August 5, 2021 | Anup Patel | Maz Tannir

Ag, Programmatic, and the Human Element

Recently, Maz Tannir, Media Director, Anup Patel, Performance Director, and Dimitri Perdicaris from StackAdapt took a deep dive into the versatility of programmatic. They attacked it from the standpoint of marketing in agriculture, a niche B2B vertical, focusing on the value of programmatic to an industry that typically shies away from it, the value in hyper-targeting, and the human element of programmatic. 

Dimitri  

Hello, and welcome to StackAdapt’s latest webinar on the versatility of programmatic. We appreciate you all taking the time to join us today. My name is Dimitri Perdicaris. I’m a Sales Director at StackAdapt. And I’m excited to be your host for today’s webinar. Today, we’re going to cover how the agriculture sector is thriving with WS and StackAdapt. The agriculture vertical and our longtime agency partner, WS are a great case study on how programmatic versatility can apply to a variety of different niche verticals under the B2B umbrella. If you’re joining our webinar today, and are responsible for media planning, digital execution, performance for a challenging client and/or vertical, then you’ve definitely come to the right place. We encourage you to ask lots of questions. And we’ll definitely set some time at the end of the webinar for a Q&A period. I think personally, one of my favourite things about being on the sales and strategy side of things here at StackAdapt, is that we’re exposed to a number of different industries, and just get so much exposure understanding how these industries actually operate. How long does a specific sales cycle take? Who are the key audiences and demographics? What channels are marketers relying on to reach these audiences? This would definitely be the case with the agriculture vertical. And I have our longtime agency partner WS and our two special guests to thank for that. First, a quick background on WS, WS is a full service award-winning integrated communications agency specializing in outcome marketing. WS’s mantra is solving with soul and it is clearly reflected in everything they do. WS has extensive experience in a number of different verticals, including food and drink, non-profit and pharma. But WS’s key specialty is agriculture and they do agriculture very well. Our first guest today is Maz Tannir, Maz is a Media Director at WS and has been with the agency for nearly seven years. Maz has been in the digital advertising space for 26 years and has had numerous stops across the Middle East and North America. Maz is a proud member of IAB Canada, where he serves as the chair of IAB Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce. Thank you for joining us today Maz. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Maz  

Thanks for having me. So just to clarify that 26 years continually increases. I wrote that a few years ago. But I don’t want to give up my age. I’ve been with WS for many years. And I also get involved with other projects outside which continue to fuel the learning process of where our industry is going. You mentioned the IAB. I’m very proud of that one. I also teach media at George Brown College. I was involved with the AdClub Digital Days, the AdClub of Toronto. And I work very closely with my colleague Anup and the rest of our team on outcome marketing but also coming up with great ways of reaching our audiences and understanding them a lot better.

Dimitri  

Thanks for joining us today, Maz, your age doesn’t show even after 20 years, you are still a spring chicken and an absolute pleasure. Our next guest, we also have Anup Patel joining us today. Anup is the Performance Director at WS and has been with the agency for about three and a half years now, Anup is the data guru and helps oversee all digital marketing initiatives at WS and has been an integral part of the overall strategy. Anup, you have a pretty interesting career background, you actually started off in bioscience, and eventually transitioned into digital marketing. It’s great to have you here today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Anup  

Thanks for having me. I don’t have as many years of experience as Maz does. But I started out in bioscience, long story short, the company I was working with went belly up, so they laid everyone off. I decided to take the opportunity to go back to school and really figure out what I wanted to do and it kind of led me into marketing. And when I first started out, I was sort of more on the business strategy side of things and, you know, working with clients and whatnot. And that’s naturally progressed into the role I’m in today, which is marketing performance. And I think it was sort of a natural progression that evolved into utilizing my analytical background and science thinking and applying that into a creative environment. And so it’s very natural. I’ve seen marketing performance and analytics evolve over the last three years since I’ve been in this role too. So that’s been really exciting. My role with WS as Performance Director is really just understanding client objectives, the business goals that the clients want to achieve. And then how do we transform that into marketing goals and outcomes? And what do we need to measure to understand that?

Dimitri  

Awesome, it’s great having you man. I got to tell you both, this is my first StackAdapt webinar, I’ve been here for nearly four years. And finally got the chance to do this and couldn’t think of two better guys to get started. Appreciate you both joining us today. First question is for both of you. How does WS define outcome marketing? What does that mean exactly?

