaranteed vs. Non-Guaranteed” as each impression delivered maintains an inherent value based on the audience being targeted. It is just a different method of transaction.

One main disadvantage is that programmatic advertising revenue is inconsistent due to non-guaranteed deal types and fluctuating CPMs. This has made it more difficult to confidently forecast revenue, as we have less transparency into buyer strategy, budgets, audience valuation, or campaign targeting. Additionally, programmatic is more of a reactionary tool rather than a proactive one for publishers to execute, manage, and optimize a campaign.

What’s your current approach to programmatic? Why are you using programmatic advertising - or avoiding it?

We already have a robust offering of programmatic deal types and are continually looking to expand our Private Marketplace deal offerings to provide more unique and valuable inventory packages for our buyers, and are actively optimizing Open Auction to improve yield.

We believe that Private Marketplace should compete directly with guaranteed campaigns holistically within our ad server. Additionally, a high bid CPM via the Open Auction should not be suppressed to a lower inventory tier as those buyers provide as much value as our direct clients.

Again, the difference between Guaranteed and Non-Guaranteed is just a transaction type, and not indicative of the inventory the buyer should have access to.

Does Whitepages plan on increasing resources (budget or personnel) devoted to programmatic media this year?

We don’t silo our Ad Ops or our Ad Sales departments by transaction type or by platform, so all programmatic will fall under current operations workflow. We are all allocating more time as a daily responsibility across our team and setting more aggressive goals for programmatic revenue.

I believe there is little need for a dedicated programmatic team, and as programmatic becomes a primary transaction type, it will just become a standard requirement for all staff to understand and execute with. Hopefully, we will be using the word “programmatic” less in 2015 as a result.

Jeff Mayer, Jeff Mayer, Sr. Analyst - Inventory & Programmatic Sales - Whitepages, Inc.

Currently, wow many people at your organization are focused on programmatic?

One person manages all programmatic operations and sales engineer/strategy support as their primary function. They’re not 100% dedicated to only programmatic, but rather yield management. All of our account managers and account executives are focused on programmatic as it applies to their current roles of campaign management and sales.

In your opinion, what’s the most challenging part of the programmatic landscape?

The technology is still not fully functional and has not yet been built with an operations team workflow in mind. There are too many troubleshooting issues that, unfortunately, cannot be resolved by publishers due to black box tech. Further, there is a lack of clarity on ownership of budgets and accounts at agencies, or trading desks, or DSPs. As was mentioned, there’s also a lack of transparency on both Sell & Buy side – in terms of audience, targeting settings, inventory forecasting, appropriate pricing or rates, and undisclosed tech fees, to name a few. The publisher is more suited for campaign execution, but this responsibility has been migrated to the buy-side, which causes delays, inefficiencies and errors, such as loading tags, QA, activation, targeting, etc., etc.

How is the increasing maturity of programmatic technology going to influence your broader strategy?

With more control and customization of technology platforms, we will be able to provide more deal types and increase our programmatic direct sales revenue. However, I do not believe that publishers should shift all focus to programmatic. Our direct sell-through is extremely important in order to maintain competitive demand within the exchanges.

The ANA just announced that “programmatic” is their word of the year for 2014. If you could predict the future, what will the word of 2015 be?

I’ve got a few:

Programmatic Guaranteed, or Programmatic Direct.
Programmatic Video/TV
Publisher Trading Desk.
Viewability and Fraud.

I also believe that there will be a convergence, if not 2015, then possibly in 2016, where programmatic, viewability, fraud, video, mobile, television, audience, cross-platform, cross-device all begin to coalesce into a single identity.


Interested in programmatic and how it will affect your strategies in 2015?  Join Jeff and other experts on programmatic - from Brands, Agencies and Publishers - at the Incite Programmatic Summit.  Check out the comprehensive brochure to see the experts on our speaker faculty and full agenda. 


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