How Accuweather is using programmatic sales data to inform direct sales

Programmatic advertising’s open auctions are not only a way for publishers to outsource the ad sales but get leads on new clients. However, converting programmatic advertisers into direct sales prospects can be time-consuming.

Accuweather typically receives the names of the advertisers buying its inventory from eight different supply-side platforms that the publisher uses to automate its ad sales. However advertisers’ names can vary from one SSP to another. Google’s SSP might list “Procter and Gamble,” whereas Index Exchange might stick with “P&G.” Accuweather’s sales team — or more likely an intern or independent contractor — has to comb through these lists and reconcile the SSPs’ various advertiser naming conventions.

Accuweather has been automating this matching process, using sales reporting platform Staq to consolidate its programmatic sales information and automatically reconcile advertisers’ names across SSPs. In this way, Accuweather can track how an advertiser is buying its inventory across SSPs and use that information to pitch the advertiser directly.

For example, the publisher might see that an advertiser is bidding on its inventory through three different SSPs but is much more likely to win the auction through one of them. Or Accuweather’s sellers can see how many days it has been since a given advertiser won a bid on its inventory. That insight can be all the excuse Accuweather’s sales team needs to contact an advertiser.

“Our sales team can’t throw a party every night. We need a reason to call on someone. This transparency gives us that reason,” said Steve Mummey, vp of programmatic sales and operations at Accuweather, though he added that Accuweather was still going through the data before using it for client prospecting.

Using the open exchange data to inform sales strategies is something that publishers with real programmatic stacks have been doing for years, said Eyal Ebel, svp of programmatic revenue at Univision and Fusion Media Group. Scott Bender, global head of publisher strategy and business development at Prohaska Consulting, said most publishers he meets for the first time are not using their open exchange information to inform their sales strategies. But they should be. “The open exchange, ideally, isn’t just a revenue stream. It should be an intelligence source for the direct sales team or the team selling private marketplace [deals],” he said.

Using open exchange information in this way isn’t easy. Wrangling the data is often a manual process and just knowing an advertiser is interested in a publisher’s inventory doesn’t mean they want to spend more or differently. Publishers also are limited in the information they can get. SSPs often can’t to pass along performance-related data, like click and viewability metrics, to publishers because the DSPs that advertisers use to place their programmatic buys may not share that information, Mummey said.

Also, SSPs typically provide the name of an advertiser’s holding company, not the individual brand, i.e. Procter & Gamble instead of Tide or Crest. Google’s SSP provides both names but most SSPs do not, leaving Accuweather to rely on viewing information at the holding company level, Mummey said.

That said, a lead is a lead. The programmatic sales data can help publishers identifying advertisers that may not seem like obvious clients but already are, like an electronics advertiser that buys a fashion publisher’s audience. “It’s the transparency of knowing who is interested in buying Accuweather inventory,” said Mummey.

The publisher could use that information to pitch the advertiser directly or on its private programmatic marketplace. If the advertiser proves tough to win over, the publisher can point to its sales data showing how its inventory has already won over the advertisers’ ad-buying algorithm.

“If you can show that the technology they have invested in, that they’re believing in, is telling them that our audience is of value to them in the open exchange at a certain price point, that gives you a lot more ammunition than just trying to get them out for a coffee or a dinner,” said Ebel.

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