Anup  

Maz might have a different approach. But to me, it’s really just tying back those business objectives. So what our clients want to achieve and understand that from a marketing perspective. Outcome-based marketing to us is really understanding the outcomes required to achieve those goals. And so a few things we’ll talk about during this webinar are a lot of our strategy and framework is built on the customer journey, understanding the customers. And so we break down our outcomes based on how our audience behaves. And so from a performance perspective, we’re really trying to measure these outcomes, trying to understand how these outcomes lead to business goals and objectives and how we can impact different marketing strategies and optimize them to improve outcomes.

Maz 

It really also starts in having that relationship with the client, we’re not just looking at their marketing goals, we’re actually understanding their business goals, and then working collectively with them to truly understand the audience and beginning with that strategy first approach, and the tactics come a lot later. And it was a decision taken by the ownership at the agency to really change the business model in terms of how we do things, as an organization, and all of our clients have come on board with that thinking process. So there’s a bit more skin in the game. And truly understanding business objectives, strategies, marketing objectives, and then working down into the KPIs and what it would take to achieve those objectives.

Dimitri  

Awesome. I appreciate the clarification. Maz, I really want to turn the clock back by about three years. When we first met, I still remember this meeting to this day. It was at StackAdapt HQ in Toronto. And you just wanted to understand, you know, while representing WS of course, how programmatic can apply not only to WS as an agency, but more specifically, the agriculture vertical, it can be considered a pretty niche vertical depending on who you talk to. And I still remember that conversation because you were just trying to make sense of everything and how it can apply to WS’s clients. So thinking in that context, prior to testing out programmatic in the first place, what kind of channels or initiatives did you rely on? When, you know, with the agricultural vertical specifically?

Maz  

So here’s the thing, we used to rely on them, and we continue to, so a good media strategy is something that encompasses all the different options that you have out there. In the old days, we stuck primarily to print publications for agriculture, we would rely quite heavily on the websites that belong to those publishers. Because we saw a lot of traffic coming in there, we would use some of their data, so, second-party data, to reach out to them through their CRM system, as well as all the offline tactics that we would do at the retail level or the education and the PR and so on. And, as we started to test and try a programmatic world, and you know, we have great clients who could have said, yeah, we’ll come with you on this journey, to see what it’s gonna look like. We integrated programmatic into the media plans that we have. So you know, a programmatic side of what we’re doing today, we have the second-party data, audience extensions, publishers that are still in the market, but they are walled gardens, these publishers, primarily in Canada, in the US, some of them are more open internet or some of them have connections with their DSPs. But here in Canada for example, we were working primarily with ag-based publishers, who are walled gardens. And we always have to integrate programmatic to reach a different audience or build what the lines are. And try to capture audiences coming through those public pages and then targeting them through programmatic as first-party data. It’s evolved a lot from having programmatic added to our channels now and then to the media mix, has really changed not just the media strategy, but I think the overall journey that we can now take our customers down. And you know, when we look at a typical funnel, the idea used to be mainly up at the prospecting level, but with programmatic we’ve really been able to start filtering down and getting them back into the retargeting and holding them. And it’s really added a lot of value to the media mix that we are using.

Anup  

I’d really like to add what channels or how we use the different channels, and what’s involved with programmatic and with what Maz said specifically, you know, we use programmatic advertising a lot for testing and front end campaigns and doing a little bit of research work prior to programmatic advertising (you know we’re spending lots of money on or it was very resource intensive). So I think how we utilize the different channels and different platforms, it’s important.

Dimitri  

You both bring up great points there. As far as the importance of testing and programmatic, maybe just giving you a little bit more flexibility to do so. I can at least speak for myself, you know that three year long relationship is also reflective of how far we’ve come as a multi-channel versatile DSP. And, you know, we’ve definitely grown our experience in the agriculture vertical as well too, at least in my experience, like the agriculture vertical, probably relies on more direct publisher and walled garden executions, like you said Maz, more so than any other just because for the longest time, you know that has been the preferred and ideal way to reach growers and farmers. And that’s not to knock any of the walled gardens or agriculture specific publications. But how do you as an agency, pitch, you know, your end clients on the value that programmatic brings to the table when they’ve never really had that experience in trying before?

