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Q&A with Peter Longo, CEO IDG TechNetwork & CDO IDG Communications, on Premium Programmatic

March 10, 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 interview is with Peter Longo, CEO IDG TechNetwork & CDO IDG Communications on the subject of “Premium Programmatic” advertising.

Peter Longo HeadshotQ: How would you define premium programmatic as it compares to what we’ve come to know as “programmatic advertising”?

A:Quite honestly, the definition is constantly changing. What we thought was programmatic two years ago, and what we thought it was six months ago, and where it is today are all very different. As advertisers continue to experiment, this definition is going to keep shifting. Ask me in a month what it means.

When we talk about premium programmatic at IDG Communications, part of it has to do with how the inventory is positioned and structured, and part the advertisers we deal with. At IDG TechNetwork, premium programmatic actually competes with our direct-sold inventory. However, while our IDG owned and operated brands such as Computerworld and CIO still have brand-specific reps, for the IDG TechNetwork, we have combined teams so that advertisers can deal with the same rep much of the time.

We position premium programmatic the same way we do all of our sales: What is the audience you are trying to reach, what are the campaign parameters, and how can we best deliver results? The conversation starts the same way we’ve always approached it. We talk about their objectives, who they are trying to reach and what they are trying to achieve.

Q: Describe the way in which your organization handles programmatic?

A:Five years ago, we decided to create our TechNetwork, which includes more than 500 publisher sites, as a way to provide scale to our owned and operated business. Three years ago, we decided to go into programmatic because, as a network, we had a lot of programmatic at our disposal and wanted to deal with it effectively.

The way we use premium programmatic gives us the ability to create micro audiences at scale. For example, say an advertiser wants to reach people interested in cloud computing at companies with more than 500 employees. With data and programmatic, you can build a sizeable audience even for something really targeted. Now we’ve got our owned and operated sites and the network inventory combine that with first-party data, and that gives us a demand-side platform so we can buy programmatically, as well increase the size of these audiences.

The data makes a big difference. It allows us to create this micro audience and use creative rotation to deliver the most value. When an impression is served, we factor in what we know about the person behind the impression: Have they visited our sites? Have they read any articles that are part of our product suite? Have they visited our shopping cart? This information lets us figure out where they are in the buying cycle so we can serve the right ad, be that one that is for someone just starting to research or someone ready to make a purchase decision.

The ability to use first-party data also keeps us from undercutting display. The advertiser can be specific about who they are targeting. So, we build value back into the chain programmatically. At the end of the day, it is a very specific way of doing advertising. If there is value, we’ll maintain our CPMs because, with programmatic, there’s not a lot of places to hide.

Q: What types of marketing initiatives lend themselves best to leveraging programmatic, and what advice would you give publishers weighing programmatic pros and cons?

A:We’ve done a ton of direct response in premium programmatic. It goes back to the very specific audience, a very specific individual or group—those are the ones that work best. We don’t see it used much for general branding campaigns.

The value of programmatic always comes back to reaching a very specific profile at scale. Marketers are looking for efficiencies and results. One of the great things about programmatic is that you know almost instantly how something is performing and, as a publisher, you have a lot of flexibility to adjust the audience you are targeting.

I realize there’s still some hesitation on the part of publishers to incorporate programmatic into the mix but I would encourage them to continue to test it and to evaluate pricing models as well. The biggest fear among publishers is that programmatic is going to devalue pricing. Do some testing around performance. You can build a lot of value back into the pool with data mining.

Keep in mind that programmatic can dramatically expand the audience you offer your advertisers, and it can put you back in control because you can be the arbiter of what is good on the web.


Peter Longo is the CEO of IDG TechNetwork Chief Digital Officer of IDG Communications. Longo, who joined IDG six years ago, has built IDG TechNetwork into the leading tech vertical ad network and exchange and has defined and led IDG’s data-driven strategy. In 2013, Longo assumed added responsibilities as IDG’s first Chief Digital Officer. In that role, Longo oversees all digital operations in IDG’s U.S. media subsidiary, IDG Communications, including ad operations, development of creative systems and functionality, demand generation, branding, video, and mobile. Longo brought to IDG a 20 year career in media sales and senior management. He began his career at CMP Media but in 1991 moved to Ziff Davis Media where he held several executive positions. Longo rose from associate publisher to publisher, group publisher, and executive vice president with titles such as PC Magazine, PC Week/eWeek, and Computer Shopper. In 2003, he joined Zinio, first as executive vice president and then rose to president at the digital magazine provider.


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.

Also in this series:

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

Q&A with Chip Schenck, VP/Programmatic Sales & Strategy, Meredith on Premium Programmatic

Q&A With Jeff Misenti, Chief Digital Officer, Fox News on Cross-Platform Advertising

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