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Best Practices: Roles in a Programmatic Workflow

Industry forecasts estimate that programmatic transactions will continue their steady growth, accounting for 65% of all digital media, or $84B, in 2019 (Zenith). This revenue opportunity is not one to be missed—in this post, we share best staffing practices from the industry so you can hit your 2019 programmatic revenue goals.

The most successful organizations structure their staff in 3 areas: sales, operations, and analysis. Best practice is to give operations full management of all channels, unify your impression delivery stack, and empower your sales team to sell any product on any channel. This allows you to fully leverage the new tools, processes, and data available in order to maximize overall revenue.

Sales Reminagined

In this structure, sales should create the best bridge between buyers and your inventory by leveraging internal and market data to provide a new level of client-service. With more products available and more customization possible, the sales mindset should shift toward more of a media consultant. Buying history and market data can be analyzed to reverse engineer a brand’s campaign goals. Combine this new level of client-understanding with a salesperson’s intimate knowledge of products and inventory forecasting, and it’s possible to sell a higher-CPM package that meets all of the advertiser’s goals while also making the best use of a publisher’s inventory.

Roll all of your salespeople under one umbrella and allow them to sell on any channel. This will require training to get everyone up to speed on all products, but buyers will appreciate being able to access all products via one person (Some publishers have created an internal “Programmatic 101” class that all salespeople have to go through).

In this newly defined role, salespeople can work with yield analysis folks to monitor brand activity in the open auction for new sales opportunities. Additionally, they can provide recommendations to buyers about inventory, pricing and data.

    Hiring Tip: Look for those who approach sales relationships with a consultant’s mindset and work to understand the client’s big picture before offering solutions. They will need to have or develop a decent amount of technical knowledge since the sales process will consistently involve both direct and programmatic data, and prospecting might even start with an analysis of open-market data.

The New Operators

Operations plays a pivotal role as the execution arm. As mentioned earlier, operations manages all channels to create a complete view of your inventory. Without complete visibility, channels will cannibalize each other. With complete visibility, operations can recognize if a certain action will have a negative impact on another part of the business. Knowing the opportunity cost of any change to impression delivery is the essence of yield management.

Operations should continue to manage campaign delivery while analyzing opportunity costs of optimizations. They should lead or be heavily involved in new product creation and implementation, they’ll be the ones to increase efficiency from the tech stack, and will measure demand-partner and vendor performance. Along with their counterparts in yield analysis, they’ll monitor market data for sales leads.

Any activity or conversation that contributes to revenue should include operations. For example, a buying pattern detected by yield analysts should be shared with sales so a bespoke product can be created for the advertiser (netting higher CPMs & happier clients). Sales will consult with operations to identify other inventory that might help the advertiser hit their goals, as well as upcoming availability and pricing trends.


    Hiring Tip: Look for people who like to be given difficult puzzles to solve. They will tend to be analytical and introverted but also have a strong understanding of marketing and user psychology. They will need to have patience in troubleshooting—a quick fix on one tag might be impossible on another because of the number of tech vendors involved.


Data-Wielding Yield Analysts

In a programmatic operation, data prowess is a requirement for every role; and your yield analysts should have the deepest technical knowledge. Yield managers will handle the complex data issues that come with analyzing immense quantities of data pulled from a multitude of sources (e.g. demand-side platforms, verification and viewability vendors, customer data platforms, local and 3rd party servers). From their analysis, they need to uncover where and how changes can be made to the trading process in a way that can be packaged up as a commercial offering.

“The programmatic analyst’s primary role is to analyze the bid landscape and identify opportunities,” said The Telegraph’s programmatic chief Paul De La Nougerede. “This could be setting different price points depending on audience segments, formats, geographic and devices, or it could be identifying high-volume advertisers that we should be building stronger partnerships with.” (Digiday) If you have the resources and revenue, transition your analysts into area specialists: DMPs, programmatic direct, data, audience extension analysts, etc.

The industry has called people in these roles by a number of names, partly due to the newness of the role and partly due to a lack of understanding about the role. We’ve seen titles like “data insight manager,” “programmatic optimization specialist,” “programmatic analyst,” “data analyst,” and “yield manager.” These can be harder roles to fill because they require technical proficiency as well as commercial expertise.

    Hiring Tip: Look for people with economics, math, or science backgrounds who are very comfortable with data sets and experts at manipulating data (to understand client needs and market dynamics) and who completely understand the ad ecosystem.



Getting the right people in the right roles is one of the most important steps you can take to have a successful programmatic year—it helps align your company and ensures growth in one channel doesn’t cause decline in another. This structure allows you to best leverage valuable programmatic data and share opportunities across departments, giving you the best chance to maximize revenue.


Curious about the different programmatic deal types? Read our breakdown, Programmatic Deal Types Explained.

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