Maz 

So it’s funny you bring that up, even three years ago, after we had our long conversation, and I consumed a lot of the cappuccino at the office that day. We went through a process of not just learning ourselves, but teaching our clients well, because our clients show a lot of interest in what programmatic could add to the table. Previously, it was a conversation of, is it less cost? Or can we get more impressions or more clickthroughs with programmatic software? But that process has sort of evolved. And now when we are pitching a media strategy, because we work with outcomes, our clients understand that what we’re doing is in their best interest, because automatically it’s in our best interest as well that they achieve these KPIs. And we’ve been able to see the value that programmatic brings to the table. But again, it’s always a part of a strategy. So how are we using programmatic? What are the different formats of programmatic that we’re going to be incorporating into their media plan? Where are we getting the data from? So it’s very easy to go out there and use any old data. We’ve been working very closely with your team as well and give a shout out to Matthew and David, you know, really qualifying the data sets that we’re taking in and then we’ve gone to explain that to our clients and they feel comfortable with it. We can never again rule out these publisher sites because they are generating very relevant content that our clients and their brands always want to be a part of. So we have to make sure that we are a part of that agriculture content and industry. But at the same time, we’re able to take the audiences and do more with them on the programmatic platform.

Dimitri  

You brought up a good point as far as reaching growers, though Maz, on those specific walled gardens and direct and publisher buys, targeting growers not necessarily the easiest audience to reach, how has programmatic helped you reach that audience beyond those traditional walled gardens?

Maz 

So first and foremost, I have to say something, a grower, a farmer, a planter is a human being as well, right. And he or she are still consuming media, they’re also making purchases beyond the agriculture industry, they’re consuming news that isn’t only related to agriculture. So you know, we are looking at reaching them beyond the agriculture verticals. We know that they’re interested in sports, we’ve learned that, we’ve seen that, we’ve interacted with them within sports channels. They are consuming movies, they’re very interested in their community. You know, again, it comes back down to how do we understand that audience first and foremost, before we can start saying, okay, these are the different verticals, or the different media plans that we want to get into. So when we look at that grower, or that planter, or farmer, in that perspective, that they are still consuming other mediums, it starts to change the way that we develop our media strategy. And we say, okay, we will use these channels for this particular habit of the consumer, and then we will use these channels to reach them when they’re doing other day to day activity. And you know, Anup and his team can start to see certain trends that we capitalize on, again, outcome marketing, right, you have to stay agile, and be able to shift budgets around and new ideas as soon as possible.

Anup  

It really does come back to sort of knowing the audience and how they’re making their decisions. You know, three to five years ago, three years ago, we didn’t see growers going online as much as they are now. It’s increasing every year, to make those agriculture decisions. But as Maz pointed out, they’ve always been online, right? Like they’re going online for other reasons. And so programmatic allows us the opportunity to reach them in other areas that we only probably wouldn’t have thought about, right, from a pure agriculture perspective. So if you understand kind of, where they’re going, where they are hanging out online, what they’re doing, and, you know, we can start being strategic about and really targeting them. And, you know, putting the right message at the right time in front of them. And approaching it that way. Right. So kind of breaking down that journey and figuring out what they’re doing online.

Maz 

So but Dimitri, I’ll ask you this, I mean, just to turn the tables around back at you. What are you seeing from a B2B perspective, what are the more challenging verticals that you guys are working on? Are you seeing that shift? And how is programmatic affecting them? Or are you finding more and more people really sticking to their own walled gardens? Or industry lead publishers?

Dimitri  

It’s a great question Maz. And we as a DSP have definitely just seen considerable growth in B2B in general, over the last five to six years, not even specifically just agriculture, but B2B as a whole. And I think marketers realize now more than ever, that there’s just so many more opportunities to get as hyper-targeted as possible. So, I mean, you guys are familiar with our partnerships team, our data solutions team, we’ve really taken a verticalized approach to our capabilities and how we can better service our clients. The level of targeting, compared to what was possible five to 10 years ago is just kind of transcended what we’ve become accustomed to. B2B, for example, not only is it a growing trend for StackAdapt, it’s a growing trend across the industry and programmatic as a whole. And, you know, I think there’s just been a lot more demand for more addressable targeting opportunities, whether that’s through account-based marketing, you know, targeting individuals who are employed at specific institutions across North America, for instance, targeting by job title, layering on specific signals, like what products people are engaged with, the level of seniority that they’ve been in an organization, the employee headcount, like any very granular thermographic data or technographic data. So to answer your question there’s just been a growing trend. And again, it’s not only coming from agriculture, but I’d say something we’ve seen from B2B as a whole. And I think when people realize that, you know, they can reach these audiences beyond traditional channels and mediums, like walled gardens, or like direct to publisher and do it through programmatic with casting a wider net on that audience. And once they see the value, it tends to be something that they work more into their media planning.

