This post was first publised by Digiday.
Is the history of web publishing repeating itself?
In the early stages of the Internet, most publishers established separate teams — even parallel businesses — to address the opportunity and challenge of the new medium.
This time, it’s the emergence of programmatic advertising that’s triggering deja vu.
Back then, digital businesses looked very different than the mature magazines and newspapers they shared a brand name with — especially when it came to product and operations.
In nearly every case, the same thinking was applied to the sales organisation, which was split between new and old.
As Internet ad spending grew, this separation created all sorts of headaches: sales calls became “four-legged,” staffed by two (competing) teams within the same unit. New people were even brought in just to integrate the two parts of the (same) business.
Now it’s programmatic that’s tempting publishers to split up sales. It’s an organizational challenge that looks remarkably similar to that of 10-15 years ago.
The arguments for separate sales teams again seem self-evident: specialisation requires expertise, and it’s easier to compensate people when “separate” revenue is treated distinctly. Also, buying sources are often different, and many existing salespeople show little interest in selling programmatic. (And let’s be real here — the revenue opportunity today for salespeople is much smaller in programmatic than in direct sales.)
Why distract the golden goose? Isn’t the right solution to create and keep two separate sales teams?
This is wrong-headed thinking, and here’s why: if spending estimates come remotely close to predictions, programmatic will not remain a specialty practice much longer. With both agencies and clients demanding ever more efficiency, programmatic infrastructure is the best and brightest solution yet.
However, with the rollout of programmatic, if we’re not careful, we could again be headed for four, six or even eight-legged sales meetings, unhealthy internal competition, unnecessary integration teams, and lengthy and expensive re-orgs that don’t really “take.”
So what, then, can be done?
Broadly speaking, sales teams need to get smart about programmatic. Here’s how:
Train Your Team. While it may be evolving quickly, programmatic is not going away. Sales teams need to get trained, and quickly, and marketing/ad product teams need to understand how and when to incorporate programmatic into programs and proposals.
Create Value. Programmatic often gets cast as just a technique to undercut CPMs. But it’s so much more than that, and offers so much more potential. Organisations that develop creative and smart ways to inject programmatic into their sales efforts will discover a powerful new tool in their arsenal.
Streamline. It’s critical to reduce inefficient and ineffective processes. Most ad organisations and agencies have held on to truly wasteful systems in generating and executing programs. The opportunity to vastly simplify workflows exists, and the potential return on this effort is considerable.
Connect.the.dots. Publishers aren’t the only organisations struggling with the shift towards programmatic. Agencies and brand marketers are equally challenged to make sense of this changing landscape. Help them!
The bottom line is this: programmatic is changing everything. And it’s not an easy process. Every organisation’s culture will demand a nuanced approach to this rapid evolution.
It’s the organisations that do the hard work now that will be much farther along the road than those that merely kicked the can down it.
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