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Q&A with Neil Johnston, Cox’s EVP of Strategy & Digital Innovation on Premium Programmatic

February 25, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Neil Johnston, Cox Media Group’s Executive VP of Strategy & Digital Innovation on Premium Programmatic.

Neil Johnston HeadshotQHow would you define Premium Programmatic as it compares to what we’ve come to know as “Programmatic Advertising”?

A: The value proposition of programmatic advertising is the efficiency and scale that automated buying confers. Premium programmatic retains these values, while adding in the safety and fidelity of guaranteed site-direct buying. Technologically speaking, this means bypassing an RTB exchange in favor of exposing and booking a subset of inventory directly against a publisher’s primary ad server.

This has advantages for both demand side buyers and supply side publishers. Buyers are able to selectively access quality, site-specific, high impact inventory in a highly efficient way, while publishers are able to increase yield by accessing the high demand programmatic sales channel in a transparent and optimized way.

Despite the moniker, “Premium” does not necessarily mean better – it’s simply another buying tool that suits certain campaigns more than others. The name is more a reflection of the relative scarcity of this guaranteed inventory compared to the rest of programmatic space, as well as the higher prices that come with that. Premium may be better suited to certain branding campaigns, for example, while RTB might be better leveraged by performance campaigns run through DSPs that can optimize against its scale in real-time.

QDescribe the way in which your organization handles programmatic?

A: Our CMG properties leverage the technology of our subsidiary, Cox Digital Solutions (CDS), on the programmatic supply-side to excellent results. Some of our sites seek to maximize yield, others maximize fill, and still others are most concerned about protecting CPMs and direct sales channels. CDS’ proprietary dynamic floor optimization technology lets us optimize demand tailored to our properties specific needs.
On the sell-side, our inventory has been included in private exchange deals facilitated by CDS through our partners at Casale Media to buyers such as MediaMath. We are currently exploring our options to expose guaranteed inventory programmatically.

QWhat types of marketing initiatives lend themselves best to leveraging programmatic and how can the premium approach better deliver?

A: Practically any campaign, shy of a truly integrated/native one, can benefit from the advantages of programmatic. While there is currently a bias towards premium for branding and RTB for performance, the lines are blurring, as scale and measurement improve optimization in the premium space, and transparency and viewability improve brand safety in the RTB space.

My advice here is simply that while programmatic will evolve, it’s here to stay. So get educated. And, more than anything, get started.

Neil Johnston is Cox Media Group’s (CMG) Executive Vice President, Strategy and Digital Innovation at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta where he oversees Strategic Development, CMG Digital and the company’s growing portfolio of digital investments. Johnston previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Cox Media Group. He also was Cox Radio’s Chief Financial Officer from September 2000 until it was made private in 2009.

For premium access to Cox Media Group inventory, please contact Andy Levi at Cox Digital Solution ([email protected]).

Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.

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