Maz 

For us from an agriculture standpoint and the US market, we operate in both almost equally. On those, there’s a vast difference in terms of the way we approach our media strategies. Here in Canada because it leads with agriculture publishers, because data is hard to get your hands on, good data, I’m not talking about third-party, I’m talking about good quality, second-party data, when you shift attention to the US, there’s a lot more flexibility and quality of data to get your hands on because associations are public and get the USDA approval. And so we are able to work with a data company to gather that data that is very crop-specific, that’s very grower specific. And you can really start to narrow in on certain geos, crop zones or soil zones because you have to take all that into account. You can’t just say, I want to hit apple growers, for example. Right? The quality of soil versus the product, the types of growers, how many growers, how many acres are they growing, all of these data points, we have to put them together when we’re building out our media strategies, it’s not as simple as turning a switch on and off. So it’s not just gathering data, it’s analyzing it, understanding it, and then putting the best possible action towards it. And that could be whether it was video, or native or display or, you know, we’ve started to dabble with connected television as well. And, you know, the team’s been talking to us about audio and podcasting. So again, understanding that audience, and then understanding where this information is coming from and how we’re going to talk to them, and then layering in the media strategy over and above that. And I find it really interesting because the B2B category has really shifted and we’re seeing it with our programmatic as they’re really starting to shift their attention to use these DSPs a lot better than simply going with, you know, their own industry sites that may have multiple advertisers that compete with one product at the same time. Right. So you want to sometimes avoid that for your clients.

Dimitri  

Absolutely, and Maz, I think it comes down to what you said a little bit earlier with agriculture, whether it’s a grower, a farmer, a planter, these are human beings, right. And, it can be naive to assume that they’re spending all of their time exclusively within those walled garden environments, and that there’s other ways to reach these audiences. That being said, regardless of how you’re going about reaching these individuals, whether it’s agriculture or any challenging B2B vertical for that matter. I am curious, Anup, someone in your position, for example, and the folks who are tuning in who may be responsible for the overall performance and strategy and analytics. Agriculture is to this day still an industry that largely depends on interpersonal relationships, where grower/farmer will meet with a sales rep and the actual purchase of a crop or seed fertilizer, machinery will be done in person. And with that, I think it can be a little bit challenging from your point of view to quantify whether or not native or display or a video campaign is successful to your client’s bottom line, with a vertical in an industry like agriculture, how are you able to quantify that success?

Anup  

Yeah, good point. It is not easy. It’s getting sales information and sales data. It is difficult, we’re dealing with B2B and long purchase cycles, right? So over months over years, and so there is a big relationship component building trust. We’re not e-commerce, right, so we’re not expecting someone to click on an ad and make a purchase within 30 minutes on the site. So what we do is, it comes back to really outcome marketing and understanding the audience and their decision making journey. And so we’ll strategically create campaigns that are designed around awareness-based outcomes. The expectation of the ad click isn’t to see a sale, it’s to go to a website, right and learn about the products. And if you know, we’re getting people to do that, that campaign is successful, we know that’s part of the decision-making journey to purchase a product months down the road, right. And so we start understanding the different components of that journey, you know, we will have sort of more top of funnel type problem solution type ads, not necessarily speaking about brands will have deeper funnel ads around specific brands will have retargeting ads that, you know, build trust with, with that user a little bit, they’ve come to the site, they’ve engaged in some content. And so you know, all those different ads, and the creatives and the messaging are different based on that moment in their, in that purchase cycle. And so we don’t necessarily equate it back to a sale per say, but it’s really those micro journeys through their decision-making process that will determine success.

Maz 

Yeah, the attribution model is a bit different with us, because, like Anup was saying, it’s not always an instant purchase, there’s different layers when growers are making that decision about what product they’re going to be using. And, then when are they actually going to actually use it? And are they just going to use it on a small part of their farm, to test it to see how it compares against other products that they may be using? So our attribution models are not your standard sort of last touch or last seen kind of models? We change them around, especially with outcome marketing, because we’re also looking at business objectives being met, and how do we attribute advertising back to that.

