From Automation to Creativity: A Look Inside IPG’s Ambitious Programmatic Strategy

Kristi ArgyilanWho’s driving the shift towards programmatic trading? Few would argue it’s the sell-side. Some might say it’s the ad tech vendors. However, if pushed, even those people would probably concede that the move to automation wouldn’t be succeeding without the support of the leading agencies. It wasn’t always like this. In the early days, you got the sense the agencies were responding to the ad tech vendors. Many even believed agencies would be cut out of the picture altogether. However, times have changed, and in 2013 you get the sense that agencies have regained their confidence and are beginning to assert their influence over the future of programmatic media buying in ways that they haven’t before.

One recent agency attempting to set the programmatic agenda is IPG Mediabrands, who – under Global CEO Matt Seiler – have publicly stated they aim  to automate 50% of media buying within three years. One of the people heading up the integration of media buying services is Kristi Argyilan, President at Magna Global for North America, the strategic global media unit of Interpublic Group (IPG). Argyilan explained to VAN how Seiler has started to move the group’s most valuable assets and capabilities into one groups: all of IPG’s data assets will be funneled into AMP (Audience Measurement Platform), a data platform the group has built up in North America; then the data platform will sit alongside Cadreon’s trading desk, creating a set up that will become ‘more of a platform’.

The Partnership

At the heart of this platform will be’s buy-side tools, which Argyilan says have been customised according to IPG’s requirements. “We think they knew from the get-go that they wanted to grow into a platform company rather than just a DSP or ad exchange,” she said.

“We’ve been having conversations with them long before the AOL acquisition came on the horizon and we knew that – along with the near-term capability that they’ve had – they’re also willing to devote development time to our relationship. So we’ve been able to figure out how they could become core and enable us to apply our data and create a strong advantage for our clients in the marketplace,” added Argyilan.

A Coalition of the Willing

A core part of IPG programmatic strategy is the ‘Magna Global Consortium’. While much hot air has been spoken about the idea of all media – from TV to outdoor – being traded programmatically, most have sat back waiting for an ad tech powerhouse like Google to bundle everything into an integrated stack. But instead of waiting for a tech company to build a solution, IPG have brought together a number of ‘like-minded companies’ to work with them on the move to making buys less time consuming and more efficient. Participants include A+E Networks, AOL, Cablevision, Clear Channel Media and Entertainment and Tribune.

“It’s a group of companies who raised their hands to join in what you could describe as a private marketplace, a protected garden or perhaps a sandbox. It’s a place for us to play around with fair pricing in an automated marketplace, so that we can break through this auction/remnant inventory place that we’re in right now with programmatic. Ultimately we want to get to a place where we’re able to take a full spectrum of inventory, price it fairly, apply better metrics to it instead of broad ratings demographics, and start to make some really smart buying decisions where we can all prove to our clients we’re driving sales and aren’t just buying cheap impressions,” explained Argyilan.

Automation to Free Up Space for Creativity

Interestingly, when asked about whether automation will erode agency billing hours and reduce the focus on creativity within agencies, Argyilan says it will have opposite effect. Using language similar to the kind used by publishers who are automating the selling process, Argyilan says that automation will free up time for high impact creative services.

“While we have a 50 percent automation goal, the other part of the buy is custom,” she said. “We’re finding that these custom integrations, brand experiences and branded content actually have anywhere between five and eight times more effectiveness. So what we want to do is eliminate manual tasks that people are doing and technology can do, so we free up the time to create more of those custom programmes and to spend more time looking at data and insights so we can make better decisions. We’d like to get back to making that connection with consumers.”

Programmatic TV, Better Late Than Never

When asked if the TV industry are moving quickly enough towards data-driven advertising and automation, Argyilan says she thinks TV executives now ‘get it’ and ‘are moving fast now’ (IPG have been working on programmatic TV with Visible World – see last week’s Q&A with Visible World’s Claudio Marcus). “They’re dealing with different things so the smaller and better organised companies – i.e. those that didn’t grow up by simply acquiring other companies – are in a great spot when it comes to getting there quickly. But those that have grown up by making huge acquisitions still have system problems because they have multiple systems for multiple companies because you can’t just rip out those systems and replace them with something new without the company coming to a screeching halt for five years,” Argyilan explained.

 “So we see them dealing with the need to automate and think about programmatic in different ways. There are some in TV who – when they realise how data and programmatic is changing the industry – who are extremely interested in making the change and they’re often trying to solve the issue. There are a small number who say ‘Why would I make the switch when I’ve only got five years until I retire’. But we used to hear that response a lot more often – even just two years ago – but there has been a huge shift in terms of the interest and people are realising that now is the type to figure it out.”

Interested in the future of TV and video advertising? Book your tickets now for VAN’s inaugural event:  

New Video Frontiers, ‘The Rise of Programmatic Video’, London, October 24th.

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