BBC Tries Out Different Price Floors For Different Advertisers

BBC WorldwideBeing a programmatic salesperson today means tacking between technical and personal considerations.

At BBC Worldwide Americas, where programmatic sales channels comprise a full third of ad revenues, the technical end means experimenting with tactics like varying price floors per advertiser in order to maximize yield.

“If an advertiser is consistently bidding $20 on our inventory, I might add a line in there to get a higher rate,” said Jaimie Dill, director of programmatic sales.

“But some advertisers are doing volume plays. They’re bidding a ton but are below the floor,” added Suzy Feiglstok, an account executive. “If it’s a trusted brand, we may lower the floor price for a specific advertiser.”

A big part of a BBC media seller's day is spent in front of screens, monitoring things like bid density and blocked bid requests. When fill rates are low, they lower the floor price. When demand picks up, they raise it. Private marketplace deals take extra attention to ensure they fulfill client needs.

“I have all the UIs open on my desk, from Rubicon, from Adap.tv, and it looks like a trading desk,” Dill said.

“With all the data you have, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole,” Feiglstok added.

Though BBC wants to maximize revenue, it approaches programmatic differently because of its status as a public service organization, funded by Britain’s taxpayers. So it’s never approached programmatic as a remnant play, but as another platform to sell display, video, private and guaranteed deals in markets outside the UK.

“We have a collapsible ad model. If nothing’s bought, you may not see ads on your site,” Feiglstok said.

BBC operates with a long blacklist. It blocks entire categories of advertisers in areas prone to more misleading ads, like the insurance industry, and then whitelists individual companies in the space.

It prides itself on monitoring for non-human traffic, which it says is less than 5%, as well as malware distributors and other perpetrators of "badvertising."

“If something looks off, if things don’t add up, ask,” Dill said. If she doesn’t see a “contact us” link on a brand’s website or observes suspicious behavior, like a mysterious wetsuit brand that came in with extremely high bids, she hits “block.”

Working in programmatic often means juggling dozens of vendors, but BBC alleviated the problem somewhat by working with just a few players in each area.

“A lot of publishers out there are building these waterfalls and putting so many partners out there, but BBC has proclaimed that we’re only allowed to have a certain amount of partners, in part to control latency,” Dill said. BBC’s supply partners include Rubicon Project and Google AdX.

Programmatic accounts for a third of ad revenue, a number BBC expects to increase to 40-45% next year. One-third of deals transact privately, more than double the amount from the beginning of last year.

As programmatic revenue grows, the connection between direct and programmatic has strengthened. Private deals require communication with clients about their goals. “There has to be two-way communication with the agency,” Feiglstok said. “We have gotten burned, not knowing when a particular advertiser [running a private marketplace] wanted to be spending a lot more.”

For private marketplace deals, BBC compensates salespeople based on who facilitates the introduction. The same will apply for automated guaranteed deals that flow through the platform.

Depending on the deal, one of the programmatic salespeople will go on the sales call in order to provide the programmatic point-of-view. “Especially now that agencies are putting trading desks into the media teams, we join the direct sales team,” Feiglstock said.

Feiglstok and Dill both came from direct sales. They see their background coming into play more and more as guaranteed deals transact programmatically.

“The role of the salesperson is evolving,” Dill said. After a period during which technical speak and "pulling levers" seemed to be the future of the profession, she said, "We’re seeing it go back to a direct sales pitch, with [agency trading desks] asking us to explain our content to them and asking, ‘Why should we run with you?’”

 

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