Dimitri  

That’s great. And in the context of testing, whether it’s from the perspective of a grower, a farmer, or in the context of a digital strategy team like WS. The only way to actually understand whether or not it’s going to impact your client’s bottom line, and drive success, is to test in the first place. And that’s, I think, one of my favourite things about working with the WS team for the past three years is, you guys have always been receptive to trying out things that you haven’t before. And as you know, the only way to understand whether or not something’s going to work out is to test it, it’s one thing to test, channel by channel or creative by creative, it’s a completely different thing to test tech against tech. And, we’ve always tried to provide our clients with the lowest possible barrier of entry, in order to test this out and see if it works for you guys. I think the Anuvia SymTRX case studies is a great example of one of the campaigns that we’ve executed with the WS team and that’s a great example of a holistic, full funnel advertising plan, which Anup spoke to a little bit earlier, as far as working in sequential messaging, trying to do what we can to drive users down the funnel using a variety of different channels and formats. And in the case of Anuvia we executed native display video, it was more, you know, upper funnel awareness. And again, trying to build brand recall and sequentially target people based off of who has seen a native ad who has been exposed to a video advertisement. Probably one of my personal favourite campaigns that we’ve worked on together. But it was a first for you guys. And I’m curious, like, how does WS as an agency, go about testing, whether it’s with programmatic or any new channel or vendor? Because I’m sure at times, especially in the case of new clients who haven’t tested it before, it can be a little bit of a challenge.

Maz 

But that actually speaks to how great the points are right, and how much trust there is between you know, agency and client in this matter, and I think that, you know, the vision that the founders had in terms of bringing in the outcome marketing practice, has empowered that trust even more so. Yes, we love testing. And it doesn’t come down to again, how many impressions is this going to give me over that, we’re looking to see what resonates with the audience, we’re looking to see what effect it has in either changing a behaviour or learning more about an existing behaviour. In the case of SymTRX and Anuvia, we tried everything. And the client was very ready to take some risks, and the risks worked really well for us. But you also have to understand that there’s a whole other side to the media that we were running, and that is the backend, right? So the CRM programs that had the surveys that we ran, the content that was created, the work that we did with some of the publishers, and the content that was generated there. And in this particular case, we didn’t only test channels, right? So yeah, I agree we tried display, we tried native, we tried video, we started to even work with your team on bidding strategies for them. So if you recall with native, we moved into a cost per engagement. So anyone who would click on the ad comments and 10 seconds or more, we would pay for that. And I again, I find that a very interesting part in programmatic where you’re not just looking at the tactic. You’re looking at the bidding strategy, you’re looking at how we’re building out audiences and segmenting them you’re looking at like how Anup was saying. After you’ve done the prospecting, how do you take them into the retargeting? How do you build look-alikes around them? Matthew and Sheldon on your team have also been working very closely with us on contextual and how do we integrate contextual advertising and layering geo-targeting with it and then using, you know, programmatic direct to get deals done with weather networks and other potential partnerships. So there’s a lot of different components that we look at when we are running these campaigns. And I like that you put up this particular example, because it truly speaks to how encompassing we were with this particular client, knowing that we were also running publisher direct media at the same time. So it all has to feed into one another and work together. But this is a great campaign, I enjoyed this one.

Dimitri  

And Maz as a media director, is pretty much responsible for executing all these plans, whether it’s with a DSP partner, whether it’s with a publisher directly or any other channel, for that matter. You mentioned the flexibility with bidding, how you’re paying for users who are ultimately seeing your ads. CPM, of course, is still the dominant bidding strategy in the industry, and a lot of partners still exclusively offer that model. You brought up the cost per engagement model, like as a Media Director going into those negotiations and planning cycles, does it give you added peace of mind knowing that, you know, you can essentially exclusively pay for people who are taking the time to actually engage with Anuvia or any of your other client’s content?

