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What's wrong with programmatic?

What's wrong with programmatic? Becca Bleznak

Transparency was a hot topic at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado, California. The problem, said Kevin Ryan, CEO at Motivity Marketing, is that we don't know where to go for information and we don't know who to trust for this information. In an effort to hold an honest discussion, Ryan spoke with Rhonda Hanson, director of paid search at Shutterstock, about what they had learned from speaking with media companies and brands about their issues when it comes to programmatic relationships.

Mobile programmatic is 70 percent of all mobile spend, according to a recent report referenced by Ryan. After all, Google essentially "forced" us to turn to mobile. The report also called out the issues occurring between agencies and brands, where the former is ripping off the latter and not sharing where their money is going. These issues are systematic, said Ryan.

Ryan followed up by discussing a trend that was revealed from his and Hanson's discussions: The lack of a common vernacular. We should all be speaking the same language, said Ryan. Despite being from an agency, a brand, or a vendor, there needs to be some kind of guidelines in place to make sure we all know what the other is talking about. Right now, everyone has their own way of referring to various trends and technologies, and it's hard to keep up with.

Hanson added an example from her own life: She was having a business discussion and the other party mentioned a DMP -- and she wasn't 100 percent positive she knew what that was. Because she runs an international program, it's even more important to have this transparency in conversation. Hanson said that she insists on setting an agenda at the beginning of a meeting, as well as establishing what each party wants the outcome to be, and coming into the meeting prepared for this.

While this seems like a simple idea, it's not as common as you might think. Ryan said that he suspects that the fear of looking dumb prevents people from having these conversations, as well as an obsession with focusing on "big ideas," and ignoring the little things. But in order for a campaign or even a relationship to be successful, all of the working parts must first be in place, he adds.

Refocusing these ideas on programmatic, there are several reasons why the agency-client relationship is flawed in this area, and agencies are being called out for obfuscating margins. One of those reasons is that agencies are hiding profits and taking kickbacks from media sellers, and then acting as their own sellers, in a way. The lack of discussion about this is problematic.

Additionally, you don't often get what you pay for when hiring an agency. Ryan remarked that after hiring an agency and the initial pitch meeting, where you gather thought leadership and schmooze with the higher-ups, you never speak to them again -- instead, you mostly communicate with interns. When you're paying for the people you originally met, this can be infuriating.

So how do you get away from this? Hanson offered up one suggestion: She's trying to move away from media spend through the agency -- it creates a bad relationship. Instead, she suggests paying retainer fees. This encourages the right kind of conversation, such as "How many hours can you dedicate to my brand?" and "Are you managing/focusing on my priorities?"

These are just some of the issues with programmatic spend, Ryan concluded. There are a lot of problems as far as transparency is concerned, but we're getting to a point where we looking at the more direct relationship between brands and sellers, and have knowledge behind the scenes. He advises clients to stay away from strategy that's reliant on one set of technology, and to establish a relationship with both media sellers and your agency. This is forcing positive change in the agency-client relationship.

Becca is currently an editor at iMedia Connection, as well as a freelance entertainment writer for ScreenPicks.com and The Televixen. In the past, she has worked as a social media/community manager at SEO Savvy, Empower Digital, and Mahalo. ...

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