Programmatic Stars: Ryan Buckley, Head Of Programmatic, Hearst Magazines

Programmatic Stars has been launched by New Digital Age to celebrate the pioneers, trailblazers and innovators holding the role of Head of Programmatic, one critical to any company today. We want to understand what makes them tick and get their insight on this crucial sector of the digital industry.

What do you love most about your role as Head of Programmatic?

My role looks after direct programmatic which means we have to work a little harder and shape our offering and services. This ultimately means we give value to our customers by them having a direct relationship with a premium publisher. 

What makes my role easier is the great technology that Hearst sits on – this includes one CMS, Ad server and DMP globally – allowing us to be a truly connected premium publisher.  So, because we are always innovating, my passion for the Hearst portfolio and business strategies makes me love my role here.

What is the biggest opportunity for programmatic over the next year?

Data will be a be a real focus for next year, identifying and unifying all data touch points, both online and offline across the business.  Hearst is in a very unique position with one DMP globally, allowing a view of user engagements within our wider portfolio in the UK, extending our reach to over 30 million. 

Although data is an obvious growth area for many publishers, I think the development and uses you produce against data will make a publisher unique in market.  

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic?

Creating harmonious connections with our advertisers and our audiences through our portfolio of 25 premium brands.   We are a user experience first business, first and foremost.   I have been working on various activation ideas to make these connections more relevant and meaningful.

We have started to look beyond the traditional metrics of CTR, Viewability, CPC etc and look at the true value that our audiences provide to our partners. 

Initial results suggest that the traditional metrics we use daily are not really attributing a true value of activity.

What are the biggest challenges for programmatic and how will we overcome them?

The biggest challenge for the wider programmatic landscape will be the collection and use of data.  Regulations around data are becoming more stringent and the ability to collect data is becoming increasingly difficult.

Chrome’s move to more controls over third-party cookies has got the industry nervous. Publishers “could” see benefits of contextual making a worthy comeback but additionally we will still be able to collect data from our users, with the correct consent obtained from each user.

What innovation or technology in programmatic are you most excited about currently?

There are so many technology and innovations to pick from.   I’m excited about all of it!

We tend not to run with one specific technology vendor or innovation, we take a holistic look at all of the innovations/technology in market and assess them individually and in collaboration with each other to see what the opportunity is for our partners/users. 

If I was forced to choose one, it would be the rise of AI technology. This is interesting from both a commercial and editorial perspective to really increase our user experience with our brands.

How is the role of ‘head of programmatic’ evolving or changing at present?

Head of programmatic roles have traditionally been built upon a great understanding of the technology that drives it.  I think programmatic is becoming the new “Digital” and is an ecosystem to deliver great digital connections between brands and audiences. 

Traditionally my role was to sell banner and video ads, this has now expanded into all areas of digital including content, commerce, data, affiliates and native.  This is helped by the great cross-department collaboration we have at Hearst.

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