Maz 

The short answer is yes. Obviously, it always helps to know that you’ve got different leverage tools that you can work with. But just, truthfully, where we’re sitting right now, it’s no longer about that cost per 1,000, or that cost per click, we’re not really digging deep into that. We are looking at the outcome of it, right? So we want to know did this channel plus this creative plus this strategy work, did it convert? And then we can work our way backwards, to understand, okay, we ended up paying X amount for it as a tactic. But ultimately, you know, and if we can constantly stay stuck with what is the CPC of this, or the CPM of this, and what’s the CPE of that, we’re gonna get stuck in a place where we’re more focused there than we are on what really matters, and that is conversions on the other side. So we’re looking at conversions first, real conversions. people not only spending time on site, but people that are going into our other’s funnels, and then we kind of work our way backwards to understand how much was that cost per acquisition sort of thing? And what did it cost us to get there, but it definitely helps knowing that you know, the CPE model Dimitri is almost your outcome marketing at StackAdapt, right, it’s your way of saying, we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, we know our platform is good. So you know what, anyone who clicks, we won’t charge you until they’ve spent X amount of time on the site. Right, so take that model. And that’s what we’re replicating from an advertising thing we’re telling our clients, this is how we’re going to get people to interact and engage with your site. And so I do like the CPE model, and I can’t wait for you to move it away from native and make it on everything.

Anup  

And that’s kind of, you know, what programmatic allows us to do is understand and learn more about why people are doing what they do, and the payments they take online. You know, so within the Anuvia campaign, I think this might be the second campaign we ran with them. And so part of its expectations and knowing what to get out of it. And so we did a lot of testing up front, and different types of messages. And I can’t remember the exact messages, but there were some value based plays around ROI, there was some messaging around yield and soil type, things like that, right. And so we’re able to kind of see within specific geos, or certain areas, what works, what doesn’t, and then use that across other tactics within the same campaign outside of programmatic. And this whole idea around testing is kind of interesting, because, you know, no client actually wants you to take their money and test with it. Right. That’s the risk component. So the way we sort of frame testing, or see testing, it’s information we’re getting from it, right. And so we’re learning, sort of like market research, the ability to put stuff out there, not commit huge budgets. And with lots of time in planning there’s flexibility, you can get into this pretty easily and quickly and tweak and optimize where you need to, so everything becomes a learning point that we gathered from it. And we use that to optimize and make the next campaign more effective.

Dimitri  

That’s great, Anup, I’m curious, from your lens, as the programmatic or the performance director at WS you essentially have to take that leap in order to find those findings, like you said, and in order to do that, you really have to, you know, have that willingness and flexibility to test. And it sounds like that’s something that your clients for the most part have always been pretty receptive to. But for the folks who are tuning in who may not work in agriculture, specifically, but represent a challenging vertical under B2B or any niche vertical, that is maybe largely dependent on direct and publisher relationships, for instance, what advice would you give to a director of performance or a director of analytics, for instance, who’s responsible for overseeing that media, when it’s really like the first time that they’re actually going about executing it?

Anup 

Yeah, I think having that flexibility to be able to adapt to different things, being open-minded with different platforms, experimenting, trying things out, is important, it’s key, taking those risks. Being able to understand that we’re learning from certain aspects of the campaign, and we can set aside some budget to do that. And they’ll make other parts of the campaign more effective. So I think taking those risks, having that flexibility, and really having that sound sort of strategy and framework to build off of, and sticking to that. So you can almost kind of have to start with that you have to have that plan in place. Especially when it comes to the data side of things. If you don’t, you know, everyone wants to collect data, and they think information is going to be the savior. But if you don’t have a plan of what you’re gonna do with that data, at the beginning, it becomes very difficult to do that on the fly, right? And it’ll become less effective. So understanding what information you want to collect and how you’re going to use that. And then how you’re going to action that to optimize things.

Dimitri  

I think the takeaway is that if it can work for agriculture, it can probably work for anything else in any other challenging vertical. Maz, same question for you. But in the context of someone who would be responsible for the RFP cycle and execute in the media as a planner or supervisor or even a media director.

