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The Quieting of Agency Programmatic Offerings Has Been Notable: Q&A with Nick Graham, Huawei Technologies

Advertising strategies for global brands require complex planning and execution. How has the advent of programmatic technology changed this process? ExchangeWire speaks with Nick Graham, global director of digital marketing and media, Huawei Technologies, to find out.

ExchangeWire: Do you think global brands achieve the correct balance between a cohesive global strategy and localisation?

Nick Graham: Yes, cautiously. It depends largely on the types of businesses we consider. Certain consultancies, accounting firms, banks, luxury brands, telcos, have all shown that it is possible to create global presence both creatively and in terms of media execution. I’d say I have yet to see this done as well as it could be in terms of digital placements and execution, with the exception of paid search, perhaps. And for these businesses, a global brand presence is desirable. The bigger question in today’s market might be: how might the revisions to economic trade affect the desirableness of global brands over local activations? This could return the spotlight back onto some of the more challenging local activations.

What do you think will, ultimately, win: in-house programmatic advertising buys or media-agency-led buys? Why?

To my mind, this depends on how organisations value first-party data, their overall data strategy, and the bigger role of media execution within their organisation. The first two, first-party data and overall data strategy, are of course related points, and point to the issue of whether the organisations in question can realise value from their owned data. I say this because, after all is said and done, I suspect it’s not for everyone. Time and effort spent needs to be less than the reward, which it often isn’t. Regarding media execution with organisations, a lot has been said about every company needing to become a media organisation in the future-present. I suspect talent to be a stumbling block to this. At the top, CMO churn is at an all-time high, arguably due to technology disruption, and this plays into that issue and whether the right leadership is in place to implement in-house operations. At other levels, it’s a question of whether brands can attract and retain the right talent for an in-house media operation. Also, a lot of tech talent is just that, it’s tech talent, not necessarily talent wanting to specialise in a particular vertical or sector. There are often valid reasons why outsourcing occurs in the first place, some commercial, others organisational. The move by seemingly progressive agency networks to the full-service agency model may bolster the agency position in this regard.

What has been the most important development in programmatic technology this year?

While header bidding has stayed in the headlines, so to speak, I’d say the quieting of agency programmatic offerings has been notable. Not so much a technology issue, but more of how this impacts the ecosystem and how agencies place this as a value-offer to clients. Over the past five years, one couldn’t fail to notice agency programmatic offerings, this now seems sidelined by conversations around brand safety and viewability. Topics themselves that have been around a few years, but that have now reached C-suite.  

What are your thoughts about all the hype around viewability? Do you think the industry will ever reach a point where there are agreed standards and measurement practices? Or will the battle between publishers and advertisers rage on indefinitely?

Yes, I think it will get to a better place. Solved? Perhaps not, but better? yes. The rise in number of advisers to media, and/or consultancies, has been startling. Soon enough, these interested parties will be looking beyond media buying to generate revenues. So it feels right that clients themselves may soon be asking for better quality experiences, and viewability is one piece of this puzzle. Better quality experiences will always be the right way forward for our industry. So long as viewability metrics don’t become another set of unwanted metrics, or part of a quantomaniac agenda, I think they can help improve the overall design of how ads get to audiences in a better way.

What do you think about programmatic TV?

Not if, but when. It’s a question of time; and the shift to programmatic is definitely more tangible than ever. I’ll reserve my short-term judgement on this one.