Talk about programmatic

Menu IconA vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines. Giant ad-buying agencies are exploring direct programmatic ad deals with top publishers. Theoretically, such deals would cut out many of the ad-tech intermediaries inherent in digital advertising and the talk about programmatic they charge. These arrangements could also bring back more buying power to ad agencies as their futures are increasingly in doubt.

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Both agencies and brands are aggressively leaning in , and as a top-10 digital publisher, I can tell you the conversations are very real,” said Scott Hendrickson, who heads up sales for News IQ, a programmatic unit at News Corp. Top programmatic ad-buying firms are essentially trying to follow Amazon’s ad playbook. Giant ad agencies that want to cement their place in the world are drawing inspiration from two unexpected sources: TV and Amazon. In an era where marketers can buy ads on thousands of websites and apps using powerful software and data, potentially without using an ad agency, these ad-buying firms are looking to reestablish their value by throwing around their weight. Specifically, the biggest media-buying firms — including GroupM, Omnicom, and Dentsu — are contemplating big changes to the way they buy digital ads. Some are even in talks with top web publishers about gaining preferred, direct access to ad space using programmatic tools. The hope would be for these agencies to reestablish the kind of buying clout they’ve long enjoyed in the TV industry, where ad buyers push for preferred pricing and inventory by pooling together the budgets of dozens of clients.

And interestingly, these ad firms might like to exert this clout using the same sort of software- and code-driven connections with top web publishers that have fueled Amazon’s rise in advertising. Ad agencies would like the same kind of preferential treatment. It would limit the number of ad-tech intermediaries involved in these kinds of ad buys — and the fees they charge advertisers. It’s early, but what we’re seeing is big agencies trying to emulate what Amazon’s done over the past few years,” a top publishing executive said. They’re trying to integrate directly with publishers to get preferred access to inventory. It’s going to be interesting to see how much adoption it gets and how Amazon and other ad-tech companies react. Plenty of people doubt these tactics, and big publishers aren’t necessarily sure they want to play ball with this direct integration.

Several ad agencies, like Omnicom, tried to do this a few years ago and never really got anywhere, some publishers say. And some question whether ad agencies have the technical chops to pull this off without leaning on the very ad-tech providers they’d like to unseat. Art Muldoon, the co-CEO of Dentsu’s programmatic specialty division, Amnet Group, said the company was in discussions with some publishers about connecting directly with their ad-space supply. Right now, this is experimental and exploratory,” he said. Amnet is looking at doing this with some existing technology partners and some of its own tech. It’s early, but the idea is that it would directly sync with about 100 top publishers.