Biddable Media: The Battle Inside the Agency for Control

If you’ve ever watched a children’s tee ball game, you know it’s a bit of a mess. Everyone is playing everyone else’s position and there’s that kid out in left field making a crown out of the daisies in the outfield to show his parents that he’s not cut out for the Majors later in life. That’s what’s happening within agencies in regards to biddable media. Agencies weren’t designed to accommodate biddable media. We see new organizations and titles emerge within agencies like Trading Desks, Facebook API Teams, and ‘Performance Media Managers.’ However, is this really the most effective way to manage biddable media and where will the trend take agencies into 2012 and beyond?

If you think about the technologies used for biddable media, they’re meant to create a streamlined approach to a fragmented landscape. However, this has caused fragmentation within agencies. What used to be planned, executed, and owned within a Media Planning team is now being managed by a Search team. What used to be owned by a Social or PR team is now being bought to amplify a campaign by the Display team. Audiences aren’t being planned by media planners anymore – they’re being planned and reported on to a media planner by a trading desk. Whether it’s right or wrong, this has changed the game. The strengths of a Search specialist are different than that of a Media Planner. When I talk to a Search specialist it’s all about the bids, keyword combinations, and driving down click costs. However, due to bid management tools plugging into Facebook’s marketplace API we now see more and more Search teams handling ‘Paid Social’ dollars for clients. Big red flag – Search specialists aren’t audience or Social specialists.

Brands complain about Facebook Likes when they aren’t getting earned traction from paying for 500k Likes, however they focused on the Cost Per Like. Brands completely ignore the new metric that Facebook wants you to pay attention to, “Talking About This.” Although Search teams do a great job at optimizing bids to an efficient cost per fan, they’re missing the other big piece. What happens when you turn off paid media? Many Brands are blind to Facebook’s ability to create and amplify conversations, hence the industry saw a shift when budget was taken out of the Engagement Ads and pumped into the Marketplace Ads. However, Brands are now asking themselves “after spending $1MM acquiring fans, what have we gained in the Social space?” It’s a question that Search specialists are not equipped to advise clients on during a weekly reporting call. It’s a one dimensional “this week we spent X dollars and garnered 1k fans at a $0.10 cost per fan.”

Now take the flipside, Display specialists are not well-versed in bid management tools so do you give the keys to a media planner to learn how to do bids as well as plan a campaign?  I say no. Trading Desks do a much better job managing campaigns utilizing DSPs, data, etc. than media planners could ever do on their own.  Some argue, the reason Trading Desks came about was due to holding companies concluding that a 23 year old did not have the business or technical aptitude to recommend technologies and services for a client to utilize to buy Display.  However, I know very tech savvy planners that are now more ‘Media Technologists’ than pure planners. Let’s say Search owns Paid Social and the Trading Desk owns Prospecting and Remessaging efforts, where does that leave a media planner? Might as well pack up and go home, right? Not necessarily.

The art of planning has shifted from planning direct buys to planning a suite of technologies in order to access inventory sources efficiently, effectively and to analyze data to indicate top performing audiences and nuances that were not fully realized prior to running those technologies across biddable media. Media Technologists are the new breed of planners.

Biddable media is taking up more and more shares of a Display media budget (regardless of being managed by Search, Display, or ‘Performance’ teams).  The big question agencies need to address is who plans, owns, and executes it?  I say it’s a tee ball team approach with a few individuals guiding the hoard with a loud voice.  The media planners call “MINE!” on that media, but the Search team assists with bidding, adjusting, and optimizing at the direction of the media planners.  It’s a team effort after all – everyone can play nice on the field, but we need more clarity around ownership when dealing with biddable media and the way to get there is with the adaptation of the media planner.

  • Mark Davies

    Good article JPim; I foresee there will be an increase in the number of digital specialists who, like me, will transition from the media planning & buying side to work with trading desks. I will therefore be bringing my planning skills to the biddable space thus combining my marketing skills with technological expertise. Admittedly, there will be few within the industry, like you and I, who are able to combine the two skills effectively but perhaps we are a rare breed, only time will tell…

    • Jayne Pimentel

      I agree with you that it will most likely be a rare breed. However, worth the price to acquire that talent for any agency – it’ll be highly valuable for any agency

  • MarcusAbsent

    Totally agree with most of this article. Many inside agencies can see the benefit of a trading desk, however, view them as akin to another network. A client perspective too is worth bearing in mind. Many campaigns run on a CPA basis with a network might deliver the goal (sign ups at a particularly point in the conversion funnel for instance) and a client won’t be prepared to move away from a CPA buy which a network can offer, towards a CPM only buy on a trading desk. Trading desks need to build up their data pools as networks have a big headstart on them

  • Anonymous

    So many people have dominated the social media market that it is gasping for air. And it is just a matter of time before Pinterest is exploited for the same marketing quacks. $100k for 100k repins. Really? Is this really what our field became?