Maz 

Look, if you haven’t started with programmatic, you need to. That’s my honest advice. You need to get it into your planning. But my advice would be don’t try to do it alone. Don’t, if you don’t have any experience with it, if you haven’t studied any of the theory, if you don’t feel that you’re ready to be a trader, don’t go into it alone, you know. And that’s how we worked right Dimitri? There was a lot of dependency on us, on you guys, to really tell us how your platform can help us. And that’s how the learning begins, right. And so I say, take that leap of faith, just take that risk, go and try it, speak with your clients about it. But don’t do the self service models, go in with a managed service with a strong DSP, and really let them help you build out your media plan, help you understand where the data is coming from, ask a lot of questions, there’s no shame in it. I genuinely believe that the concept of how programmatic is today, that software is going to be vital for the way that we continue to expand and capture audiences and drive new prospects. So I would definitely say take that leap of faith and trust in your DSP, but use managed services, and let the team at, whether StackAdapt, or whoever you choose to work with lead, let them show you how much their software and their intelligence can really build and nurture your campaign. And we’ve seen it right, Dimitri? I recall introducing you to some friends in other agencies that wanted to start using programmatic. And that was always my advice to them, let StackAdapt give you a lot of the answers, and do a lot of the heavy lifting, because no one will know your platform better than you do.

Dimitri

Absolutely, that has always been something we try to do as far as serving as an extension to the teams that we are working with. Especially those who are testing it out for the first time and ensuring them that we do have a sound strategy in place in order for the campaign to ultimately work and hit your client’s bottom line.

Maz

But are you seeing a struggle from other agencies or potential clients, Dimitri in integrating programmatic to their media plan? Like in your first contact with them?

Dimitri

There is always going to be a struggle, Maz. It’s a great question. Especially if what is already being executed is working. Whether it’s through search or social. I don’t think anyone is ever going to get in trouble for putting Facebook or Google on a media plan. It’s really just trying to challenge folks and challenge the status quo, and help them understand that by doing this you are only going to assist the performance across your other channels as well too. Programmatic isn’t here to replace anything, it’s here to complement it. That’s always a talking point for us when we do come across that challenge. Like anything else, it just really takes the time and the patience I think to test it out before you can truly understand what the impact is going to be.

Maz

What do you guys see as the future, Anup, Dimitri? Either one of you. I’m curious to get your take on this. Sorry this wasn’t one we never rehearsed, but here we go. How do you see the future of programmatic evolving in the B2B landscape?

Dimitri

No, it’s a great question. Whether it’s B2B or any vertical. I do think obviously there are a lot of changes happening in the industry as we speak. There is going to be a drastic shift to more contextual advertising. I think contextual is probably more important now than it ever has been before. As you guys know, working with Matthew and Sheldon, we recently rolled out page context AI which is intended to transcend traditional contextual advertising where you are only targeting by keywords or targeting by a category of an IAB publication or a category for example. Understanding and reaching users as they are engaging with that content in real-time and that is proven to be an effective tactic. We are just reaching people who are in-market and engaging in a contextual-relevant environment. Beyond contextual, identity-based targeting for sure, we do have a little bit more time on our hands now with Google pushing back the cookie deprecation deadline. But there will definitely be even more demand for first party targeting, more addressable targeting, CRM or ABM targeting strategies. So if anything a lot of our conversations lately have been surrounding how programmatic can still work for B2B, or any vertical when those changes come to fruition. You guys have been kind of early pioneers in testing those things out.

Maz

Anup what do you think?

Anup

Yeah, I don’t see this platform going away. I see it getting stronger and there are going to be different ways of utilizing media for engaging audiences. The challenge will be privacy and what information you can use to optimize and build better algorithms and platforms. We’re seeing right now where there are rules and regulations and privacy things coming into play and so it will be tricky in having that right balance of what information we can bring in and utilize to make that platform better while still working in the realm of how things are going to be regulated. I don’t see that going away, so there is always going to be changes to what sort of information marketers are privy to and what technology is privy to and always staying ahead of that and figuring out ways of utilizing programmatic models to adapt to changing environments.

Maz

I’m excited to see where else it’s going to go. We’ve started testing connective TV and we are running programmatic out of home. All these different programmatic direct and contextual and ID-based and it’s exciting. It’s a necessary change and it’s wonderful to be a part of that bridge between ad tech and ag tech, for our customers. It’s exciting where we’re going.

Anup

The part that excites me the most is the interactivity of ads, figuring out ways to actually put messages in front of our audience for them to engage with them. It’s not just a static image or message anymore and we can get people to do things with them in that moment and then for me personally, it’s understanding their behaviour and why they do that. It’s going to be really interesting.

