Programmatic Stars: Frances Hudson, Head of Programmatic Optimisation at The Guardian

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.

Frances Hudson is Head of Programmatic Optimisation at The Guardian, which she joined in 2017 from Affectv, where she was Trading Director. She was a participant at the recent Permutive publishing roundtable.

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

A challenge, but more significantly an opportunity is our need to clean up the industry.

Regulatory pressure has caused more cross-industry collaboration than I’ve seen before, which is great as everyone is waking up to the challenges faced on different sides of the industry.

My hope is that that means we can move forward in a solution that benefits advertisers and publishers and penalises anyone doing anything nefarious in between!

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

Every day is a new adventure. The industry is constantly changing, and as it matures, we have new challenges to overcome with new technology. I love observing micro and macro changes to technology to piece together what’s going on and what the best route forwards is.

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic?

It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, being selected as part of the MediaWeek 30 under 30 was wonderful this year, but also speaking at a conference in Westminster in front of policymakers and key stakeholders in the industry on transparency in the supply chain was also a big moment!

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

Firstly, the gamification of digital. One of the things you hear about the development of digital media is that it’s great because you can measure it better than anything before. But the rise of attribution models such as last touch have inadvertently paved the way for advertisers to value media that isn’t reflective of true human engagement.

We need to work cross-industry to establish new KPIs that work for advertisers and promote quality publishers.

Secondly, the cookiepocolypse. As the browsers make changes to the settings around cookies, the programmatic ecosystem will need to evolve and change. New technology is cropping up, but we should take a moment to reflect on what we want the programmatic future to be before we continue the status quo.

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

I’m fascinated by how the programmatic world is evolving to cater for new legislation around online privacy. In the last year we’ve added CMP to our list of three-letter acronyms and the technology is constantly evolving.

Technology and systems now need to store user privacy preferences and we will continue to see innovation in this space.

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

The Head of Programmatic role at a publisher is evolving such that the role requires a better understanding of changes and rulings on legislation, knowledge of browsers behaviour and identity. 

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