A view from Pete Hanford

How to juggle more agencies in a programmatic world

How can another agency be added to the plan without creating tension or increasing workloads? By Infectious Media's Pete Hanford.

Programmatic has given rise to a new breed of specialist agencies, with many advertisers already juggling a number of media shops.

Moving from manually traded to programmatically traded media is creating problems for advertisers, and leads to the two most common questions I’m asked:

  1. How do I align my media plans between programmatic and non-programmatic?
  2. How does this work with multiple media-buying agencies on my roster?

Advertisers often use specialist agencies to stay at the forefront of innovation in areas like programmatic. While the already-overloaded marketer would prefer to have one media agency manage all aspects of the plan they want better transparency, control and capability than the generalist media agency can give them, and hence, appoint specialists.

However, an advertiser whose always used a single media buying agency doesn’t have the processes (or organisational structure) to seamlessly maximise the opportunity when they will still need to buy some non-programmatic media.

So how can you align the work between media agencies without increasing your workload?

Agency remit

The starting point is to have clear remits for your different agency suppliers that focus on their strengths. Programmatic media buying requires a very different skill set, use of technology and processes compared to traditional media buying.

For one of our financial services clients, it’s as simple as assigning anything that can be bought programmatically under our remit. Anything else is bought by their generalist media agency.

From there, a strategic approach is needed to maximise the benefits of the data available. Most advertisers agree that if the data, targeting and measurement is available, take a programmatic-first approach.

Strategically this creates a clear allocation of responsibilities. In my experience this doesn’t always go down well with an incumbent generalist media agency, who often loses remit on part of an account.

Initial conversations can be frosty but if managed well, advertisers can get agencies to focus on what they’re good at, remunerate them in the right way and deliver results for them – which is what it’s all about.

Data and technology

Effective use of data is fundamental to making digital media successful. The advice I give clients is to take control of their data layer and then empower agency suppliers to use this for their area of business. It can be as complex as on-boarding a DMP, or as simple as managing the pixels on your site.

Agencies should be agnostic and, therefore, able to connect to any data source you provide. Furthermore, a single ad server is the best way to control campaign data where each agency can have access to their own sub account for trafficking and reporting of their respective buys.

We have this set-up with most of our clients, be it through a client-owned ad serving contract or agency-owned ad serving contract.

Additionally, this set-up allows agencies to align plans through audience rules, including or excluding segments between agencies as determined by the plan’s objectives. The cleanest approach to frequency is to have one agency buy everything in a programmatic manner where viewable frequency can be measured – but depending upon the market maturity there may still be a need to buy some non-programmatic inventory.

Having taken control of your own data, the media execution layer can be managed by your respective agencies, be that through DSPs or direct buys (depending upon the agency’s remit).

Aligning planning and reporting

Once remit, data and technology have been addressed, your agencies need to align during the planning process through to reporting. This could be as simple as briefing both your agencies at the same time, thus reducing your workload.

From there, plans are worked up in the respective areas and you can encourage agencies to come together to align plans. We’ve developed this concept with various clients by creating all-agency meetings and QBRs. Opportunities and duplication can be managed through the overarching programmatic-first strategy. Then one single aligned plan is presented back to the client. Each area of business should recommend an effective budget for their channels with discussions as a team on how to get the best results for the campaign.

In a recent meeting we learnt we were able to get better value for a particular inventory through a PMP than the media agency was able to access via a direct buy, so it made more sense to do the former.

Campaign reporting, insight and analysis can be detailed by each agency with results provided at a granular level, as well as a holistic, rolled-up view that enhances campaign strategy through all media channels.

This approach means you maximise the opportunity of programmatic media buying, getting the best possible strategy and insights, whilst benefiting from alignment through all forms of media.

There’s some initial work with both agencies to set this up, but if done well all agencies can be remunerated and motivated to deliver you results while keeping your workload down.

Pete Hanford is revenue director at Infectious Media.