Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Programmatic Advertising Director, The New York Times
I’ve always had two pet peeves over the years about Thanksgiving and they both have to do with what happens to Thanksgiving, not anything about the great holiday itself. One is that Christmas music and TV specials have moved from the day after to now well before Thanksgiving, even creeping up on Halloween. As someone who has worked in advertising for a while, I know the “hard 8 weeks” that retailers have used for years around holiday marketing does mean by default that it starts in early November to run through December. So I shouldn’t be biting that hand feeding us too much. But seeing CBS air their classic “Rudolph” on Tuesday 11/26, 2 days before Thanksgiving, was just too big a jump. The second issue is how too many Americans forget the spirit of Thanksgiving the very next day, and now thanks to some retailers, within hours of having dinner by opening stores Thanksgiving night this year.
So I’m going to go outside the usual columnist rhythm of holiday messages happening right before the actual day (with the exception of New Year’s Resolutions columns post 1/1) and still talk about Thanksgiving, 1 whole week after the holiday. Besides, it was actually over Thanksgiving break 2 years ago that Matt Straz ok’d me writing a monthly column here on TMG; plus my usual TMG spot is the 4th Thursday of the month, and who is actually reading a column about programmatic advertising on Thanksgiving Day other than my Mom? (BTW, thanks again, TMG, for letting me publish today.
Speaking of giving thanks, do you know how lucky we are to be working in digital media? How many industries, that don’t involve oil, hospitals, or hedge funds, have grown overall as consistently as digital media the past 15 years? I had the pleasure of seeing Vincent Lee, Hasbro’s head of digital marketing, present yesterday at the ANA conference in New York about real-time marketing. In addition to being very entertaining, Vincent talked about his team failing roughly 90% of the time, but when they get it right, it’s a home run. No MLB all-star outside of Adam Dunn in 2011 even gets to have success valued that way. Brands, agencies, and publishers get to test and create unique programs on such a frequent basis that it can sometimes be overwhelming if trying to do something different for everyone, but it’s definitely better than slinging “spots” in a standardized legacy medium, or slinging hash in some diner.
And for those of us fortunate enough to be fully- or partially-focused in programmatic, we get to be a part of creating a real transformation of this fast-growing industry. Publishers are evolving their go-to-market strategy, agencies and trading desks are evolving their business models and services provided to clients, and probably at least half of all ad tech vendors in the past year have either undergone a major pivot or at least a significant product enhancement to expand their offerings.
Of course, I am also very grateful for having the privilege to lead the programmatic practice at such a special place as The New York Times.
An old college friend of mine does something impressive on Facebook every morning: she posts 3 things she is grateful for, either from yesterday or in general – a pretty good way to start the day.
It’s easy for many people to be snarky in this digital media and marketing industry, with so much opportunity to constantly improve things relatively quickly, and be critical of the current state. But before making that next negative comment about your situation, in a meeting or on some social network, think about what that same situation was like only 12-24 months ago, or what else we could be doing to earn a paycheck, and realize in the broader context, we’ve all got it pretty good right now.
Matt Prohaska is Programmatic Advertising Director at The New York Times. Look for his column on the fourth Thursday of every month.