“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today’s column is written by Gene Pizzolato, president and general manager of Gamut, a division of Cox Media Group.
Direct sellers remain underutilized in the programmatic space.
Some organizations are replacing direct sales with programmatic, but I believe this is less than optimal. While programmatic allows for more advanced execution of buying and selling media, it creates an inventory discovery and bespoke solution void that can only be filled by direct sales teams.
Direct sales teams have the opportunity to complement and integrate with the technology. Direct sales can be a programmatic demand engine, acting like a handheld managed-service DSP to drive demand for the inventory available on programmatic platforms.
While direct sales teams are pushing IO-driven guaranteed campaigns, they can simultaneously pitch programmatic solutions such as private marketplace or programmatic direct opportunities either on a campaign basis or on an ongoing consultative level. This will expand the role of the direct seller from what it is today. They are the navigators for a world in which impressions are not created equal and reaching a particular audience requires in-depth knowledge and consultation.
There will always be premium buyers, looking for premium sellers to provide high-touch, white-glove executions. These buyers want to offer advertisers an edge by securing differentiated inventory that stands out from the crowd. The transaction may be executed programmatically, but there will remain a need for strategic sellers to articulate why one site vs. another is the key site to purchase at a particular time. Buyers will still need consultative sellers who understand the differentiation and value proposition of a particular property or purpose.
Many publishers – those willing to look under the programmatic hood and with an aptitude for yield – have embraced this duality and seen great success. Leveraging their direct sales teams, these publishers translate the relatively constrained execution of IOs into their programmatic counterparts, allowing for both more sophistication and, almost paradoxically, easier implementation.
To do so, direct sellers must have a strong foundational knowledge of programmatic offerings in order to assume the consultative role and recommend the best course of action for a particular set of needs. By understanding the full range of options available, the direct seller becomes a valuable resource as opposed to just the source for premium impressions.
In the end, direct sellers should not fear programmatic, but embrace the opportunity it provides. By letting the technology do what it does best, human resources can be tapped to do what they do best: think, innovate and create. These valuable skills will always have a place in the advertising industry.
Programmatic’s impact can already be felt in areas such as better targeting, efficiency at scale, and less time wasted trading paper. In doing so, the technology has freed up time for direct sellers to focus efforts elsewhere, such as sales.
While the role of the direct seller may evolve, it certainly won’t become extinct. Instead, they will become the demand engine for programmatic channels, and their job will be more consultative than executioner. By letting programmatic technology do what it does best – automate the traditional IO process– direct sellers can shine and thrive.