Nine head of data and programmatic: why programmatic won’t be a word within a few years

Tyler Payne speaks with Krish Raja, head of data and programmatic product sales at Nine about the journey of the TV set, and what marketers should think about as programmatic changes in the next few years.

Krish Raja’s role as head of data and programmatic product sales at Nine is a “sum of all parts” of his previous experience. It blends data automation performance, sales and operational product. After his keynote speech at Adobe Symposium 2017 in Sydney, he spoke with Tyler Payne about his ideas for the industry, what excites him in digital, and how programmatic, data and tech will re-shape the way Australians enjoy TV.

 

Tyler Payne: What did you discuss in your keynote speech?

krish rajaKrish Raja: My topic was about how as an industry, we need to move away from the idea of selling and buying audience segments and being so transactional about how we deliver data between partners, from publisher to marketer. Instead of that, we need to move into a world where we’re more collaborative in using data together to build audiences in a more persistent way. So, fewer longer term partnerships instead of sporadic audience buying.

 

TP: What is exciting you in digital?

KR: The fact that in the next 2-3 years, everything will be digital. Most traditional forms of media. I work for a TV company, and it’s super exciting to see the journey that they’re on, and the journey that, as consumers, we’re on with the TV set.

In a few years time, it’ll still be the big screen in the living room that gets everyone excited, but the mechanics behind it will be digital. That’s what excites me – being able to actually execute the things that we’ve been selling as a sales spiel for years.

For years we’ve been talking about right place, right time. One user, all devices. That’s the time when we can actually start to do it.

 

TP: How does Nine Digital plan and execute strategies?

KR: In many ways, the first important things for us – or any digital company – to do is look at what we’re good at, and play to our strengths.

For Nine, that’s content. We spend $800 million a year on content. That’s the king of our business. We’re nothing without it. For us, everything that we do is about playing into that place.

Data and programmatic is no different. They’re facilitators of content. They help us distribute it better. Our data products are centred around ‘how do we personalise the televisual experience’. Right now, that’s Nine Now. In however many months or years to come, that will be the big screen as well. That’s the first thing I’d say – play to your strengths.

Also, in the world we’re now in, it’s no longer acceptable to just build stuff and sell it to people. You have to think about the technology that your partner is also using. You have to think about how your technology and their technology might integrate – because, if you and I are mates, but our tech aren’t mates, it’s much harder for me and you to be mates.

Based on that premise, we have to build around that and build on technology, rather than just build what we want to build and sell it to people.

 

TP: How would you describe your approach to programmatic?

KR: The soundbite that I’ve been going into the business with over the last two years – and I think everyone can chant it with their eyes closed now – is ‘programmatic is not a product, it’s a pipe’. That’s something that’s been really important to me. It’s not this bucket of shit at the bottom where things just fall. It’s just the other way of doing things.

By that stance, we shouldn’t be building programmatic products and non-programmatic products. We should just be building products, and then we can transact them however our buyer wants to buy it. That’s our approach to programmatic. The faster we have a mirrored offering between things that can be transacted self-serve and things that we can deliver to customers, the better.

When I say programmatic in this context, I’m talking about self-serve. I’m talking about the idea that someone is in charge of buying, rather than us selling it. That’s what I’m using as a definition.

It’s just important if we have data partnerships or if we bring on new ad formats – we shouldn’t hold it back from being able to be bought self-serve just because we want to protect our direct offering, or we want to protect our managed service offering.  

To that, we should also mirror pricing. Things shouldn’t be cheaper just because they’re programmatic. Those two come hand in hand. The business that I work in will not be comfortable in doing that unless the pricing remains strong. We can’t just sell everything for a dollar.

 

TP: How does data influence Nine Digital’s sales strategy?

KR: Massively. It underpins absolutely everything. I often look at what our sales team sends out, and very rarely does a response to an advertiser go out without data on the plan.

It’s really critical. We’ve got data credentials and we’ve spent the last year doing partnerships with RedPlanet’s 11 million frequent flyers, and data republic’s supermarket data. That’s great. It gives us a great pedestal off which to build products. It’s not good enough to just have data. You’ve got to do things with it. The next step of that has been to roll out clear and easy tools. Rather than audience segments, we prefer tools that buyers can use and that our sales team can use to either understand our audiences or measure our audiences, as well as sell our audiences.

Programmatic will hopefully not exist as a word within a few years. What we now call programmatic will just be ‘technology enabled buying’. If that’s the case, think not only about your own offering and your own data set – that doesn’t just go for publishers, it goes for marketers as well – make sure you’re thinking about connecting to other parts of the ecosystem and how you do that.

Think about your tech integrating with other people’s tech, as opposed to just what you’re building in isolation.

 

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