‘There’s no need to pay for a trading desk’: Confessions of a marketer taking programmatic in-house

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

For all the talk of advertisers buying their own programmatic ads, there are few examples of it done well. In the latest installment of our anonymous Confessions series, in which we exchange anonymity for honesty, we talked to a marketer who overcame a mix of logistical and political pitfalls so that their team, rather than their media agency, could buy programmatic ads. While there were several reasons for doing so, the source said one benefit rose above the rest — cost savings.

Excerpts lightly edited for clarity and flow.

How did the internal programmatic team save you money?
When compared anecdotally in conversation with other marketers or in reference to research from ISBA, the percentage of our media budget that we spent on media instead of fees compared to the market was highly advantageous. My costs were typically in the 20 percent area as a percentage of media budget. That included my technology, which was primarily DoubleClick Bid Manager and DoubleClick Campaign Manager. No need to pay for a trading desk plus a core agency team. That number did not include staff costs, but again we always saw that as a saving as we were not paying for full-time-employee rates with an agency multiplier on top.

Other benefits?
Aside from cost savings we also just spent more time making more optimizations than we could have with an agency. That led to us growing our budget by a factor of 5 between 2015 and 2016.

Why were you so against agencies helping you?
I worked at a company that didn’t like to pay third-party fees if it didn’t have to. We were encouraged to do as much as we could ourselves. The only thing the media agency employed by the marketing team did was buy TV. That didn’t stop the agency trying to take the programmatic buying away from us — programmatic was seen as a pot of gold to our agency because my team had a multi-million pound budget for it.

Was there agency pushback?
Initially, the agency tried to discourage us from taking programmatic in-house and on one occasion, incorrectly I might add, accused my team of deep ignorance before telling us they wouldn’t help. Each year the traders from the agency would descend on us to try and talk us around to giving them control over our ad tech stack. I felt the agencies were complicit in how much was undisclosed by the companies on the supply-side of the programmatic chain.

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