“Change is neither good or bad, it simply is.”
If you've ever watched the show Mad Men, you'll probably recall the bravado lifestyle of its mostly male leads and the boozy glitz that seemed to permeate the New York City advertising industry.
But gone are the days of Mad Men creative types sitting in smoke-filled rooms, coming up with jingles for cereals. And while it’s nice to reminisce about the past, there’s a new boss in town who's making a huge impact on the advertising industry: the programmatic buyer.
"Huge impact" might be an understatement, actually. The reality is that programmatic buyers have completely transformed the advertising industry. Before they came around, media buying consisted of a person or team strategizing the placement of ads to get the best results for their clients. Programmatic buying has evolved the process into a more modern and efficient approach. With the help of programmatic buyers, advertisers can now reach exactly who they want and when they want, across display, video, native—and radio and television in the future.
In light of these facts, we put together a light-hearted list of some of the reasons why programmatic buyers are the new Mad Men 2.0.
1. They live in the future
In the Mad Men era, the rate of adoption of new technologies was fairly slow—Don Draper's ad agency didn't have a television department until the second season and it wasn't until season 7 that they purchased their first IBM supercomputer.
Programmatic buyers sit on the opposite side of the "technology adoption" spectrum. They embrace new technologies before almost anyone else—and not just ad technology.
And how can you blame them? Using cutting-edge technology is part of their job description!
2. They're decision makers
In so many episodes of Mad Men, we see the art director sitting around, waiting for the copywriters to come up with a campaign idea before drawing the ad up and submitting it to the creative director for approval. It's a slow and inefficient process that involves too many moving parts and creates a lot of wasted time.
Programmatic buying corrects this problem by putting these separate tasks into the hands of one person. Indeed, not only are buyers responsible for the day-to-day management of multiple campaigns, but they also identify opportunities within each campaign to improve performance and take action to improve results. And they do it in a fraction of the time.
3. They love data and they know how to use it.
In the Mad Men era, sales were the only way to measure an advertising campaign's success other than “gut feeling”—partly because market research was still in its infancy.
In modern digital marketing, successful campaign execution requires serious deftness with data analytics—and advertisers want to see more measurable results (CPC, CPA, CPM, time-on-site, CTR).
Programmatic buyers can deliver on these results because of their unprecedented access to user-specific data—such as age, gender and location. This data allows them to draw rich insights into the actions and decision that advertisers need to make to improve their KPIs.
4. They’re investors, not gamblers
In an early episode of Mad Men, an eager client tries to prove himself by pumping his inheritance ($3m) into an expensive ABC special promoting jai alai as the “new national pastime.” Knowing all too well that the strategy will fail, Don Draper is initially reluctant to accept the client’s business but eventually comes round. The promotion fails of course and we never hear about jai alai again.
The above scenario simply wouldn’t happen under the watchful and commanding eye of a programmatic buyer. That’s because unlike Don Draper and gang, programmatic buyers are results-driven and understand the critical importance of testing and dynamic optimizations.
Give a programmatic buyer $3m you'll see that money optimized across a multitude of channels and each dollar taken as far as it can possibly go. Because of their ability to make smart advertising decisions, programmatic buyers now drive budget allocation for many advertisers.
5. They re-invent the word "strategy"
Don Draper and his copywriting team can often be found at their desks late at night, scrambling to come up with a successful advertising strategy before the next day's pitch.
Today, it's programmatic buyers who drive and execute strategy—through tactical planning based on data driven-knowledge.
On top of managing campaigns and ensuring that they're performing, programmatic buyers collect data and analyze it to determine what works and what doesn’t. This focus on data insights enables programmatic buyers to drive future advertising strategy.
6. They aren't easy to replace
It seems like a character gets fired on Mad Men in every other episode. Alas, job security wasn't really a thing for advertisers in the 60s and 70s.
Programmatic buyers are pretty much immune to this kind of risk. Why? Because they possess a set of "difficult to come by" skills, which makes them a crucial asset in any setting. And as the programmatic industry grows even bigger and more important, buyers are apt to become even more indispensable.
7. They're a diversified group
A quick scan of almost any Mad Men episode usually reveals a cast made up by middle-aged white men. It's unfortunate, but historically accurate—the 1960s and 70s were a very different time for women and people of color.
Things couldn't be any more different today. The modern programmatic buyer is truly an emblem of diversity. She or he comes from a variety of backgrounds and educational specializations—they're as likely to be a middle-aged former engineer as a recent computer science graduate.
8. They have a very bright future
The advertising industry was a tumultuous place in the 1960s and 70s with multiple large agencies going under due to competition and a dwindling market.
And while the industry still goes through ups and downs today, there's one individual who truly shouldn't worry about their place in the future of advertising, and that's programmatic buyers.
The use of technology and data in advertising is part of a growing trend that isn't likely to slow down any time soon. In fact, programmatic buying is on the cusp of taking over the way most digital ad budgets are spent, with eMarketer estimating that spending on programmatic will reach $15 billion by the end of 2015.
Sorry, Don Draper. Programmatic buyers are the new Mad Men.