Start with the stack: Agency organization in the biddable media age

Credit: Kelly Sikkema
Credit: Kelly Sikkema

When it comes to selecting the right tech stack, media agencies have an opportunity to stand out.

Technology is taking on a growing role in advertising as individuals, households and devices become more addressable. 

Biddable media, which now makes up roughly 40% of all media buying, creates opportunities for the agile buyer that are unavailable in traditional markets. But it also creates complexity, as there are myriad technology partners in the market that claim they can help execute on brand goals.

In light of this evolution, what’s the first question a media agency should ask a new client or prospect? After the standard niceties, a thoughtful interrogation of their tech stack might be a good place to start. 

It’s been more than a decade since we started talking about the convergence of marketing and technology. A company’s tech stack shows how it has progressed on that journey — and much more.

How agencies should think about martech

When building a tech stack, buyers must ask: how can this piece of technology collect data and enrich what we know about our customers, and how do we activate it in the market? 

For media agencies, this has real specificity: how do we use data about the people we know to connect with people we don’t know? This impacts a brand’s approach to every media channel, informing planning, segmentation, buying, optimization and attribution. Given that this is a media agency’s job, this would seem to be important! 

The rise of biddable media is leading to organizational debates within agencies. Do you organize by video, audio or print? Digital or analog (surely not!)? Reserve or auction? Or by behavior, like lean-back for video and audio and lean forward for search, social and e-commerce?

Look to your clients

How an advertiser organizes around technology can help an agency organize itself. For example, an advertiser that is all-in on the Google stack likely feels that Google’s media ecosystem will fulfill its needs. But a client that uses Adobe’s suite might believe there is value in separating technology from inventory. Either way, both decisions indicate a degree of certainty and a desire for conformity. 

That’s different from the client that chooses to take on integrating point solutions. This marketer likely expects to switch platforms more frequently and has a greater propensity to own contracts or bring execution in-house. 

Clients expect their agencies to be power users of the technologies they choose. They also expect agencies to have a perspective on new or competitive tools, and to reduce friction when change is in the air. Agencies are the cartilage in the knee of the advertiser-technology provider relationship.

Media buying tools go far beyond a DSP (just look at the Lumascape). Some clients will favor using native, self-serve tools from big platforms like Google, Amazon or Facebook. Others will prefer tools offered by channel partners like Kenshoo, Marin, Sprinklr or Hootsuite. 

This dizzying array of complexity creates opportunity for media agencies. The question is, what’s the best structure to manage, optimize and execute a media plan to maximize value and effect? 

There’s a whole stack of choices.

John Donohue is CEO and Co-Founder of WLxJS


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