A media planner knows to place a banner for lipstick on a female targeted portal. But how do you reach the people that have already visited a lipstick website before? And under what conditions would it be highly effective, to reach that specific subgroup with a message that was tailor made for exactly that scenario? This is a case for an audience broker! Marwa Saleh, Senior Audience Broker at Prex Programmatic Exchange, an agency of the Serviceplan Group, and one of the few specialists in this young business sector, tells us about her exciting job.
Dear Marwa, a media buyer places advertising media, such as banners, on public portals. Correct? What is the difference between an audience broker and a media buyer?
The biggest difference is that we do it ourselves. We do book placements like media planners would do, but we do not have that interim step of asking the marketer about the availability for a certain banner and target group (Note from the editorial staff: marketers offer a variety of placements on a bunch of portals. The placements on rtl.de and vox.de for example, are both distributed by one marketer, which is IP).
Based on the campaign briefing, I directly book, release and broadcast the advertising media myself. I can also adjust certain configurations in the process. For example, if I know that the target group are “fashion interested females” – I can broadcast a higher amount of online media volume in the evenings, because that is when women tend to shop online. Knowing that my target group is better reachable via smartphone during the day, I can buy a higher amount of mobile media for the daytime.
Is it certain that you always get all the placements that you need?
Sure, that is rarely an issue. The market offers plenty of media volume. I don’t place my orders to a single marketer or website. I book so-called “private deals” from large marketer groups such as Spiegel, IP and Burda – or I set up my campaign in the open market. And I book my placements based on a predefined CPM price (cost per mille, meaning cost per thousand views).
How do you know how many contacts turn out per day, on a portal such as Spiegel Online, for example?
Based on projections I can estimate about ten million ad impressions per day. Taking budget, target group and other parameters into account, I would book 300.000 for example. While the campaign is up and running, I can directly interfere and optimize certain parameters as well.
In what kind of a company does an audience broker work? And who are the people that you work with?
Audience brokers can work in media agencies, for marketers and for demand side platforms (these are platforms that offer the service of programmatic advertising between agencies and marketers). I work with media planners, account managers, marketers and people from programmatic advertising platforms. Sometimes I work directly with the client.
What do you spend most of your time with: handling tools or coordinating between clients, marketers and planners?
That varies, depending on the campaign and the stage of the campaign process. Some days I mainly control, analyze, stock up, cancel, program and make adjustments on the programming platforms. Other days, clients and media planners put in requests. Then I will brainstorm various possibilities with them, based on the briefings.
How to you turn a target group description into a technical targeting group?
Conventional target groups are usually defined by typical characteristics such as female, between 18 and 35 years old, net household income 2.000 Euro plus, fashion lovers, etc..
For programmatic awareness campaigns, we can search sites that model the target group, or we can set up a retargeting strategy with the user data from the client. Meaning, we can target users that have already bought a product from our client online, or have been as far as the order site of our client, without buying.
It is being said that campaign optimization is a highly creative process. What is so creative about it?
The continuous analysis of the campaign gives me a lot of insight. I can monitor the performance of a certain banner at a certain time, viewed in a specific browser. I can check the mobile operating system and so on. If I figure out, that a banner promoting shoes is especially effective in clicks and sales between 9 and 10 pm, I can optimize the campaign in favor of that timeslot. If I see that a certain browser is performing badly, I can deselect it. These are the kinds of decisions and changes that I have to make while the campaign is running.
What would be a typical challenge? What are the moments where you really have to give your best?
At times it can happen that you’ve done everything correctly, still the campaign won’t perform as expected. You might optimize in this direction and then the next and have to try out a lot of things, to better the performance. That can be challenging at times, especially if certain factors that you have no influence on, play a role. For example, when a competitor comes out with an aggressive strategy simultaneously. In that case I might have to renegotiate with the client, to increase our media volume and boost the presence of our campaign. If nobody outdoes my offer, I get the placement.
Does your feedback ever cause changes in media schedules?
Sure. Let’s say we are promoting some sort of new sporting equipment. It makes sense to place in very specific environments to reach the target group without divergence loss. But we would also point out to our client, that content sites promoting the topic of “clean eating” for example, have much higher reach. You might not only find people interested in sporting goods there, but the probability is very high. Users on “clean eating” sites might even be more inclined to purchase immediately.
Let’s say a campaign is very successful. What is your part in that?
Well, a pretty big one (she laughs). Of course, many other aspects, such as the collaboration with the client, marketer, media planner and creative head are very important factors, too. And the product itself is pretty essential for the campaign success.
Is "audience broker" an established apprenticeship trade, or is this profession just forming?
When I started off about four years ago, it was still very new and there were very few that actually worked as full-time audience brokers in Germany then. Other markets such as the US, Australia, Great Britain, Sweden, France and the Netherlands are more advanced in that sector. Slowly but surely, it is turning into a renowned profession here as well. Still, a lot of it is “learning by doing”. I myself studied marketing and international business originally – and now I am here.
If you are one of the very few audience brokers around, then you surely have a part in coining the job outline, right?
I’ve never thought about that. But sure, it is true: the feedback I give platform services often leads to the optimization of their tools. And I get to take part in projects that are based on an innovative idea from our team, and that have never been conducted in that way ever before. These ideas turn into standard solutions if they prove to be successful.
What talents or personality traits are helpful in becoming an audience broker? Creativity? Ambition? Something completely different?
Analytical skills are very important. Technical affinity is highly important for you to be able to handle and program our platforms, to create reports and so on. Curiosity and an adventurous spirit is helpful, since you are constantly dealing with new developments and tools that nobody has ever used before – and you have to teach yourself how to use them. And ambition and perseverance: you can reach a lot, but you have to hang in there.
Is there a set of hard skills that you should have, before applying for a job as an audience broker?
It helps if you are good at using technical tools. Excel is a prerequisite. And you should bring high affinity and interest towards the web.
What is it that you look forward to the most, when you come into the agency in the mornings?
I look forward to Peter’s coffee from our cafeteria. While drinking that, I take a first look at the results of my running campaigns and make the first optimizations for the day. That is what I call a good start and it’s the way most of my mornings begin.
Thanks a lot for these exciting insights.
Did we spark your appetite? Then go ahead and apply for a job advertisement as Campaign Manager Programmatic Advertising / Audience Broker at mediascale now!