June 4, 2021
Programmatic Pre-Roll Ads: What They Are, How They Work, and When Should You Try Them
When I first entered agency life, my first client was a luxury fashion retailer. I thought I was the luckiest employee to be 1 of only 3 members of a team managing ads for such a cool brand. I love fashion, and I also loved that I got to work with 11 “big-name” publishers like NY Times, The Zoe Report, InStyle, Condé Nast, and Goop, to name a few. The best part was coordinating custom sponsorship programs. From verifying inventory of the vendor’s picks, to logging all products on my traffic sheet to send to Ad Ops for tagging, to gathering screenshots for the client as our proof of purchase, to executing offline media buys with modern art and fashion magazines…the list could go on, but I didn’t care, so long as I was updated with up and coming trends and had a first look at some of the content Goop’s readers followed. Fast forward 6 months, my manager notifies the team the client has pulled away from ALL. MEDIA. BUYS.
I was preparing myself for the official news that the client would be leaving us, and that I wouldn’t be able to work with this brand I was so fond of. As I was moping around the office awaiting the bad news, in comes my manager to tell me that we weren’t losing the client, we are simply shifting budget to programmatic.
Programmatic? I thought. You mean our in-house trade desk? Why would the client want to shift all this budget into this one buy?
For the next four months, I began to experience this new way of buying media, and I noticed alterations in my role as a media planner. I was working directly with our in-house programmatic trade desk on new campaign strategy and executing what felt like a much shorter buy process.
When I joined Metric Theory, there wasn’t a trade desk like I’d seen at the huge agency I’d left, that was siloed and treated like an external vendor. Our programmatic team is directly involved in client conversations, as opposed to that information only filtered through me as a media planner. My work now involves just two or three media partners rather than the 11 separate partners I worked with in fashion, executing mostly custom sponsorships. Media planning is definitely changing…here are some major ways my job is changing for the better!
The competitive landscape among brands demands the utilization of data. Brands want to accurately pinpoint audiences with their messaging and need the analytics to deploy targeted campaigns for specific market groups. Traditionally, or shall I say, for the past decade or so (as “traditional” media stretches back almost 100 years!), media planning started with a pool of ideal partners to advertise with. The client’s ads would reach the whole audience of those publishers, who (more or less) fit the client’s profile. This buying process involved human negotiations, which delayed the execution process, and the client would potentially need to pay a high price to guarantee custom placements. With the growing accessibility and improving accuracy of audience data for targeting, buyers are able to limit the number of partners we have to work with, and don’t have to rely on single publishers. Take a vendor like Simpli.Fi for instance; Simpli.Fi has access to a list of search platforms outside of Google and allows targeting by past keyword searches. You can see in real time what keywords are being used and which are performing best among your audience and serve the target this way, much like with search advertising. Talk about taking “contextual” targeting to the next level!
When it comes to partnerships, looking for quality over quantity can be a great way to simplify, streamline and adjust media plans. But how do I know about these partners? This leads me to a second trend I’ve recognized in my role as a media planner: constantly educating yourself on new opportunities for your client.
“I am still Learning.” – Michelangelo
If I had to share one of the hardest challenges in media planning, it would probably be keeping up with the multiplying number of new technology or data providers. As a media planner, you must be a student and teacher on an ongoing basis, learning about the latest data opportunities and most importantly, educating your client on them as well. At Metric Theory, our Programmatic Director takes pride in the first step in the RFP planning process with clients, and that is educating them on the range of programmatic technology that fits their target market, and why it will make better use of their money. As media planners are assisting with programmatic buying, it’s critical to have knowledge on targeting tactics.
As mentioned earlier, traditional media planning involved a lot more human interaction with publishers in the planning and execution phase of your campaign. This meant trying to optimize campaigns with direct publishers over the phone or via email asking them to move placements around or remove them. With programmatic media, we are able to go into a user interface and see if CPMs can be adjusted, or which audiences are performing better than others. Media planners can learn a lot about programmatic by simply diving into their reporting from time-to-time and asking questions. I am in the midst of becoming IAB certified with the encouragement of one of my supervisors at Metric Theory.
I was someone who coordinated direct buys involving human negations and trafficking hundreds of lines between multiple publishers, and I can now say my job description has evolved into a more strategic role where we are constantly educating not only ourselves, but also our clients, on the many options available to use their dollars more effectively. With the evolution of digital advertising, we spend a little more effort educating our clients on how we can reach a much more targeted audience and less time going back-and-forth between vendor and buyer.