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With Programmatic Advertising Growth, How Will Sales Team Structures Change?

July 10th, 2019   ||    by John R. Osborn

In the digital world, programmatic advertising growth has brought an integration of direct sales and programmatic sales, offering local TV a road map for organizing and rewarding sales teams. Increasingly, sellers are facing buyers who want direct deals, programmatic options, and a single point of contact.

Four Stages

In a programmatic white paper for the TVB, Prohaska Consulting identified four stages of staffing evolution in a period of programmatic advertising growth:

  1. Becoming Operations/Tech Stack-Focused (building the pipes)
  2. Developing Internal Programmatic Sales Capabilities (training, coaching, compensation structure)
  3. Creating Internal Programmatic Consultants (a “hub” for support and training)
  4. Full Sales & Ad Ops Integration (capable of balancing direct and programmatic selling across platforms)

The ad-supported digital publishing world is now moving into stage four, while local TV generally finds itself between stages one and two.

In most cases, T/V (Television/Video) advertising sold by publishers programmatically is done through automated guaranteed/private marketplaces and not in open, real-time bidding auctions.

A Snapshot of Six Publishers

Publishers in the digital sector are dealing with ad sales in stage four of the programmatic evolution, often guided by a desire to stop infighting, such as internal sales people battling for commissions.

Full integration of programmatic and general ad sales:

  • The New York Times merged its programmatic sales team into its overall sales organization. Thwarting internal strife between the programmatic and direct sales teams likely contributed to the Times‘ decision, reported Digiday.
  • BuzzFeed’s programmatic sales had been handled by a few employees; now the entire sales team also sells programmatic, according to Digiday.
  • Accuweather has combined programmatic with its direct sales team and pays its direct sellers a commission for programmatic sales, noted Digiday.

Side-by-side integration, but minimizing infighting:

  • According to Digiday, Turner’s CNN Digital has a programmatic sales team within its broader sales team. To avoid selling against each other, the team is rewarded based upon the total client revenue brought in. As Christine Cook, SVP and chief revenue officer at CNN Digital, explained, “As the [programmatic] business scales, it’s critical that it gets tucked in and that the people are incentivized to one number — the total number — and that you have key performance indicators that allow management to drive whatever specific behaviors you want.”
  • Meredith decided on a structure where “the direct sales team own[s] the account and train[s] specialists in programmatic,” reported Digiday.
  • Pandora has direct sales people lead programmatic sales and has a programmatic sales team focused on private marketplace deals.

Outlook for Local TV Sales Teams

Local TV organizations can take steps to prepare their sales teams for the shift to programmatic. Prohaska Consulting’s global head of publisher strategy Scott Bender advised, “With digital media sales rapidly changing from an I.O.-based marketplace to programmatic, organizations need to ensure their sales teams are armed both with the proper skill sets and compensation goals that align with this shift.”

The outlook is bright for sellers. Archie Gianunzio, VP of sales at Videa, stated that “during this period of programmatic advertising growth, sellers focused on each client and offering both direct and programmatic opportunities will be set up for success. When supported by strong change management tools and fair compensation incentives, the role of sales in local TV organizations can bring tremendous value and upside to everyone involved.”

Sales teams will remain critical to the TV industry, even as the industry shifts to programmatic TV buying.

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