Figuring It Out Together…Again

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Programmatic Advertising Director, The New York Times

With Advertising Week in NYC starting to wind down a bit after today (big assumption you’re reading this on the same day it posted, of course), I thought providing a couple semi-real-time observations of events and chats I’ve had this week can hopefully add a little value.

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Chris Hansen, President of Netmining, at a nice event on a gorgeous rooftop outside their Dentsu offices. Great turnout (probably there for the free food & beverage & awesome sunset views of Manhattan vs. me) and super Q&A after from the senior-level crowd. One person from a trading desk came up to me after and said he learned more in that 30 minutes than all day at another event the prior week focused on programmatic. Flattering, but I think what’s behind the comment is that buyers, and all humans for that matter, respond a little better I’ve noticed to humility and people on stage admitting they don’t know everything, yet or ever, and sharing a little of what’s being learned so far.

It was a flashback for me – I bought my first online ad for BBDO in 1994 and sold my first ad online for CNET in 1996. Those were the days when whichever sales rep closed a $10,000 IO that week, s/he bought drinks for at least 5 other “competing” sales reps that Thursday night. We celebrated each other’s wins because we knew money being spent at CNET or or Pathfinder or Yahoo or Starwave meant the whole digital media industry was growing. Too bad so many heads of sales got so arrogant on panels later in the ‘90s during those irrational days when stock prices mattered more than real value for advertisers and audiences.

It’s neat to see some of that collegiality returning to digital media, as we focus more on programmatic buying and selling. I am proud to be representing The New York Times on this relatively-new publishers council at the IAB geared to helping all publishers elevate their game programmatically and help buyers buy more this way. It’s very reminiscent to the first official IAB meeting, actually held at CNET’s SF office when I was fortunate to be working there at the time. I remember Perry Allison leading the first IAB Professional Development committee in about ’97 that Shani Higgins and I were on with about 10 others. We helped teach people what a banner was, how to achieve real marketing goals with online media, and why it was important to have publishers start telling advertisers how many impressions were actually served, by the very next day. Groundbreaking stuff then, but many buyers and brands stood on the sidelines until the audiences moved there more, but even more importantly until it became much simpler to buy.

I saw our release last week of some standard terminology as a bit of a throwback to when we standardized the first banners around 468×60, so agencies didn’t need to make 25 different creative sizes to fit 30 different publishers they wanted to buy. Getting everyone on the same page, dancing to the same beat, learning what a Deal ID means in a Preferred Programmatic Direct deal…helps all publishers. It also ultimately should help all audiences, since this should continue to make digital marketing more efficient, not just for better speed around the transaction itself but the audience targeting.

So thanks to Carl Kalapesi and the IAB leadership along with great catalysts like Alanna Gombert at Conde Nast and Jeffrey Goldstein at Yahoo (see: celebrating other pubs) for their help kicking this off and for asking me to join from the early stages once I started at NYT. There is a ton of teaching still to do in and out of our organizations, and the ones who approach it with a little more humility and transparency, and a little less arrogance, should succeed a lot more in the end.

Matt Prohaska is Programmatic Advertising Director at The New York Times. Look for his column on the fourth Thursday of every month.