When we built the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), our goal was to build a new kind of DSP around machine learning technology – one that empowers our clients to build more data-driven, hyper-targeted, ROI-positive campaigns in less time.
Some people may hear that and think that we’re hatching some kind of dystopian plan to have computers call all the shots. That’s neither true nor possible. Advertising – even programmatic – will always require the ability to understand a brand’s goals and distill them into experiences and encounters that will resonate with their desired audience. No machine can do that on its own. That’s where traders come in.
But as we discussed at our most recent Summit event, we do think that change is on the way for traders. More powerful technology will allow them to partner more closely with brands and advertisers as they achieve better performance in their campaigns. Below are three predictions for how the role of the trader will change in the coming years.
1. Less time spent on repetitive tasks
As our Summit panel member and Media IQ Trading Director Lara Koenig pointed out, the best traders have traditionally been those who come up with the most granular audience segments to target. However, building those segments into campaign strategy requires a trader to set up a multitude of line items, which translates to a lot of late nights at the office.
Between that, switching between different demand sources to buy different formats, and periodically ensuring that campaigns are spending their budgets, traders spend a huge percentage of their time bogged down in repetitive tasks.
We believe that the DSPs of the future need to free traders from the tactical labor they’re currently subjected to. One way we’ve tried to do that with APP is through our programmatic splits feature, which enables traders to segment campaign spend by audience or inventory type without having to write code or set up all those line items.
2. More time on higher-level strategy
While brands and advertisers have long provided data for traders to tap into, our panel member and [m]Platform SVP of Trading Max Jaffe pointed out that traditional DSPs haven’t been powerful enough to apply that data in a way that’s truly tailored to each campaign’s unique goals – that leaves traders without much room to suggest new ways of using that data or connect the data back to the client’s higher-level strategy. Emily Kennedy, Associate Trading Director at AmNet, also touched on this point, explaining how the status quo for traders has been to take the media plan given to them, load it into the DSP, and make adjustments based on the performance trends they saw.
However, next-generation DSPs will enable traders to wield data more effectively, changing their role into a more consultative one in relation to the brands and advertisers they work with. Not only will these DSPs translate that data more faithfully into campaign strategy, but their improved UIs will also make that data easier to visualize and incorporate into client discussions. Kat illustrated this on our panel when she discussed how her team would print off the Bonsai trees produced by the AppNexus Programmable Bidder to show clients exactly how their data is influencing targeting and bidding strategy.
Ultimately, this heightened sharing of information increases transparency between traders and clients, meaning the clients trust traders more to experiment more with campaign strategy – as long as they can back up their ideas with data.
3. More client communication
The stereotypical image of a trader is that of a quant locked away in a windowless room, banging away at their keyboard, and doing the math that makes programmatic campaigns tick. Insofar as that depiction is true, much of it comes from what we described above: Traders have traditionally been walled off from clients because the tools they used didn’t equip them to surprise and delight their clients with data-driven insights.
But that will change as the DSPs of the future allow traders to show clients exactly how the data they provide translates into campaign strategy and improve results. On our panel, Emily indicated that her team has already been able to have more productive conversations with clients and provide suggestions around DMPs, supply, and creative choices.
This is a huge opportunity for traders. Being client-facing gives them a bigger opportunity to make a name for themselves, learn more about the other sides of the advertising industry, and access new career opportunities. And as Kat quipped, it may give them a chance to “get out of the windowless room.”
Times are changing
The advent of more powerful, machine learning-powered DSPs is bringing traders into unchartered territory. But we’re confident these changes will pay off for them by helping them deliver better results and greater transparency to clients. We look forward to working with traders to make that vision a reality as APP roles out over the course of 2018.