The State of In-house Programmatic

The State of In-house Programmatic

With recent quotes such as “86% of marketers said they planned on taking at least some portion of programmatic buying in-house eventually,” and “49% of larger advertisers want to control planning and publisher relationships,” reports Ad Age (ANA Poll).  We traveled to New Orleans to the Digiday Programmatic Marketing Summit focusing on in-house programmatic trends to find out if quotes like these are an inevitable future or exaggerated hyperbole.

Like any advertising industry event crowded by schmoozing vendors and unnecessary glitz.  We cut through the distractions to deliver the most important takeaways after hearing the top brands share their media and marketing stories.



Not Everyone is “Doing It”

You may have heard this from your high school health teacher, but it’s true, not everyone is doing it, taking programmatic buying capabilities in-house that is.  Of the dozens of brands being represented at the summit, only two brands, The National Bank of Canada and Coca-Cola successfully took programmatic buying in-house.  Ignoring the most recognizable brand in the world that brings us down to one, one brand at a summit built for in-house programmatic. Things appear to be more hyperbole than reality in 2018.  Agency’s real fears reside not in other agency competition, or brands taking media in-house, but from consultancies stealing existing business. Not everyone is doing it, but if they are they’re taking their time.

Patience is Key

To successfully on-board a programmatic buying team in-house not only will you need a team, you’ll also need time.  Time for internal departments to accept the new way of doing business, understanding you’re on the same team (no blaming the agency any more), and proving that your move made sense.  The obvious technical setups will also require a fair amount of time. Setting up and linking ad servers, DSPs, DMPs, attribution partners, and any other necessary connection that is required within a brand’s stack.  Based on the brands that successfully took on in-house buying, it required a minimum of two years to have all systems and personnel on the same page. 

Talent is a Problem

This is no secret, hiring programmatic talent is difficult and keeping them is even harder.  Regardless if you’re an agency or a brand, the talent pool is a marketplace so be prepared to invest in people for the long term if you want to be successful.  This means higher salaries, educational opportunities, and a clear career path for everyone involved. The majority of talent that brands are acquiring are coming out of the agency and major trading desk systems.  Understand that if you’re fishing for the best talent, everyone else is looking in the same lake.

There is no One Size Fits All

Build it or buy it, that is the question.  Are you a small business that outsources their accounting department, great, that works for you.  Are you a medium size business that does some advertising but doesn’t require an in-house team, good, that’s an appropriate fit for you.  Taking programmatic buying in-house or media in general has to make sense for your organization. Your organization has to prove that the investment in systems and people payoff in better results.  If the bottom line makes sense or if transparency into all details of buys are of the utmost importance then moving in-house is a good idea. If there is no return and your company is not willing to invest in the concept for the long-term, it is not time or a good fit.

So What Did We Learn?

The largest takeaway is that not everyone is going in-house, at this time only very large brands are making the move to in-house programmatic and media buying (i.e. Kellogg, Netflix, and L’ Oreal).  Transitions take time, a lot of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your tech-stack or convincing the COO that KPIs are improving just because you have more control now. Give your organization a few years and embrace the in-housing decision whichever decision that is.  Finding talent is hard, and holding onto talent is even harder. Have a plan to recruit and retain, losing core people is a major disruption if or when it happens. Finally in-house buying isn’t for everyone, it might be the cool new shiny shoes this year, but if those shoes don’t fit right now then don’t force it, there is a solution and size for everyone.


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