Solving the programmatic ad sales challenge with Salesforce

Solving the programmatic ad sales challenge with Salesforce

August 25, 2015



What everyone in the media industry has suspected for the past few years turns out to be true. Boston Consulting Group recently released a study called The Programmatic Path to Profit for Publishers, that confirms a cross-selling strategy is imperative for any publisher aiming to keep pace with the market’s out performers. Right now, many big media sellers are leaving a lot of money on the table as they juggle multiple independent sales channels including programmatic buying. So the rewards are definitely there. In fact, the payoffs, ultimately, could be huge. But how do you get there? More importantly, what’s the best, quickest, and most cost-effective way to get there?

For those unfamiliar, BCG refers to the term “programmatic” as the automated spending of display advertising budgets on various ad forms, such as desktop or mobile. BCG suggests we are overlooking the potential of programmatic direct or programmatic guaranteed sales. They also suggest that programmatic buying must be brought up the priority curve and fully integrated with other sales channels and ad products.

BCG’s study outlines four key steps to do this effectively:

  • Deploy a cross-channel, data-driven sales strategy linking both traditional direct and programmatic buying.
  • Leverage technology and data to understand inventory and drive higher prices.
  • Assemble the right technology to access demand and support decision-making to maximize revenue.
  • Realign organization and incentives to support the combined direct and programmatic buying goals.

This sounds ideal in theory, but if you’re a big publisher with multiple product lines and specialized sales teams, you have to get a lot of individuals to buy in. You’re wondering, “Where does programmatic buying fit in? How in the world do I put it in place and implement it? And if I do, will my teams and my customers follow along?” It does, you can, and they will. Let’s dig in.

You (most likely) have the CRM you need

To start, know it is very possible and it can and has been done. BCG cites Time Inc. as a standout, which is moving programmatic effectively across multiple media platforms, including print. The biggest concern around any transition is cost and level of effort. While there are some additional costs, you may already have the key foundational tool you need at your fingertips right now; Salesforce.

If your company uses Salesforce, you already have a very strong framework in place to implement a killer system. Most media sellers I work with are very familiar with Salesforce Sales, Service and Marketing Clouds, the primary big Clouds that have been in place at many large media companies for years. It is the out-performing sellers, however, that have kept pace with and leverage Salesforce’s expansion of its other Clouds; Community, Analytics and Platform & Apps. It’s in the latter three where publishers can develop and deploy the solutions needed to integrate multiple sales channels, analyze performance and provide customers with unique direct programmatic buying experiences.

If you’ve configured and customized Salesforce for other sales channels, you’ve also likely got some solid precedent examples where you’ve tackled time-sucking process pain points for your team. This will be a key factor to your success in making the programmatic transition as well, according to BCG. Consider it’s finding “Best-in-class companies set up programmatic deals faster and spend many fewer hours on tasks such as monitoring, reporting, billing and creative review.” Focusing your Salesforce-based proposal development and order management tools on these connection points will make selling programmatic easier for your entire team, not just your programmatic specialists.

Building your system around the tools you already have, as BCG says, makes good sense economically (See the study’s recommendation to core-down on programmatic demand partners). You have one strong partner to deal with vs. a pyramid of vendors. What’s more, it’s considerably cheaper than buying, maintaining, and upgrading multiple systems simultaneously. The complexity and technical debt involved with multiple systems can be enormous and not to mention the learning curve involved in introducing and integrating new systems.

Rocketship to starship: Take your order management to the next level

Now, let’s talk about general design and strategic principles. Long ago, before programmatic and Cloud came along, I worked with a leading tech company that developed a strategy to orchestrate print buying activity across six of its media buying agencies and leading U.S. business magazines. Buyers, sellers, and customers were all clearly identified and collaborated closely on its design, use, and subsequent ad deals. It was my first exposure to automated media buying and selling, and quite a learning experience. The solution was truly one-of-a-kind — and it remained one of kind. The tech company developed it for its own use and, to my knowledge, it never evolved into a commercial offering.

I’m referring to a proprietary app used by IBM and its many ad agencies many years ago that was called “MSPS” (the Media Scheduling and Planning System). It was technology-enabled buying and selling with direct sales touch. You could call it ‘programmatic direct V.1”. Buys were processed quickly and efficiently and this automated activity fit within the context of larger schedules and sponsorship commitments happening in the traditional direct channel. MSPS was a rocketship compared to the covered wagons everyone else in the industry was tootling along in.

While it wasn’t pretty or fast, MSPS worked well to keep potential order management chaos to a manageable minimum across many buying agents competing for high value ad inventory in the leading business publications of the day. It worked because it delivered on a number of core needs that are very consistent with what is needed today to solve the direct programmatic integration challenge, including:

  • Transparency
  • Price stability
  • Inventory prioritization
  • Premium placements
  • Invite-only-participation
  • Buyer-seller collaboration
  • Direct sales and service

Thankfully, you no longer need to be a global technology titan using in-house proprietary tools to implement such a system. Today’s publishers and media sellers (aka you) have access to the very same type of solution and functionality for your customers and media sellers using Salesforce and the CloudSense Media platform which offers a direct integration with Google DoubleClick DFP. You can do this on a large scale, in a matter of months (not years), satisfying large customer groups, across your distributed sales teams and channels.

Closing Tip: Ask your Salesforce administrators and consultants to show you how ‘Salesforce Community Cloud’ can be customized to provide your customers with direct access to their ad campaign activity and results, self-serve ordering, or ad space reservations. CloudSense can help you with the business process design and order management components behind it. We’re the starship solution.