Indie Agency MARC USA Tools Up For Programmatic Buys

JasonRussoIndependent full-service agency MARC USA is beefing up its digital planning and buying prowess following its acquisition of Boston-based media agency Results:Digital in September.

The Pittsburgh agency has 270 employees and $370 million in annual billings, according to Jason Russo, who founded Results:Digital in 2011 and now serves as president of MARC’s Boston office. MARC’s digital outfit encompasses full-service planning, buying and analytics, as well as a programmatic buying operation the agency is putting together.

Although Russo declined to name what percentage of $220 million in media spend is executed programmatically because it varies by client, “it is something we see growing and something we expect to be a larger part of our buys moving forward,” he said. In select client instances, such as CPG and retail, programmatic executions are fairly typical.

MARC USA is just the latest independent agency to double down on programmatic buying. Earlier this year, Horizon Media rebooted its trading desk capability. The new HX division buys through four demand-side platforms (DSPs), including Turn, The Trade Desk and Adap.tv.

Getting Schooled

As they add programmatic capabilities, standalone agencies need training resources, and this may represent an opportunity for DSP companies.

Alongside a new partnership with video demand-side platform TubeMogul, MARC will also enroll six to 12 of its “top performers” (out of the agency’s 60-person digital team) in a new TubeMogul Certification Program, which Russo described as something of a reward and a responsibility.

“The training will allow us to connect folks on our team who have deep knowledge of our clients to the tools that will drive performance of our media campaigns,” Russo said. “It creates a clear conduit of knowledge from the business/client strategy [side] with platform selection.”

Since TubeMogul’s start in 2011, training had been an integral part of the mix, but the formal launch of a certification program speaks to a greater need for technical skills in programmatic even beyond the vendors' respective platforms, said Michelle Chen, TubeMogul’s director of learning and development.

You might call it Programmatic 101. Clients, depending on their business needs or goals, can choose from 17 different courses. A more generic business track digs into the digital ad industry’s past and debunks a multitude of emerging solutions (and acronyms) for brands and marketers. The software track is more TubeMogul-specific and as such, provides planners and buyers with in-depth self-serve platform training.

The program is not relegated to any one client instance, meaning brands or agencies can take advantage. TubeMogul has a number of “hybrid” use cases, ranging from private trading desk deployments, as one independent agency Nice Advertising did for client Jelly Belly, to MediaVest’s programmatic video management on behalf of CPG client Mondelez. Others, like CPG startup Hello Products, are tapping TubeMogul sans agency.

Right now TubeMogul has a team of people in-house within Learning and Development to help facilitate training. They also work alongside account management, Chen said. She’s in the process of projecting additional head count needed and forecasts hiring dedicated trainers by region out of different client offices (or clients can come to the Emeryville, Calif., headquarters).

Although the obvious benefit of such a program is to facilitate long-term client investment in TubeMogul’s platform and services, Russo said he thinks the training program is a differentiator, and at the heart of MARC’s operations is an inherent agnosticism.

“It’s important to know where there is overlap and where there are complementary relationships, and bring in things like MediaMath or Turn to combine with programmatic capabilities TubeMogul brings on the video side,” Russo said. “That allows us to bring the best stack we can to our clients.”

“If you think back to the search landscape, most of the big search management platforms in the beginning aren’t there anymore,” he added. “They’ve either been acquired or rolled into others. I won’t say this [programmatic] space will echo that, but it’s a good thing to not lose sight of those lessons and really evolve with partners."

 

 

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