How The Globe and Mail more than doubled programmatic revenue in 2018

Alex Shellhammer May 2019 Programmatic Advertising

You don’t survive in the news business for 175 years without learning how to adapt. At The Globe and Mail, change is an integral part of the company’s DNA.

These are challenging times for newspapers, but The Globe and Mail has thrived by evolving its digital advertising models. It was an early adopter of programmatic advertising and was one of the first media organizations in Canada to feature ads delivered via real-time auctions. In 2012, it established a private marketplace to offer advertisers a way to guarantee their ads would be adjacent to premium content.

Over the last two years, the company has organized its digital ad sales strategy around Programmatic Guaranteed, which combines the automation and audience precision of real-time auctions with the safety and assurance of reserved ad buys. Now 75% of the company’s programmatic revenue derives from Programmatic Guaranteed ad buys brokered via Google Ad Manager. The strategic shift toward more guaranteed deals helped The Globe and Mail grow its programmatic revenue by 164% year over year in 2018.

“We consider our entire inventory as premium, as we are able to provide contextual and audience data to advertisers in the way that suits their strategy and delivers on their goals,” says Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Saunders. “Programmatic Guaranteed allows clients that know and trust our brands to guarantee the placements and service they expect from us.”

Here’s how the company made it work.

Lay the groundwork with staff

One of the big benefits Programmatic Guaranteed brings is how it streamlines ad booking for both buyers and sellers, reducing waste and boosting efficiency. A February 2018 study by Boston Consulting Group found that using Programmatic Guaranteed to handle ad insertions takes publishers nearly 60% less time than doing it manually, while time savings for ad agencies is nearly 30%.

But to get the most from Programmatic Guaranteed, The Globe and Mail had to change its internal booking and tracking processes and retrain staff members. Staffers now spend less time during the booking process on insertion orders, creative tags, and updates, and more time on tasks that add value to the client relationship.

The investment starts with people, not technology. If you don’t have the right staff, you can’t take advantage of good software.

“The investment starts with people, not technology,” Saunders said. “If you don’t have the right staff, you can’t take advantage of good software. Our sales and operations team are equipped to manage Programmatic Guaranteed buys, and we’ve introduced new workflows to better manage client interest and sales.”

Simplify the process for ad buyers

The self-service nature of Programmatic Guaranteed has also significantly simplified the booking process for advertisers. Now just one seller and one buyer are needed to set up and facilitate an ad campaign, notes Ad Operations Specialist Melanie Bowes. Advertisers experience shorter turnarounds, enjoy full control over creative, and have access to real-time reporting.

“As a publisher, we set up the shell of a campaign and the buyer does the rest,” she said. “Because execution is ultimately in the hands of the buyer, we can set up and go live in one day. Buyers have full control over creative execution and can pull reports as they wish.”

Encourage transparency

Using Programmatic Guaranteed also provides far more transparency than traditional booking methods. Advertisers can analyze each campaign’s effectiveness and apply these learnings elsewhere.

There’s no longer any guesswork as to what ads are running in each booking or when it comes to creative, tagging, or direction.

“There’s no longer any guesswork as to what ads are running in each booking or when it comes to creative, tagging, or direction,” said Bowes. “Advertisers can utilize this data and apply it to wider bookings across multiple platforms.”

These gains in efficiency also boost The Globe and Mail’s bottom line by freeing up highly skilled personnel from low-level tasks. Instead of tracking ads, they can spend their time creating, selling, and optimizing more complex, higher-revenue-generating campaigns, Bowes added.

Programmatic Guaranteed offers advertisers the security of knowing they can align their campaigns with quality content aimed at a specific audience, without the fear of running out of inventory.

Ultimately, Programmatic Guaranteed offers advertisers the security of knowing they’ll always be able to align their campaigns with high-quality content aimed at a specific audience, without the fear of running out of inventory, said Brian Batenburg, head of programmatic sales. At the same time, it allows The Globe and Mail to maintain a close and continuing relationship with key business partners, while enabling new advertisers to connect directly with them via the marketplace.

These things in turn help The Globe and Mail continue the tradition of award-winning journalism it has become known for.

“Our passion and strength is our journalism — and it creates a powerful connection to influential people across Canada,” said Saunders. “We are always looking for the best way to service our clients needs. Programmatic Guaranteed enables both a more efficient business and stronger relationships. Our continuing progress over 175 years reflects a confident ability to reinvent as times change. The digital innovations that are redefining our business are yet another chapter in that story.”

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