Dimitri

All great points. Gentlemen, we have just under 10 minutes here and we have a couple of questions here from the crowd so we definitely want to get those out to you before we wrap it up. The first one is for the both of you. What type of pushback have you received from clients who have yet to run programmatic for their clients?

Maz

There was a time mostly here in Canada where the concept of programmatic was equals fraud. There was a big learning and teaching that we had to work on with our clients to sort of say there are technologies, the only reason that we optimize on a regular basis, we’re looking and seeing any irregular activities and so that was one of the biggest push backs that I faced right at the start. The other one was “I didn’t see it”, we used to get that question a lot. “I didn’t see my ad when I go to different websites”. Sometimes our answer was “good, you’re not the demographic that we were going after”. You’re sitting and wearing a suit in an office but the audience we want are growers in the fields. That was all part of that beginning process and I think as the media evolved and as Anup and his team were showing the various performances and the metrics that came with these campaigns. We were starting to show more value to the clients and sort of say “look we are watching the customers “ and we were watching the customers coming to the site, and they were doing this, and doing that, then they are interacting and the conversion part of everything. Those were primarily the pushbacks, it wasn’t based on budget, it wasn’t based on anything, just more of the understanding of how programmatic works and how it is going to fit in.

Anup

That’s what I would add too. I think with any new tech, with anything different people are going to question it and its lack of understanding at initial stages. So, if things are working then why rock the boat? But I think it also goes back to changes in the audience as well too. So our clients understanding that there’s more people in ag, there’s more growers going online, making decisions online, the old model doesn’t work anymore now so you have to adapt and look at new ways to engage them. That kind of helps as well. Just knowing again what the audience is doing.

Dimitri

Awesome gentlemen, we should have time for one more question. What targeting tactics through StackAdapt have you found successful with the ag audience more specifically with pharmaceutical and row crop brands?

Maz

This question is a whole webinar on its own to be honest with you. Because the amount of tastics that we’ve used, again it all starts with what’s the data and where are we getting it from and then how do we take that into our software. So we have used first party data, we have used second party programmatic direct deals through StackAdapt. We’ve run a lot of native campaigns through contextual targeting with StackAdapt. Oh my goodness, that’s a whole media plan. But again it’s what data are you starting with and where do you want to lead me to. So yes we have run it for row crops and for speciality. We look at what data is already available out there, looking at the US for example, the collective land unit or the USDA information that is made available to you, you can always take that or use a software like LiveRamp. We do a lot of geo-targeting and then that has multiple layers as well. There’s geo-targeting through prospecting and there is geo-targeting with retargeting as a methodology. The media plan is quite an extensive one, but it’s really built on a certain strategy that we work with the StackAdapt team when we are building it out to see what our options are. Where can we integrate things like weather? Where can we integrate things like crops? We try and stay away from third-party data as much as possible knowing that sometimes it does help to fill the gaps if you use it wisely. We are trying to focus primarily through first-party and second party. A lot of the information that the clients give us in terms of the geo locations and we’ve used that for another one of our clients lately that’s showed some really great results. So, yes there are a lot of answers to that particular question. Same thing would work with Politico, because that’s also a very walled garden-based environment in Animal Health for instance, that we work with quite extensively. Again, it’s finding those associations and trying to do programmatic direct deals through them to reach the veterinarians or whoever you are trying to reach there.

Anup

I’ll add that retargeting has worked well. There’s so much noise when it comes to digital ads and not everyone that clicks on your ad is your target audience. And so knowing that when you retarget specifically to people who have been to your website and they come back to it, those are the kind of people that you really want to understand what they are doing, why did they come back and get them to do whatever that action is that you are trying to get them to do. So retargeting works well.

Maz

It never starts with just row crops. It starts with the actual grower, what they’re growing, where they are and how they are consuming their media. That’s how we trickle down to how we approach them.

Dimitri

This was a lot of fun. And it brings us to the end of the program. We appreciate both your time and both your support. It has been instrumental in our relationship and partnership and thank you to the folks at WS for continuing to be a great partner of ours here at StackAdapt.

Anup Patel

Anup Patel is a data analyst at WS. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Maz Tannir

Maz uses 26+ years of experience to effectively develop, negotiate and tailor media strategies to align with marketing goals. He is actively involved in industry organizations including the IAB (Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce and Programmatic Trading Committee), and AdClub Toronto (Digital Day Committee). You can connect with Maz on LinkedIn.