Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Stars: Tom Harrison, Manning Gottlieb OMD

Programmatic Stars celebrates the pioneers, trailblazers and innovators holding the role of Head of Programmatic, one critical to any company today.

Tom Harrison is Executive Director, Head of Programmatic, Manning Gottlieb OMD, responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of all agency programmatic output. He’s been at the agency for ten years and previously worked at Mindshare.

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

We’re in a period of significant change and development, driven principally by amazing technological advances and legislative pressure. There are more opportunities than ever before for the programmatic model to kick on and future proof itself for the next era.  A privacy-compliant alternative to the third-party cookie would rank highest amongst them. 

Whilst Google have set a 24-month timeline before Chrome stops supporting third-party cookies; the hard yards are already being delivered in search of a viable alternative.  It’s no secret that third-party cookies are the oil on which the RTB ecosystem runs, so we can’t underestimate the importance of this task. 

The future of targeting, managing frequency of exposure and measuring digital advertising effectiveness depends upon us getting this right.  Whilst ID alternatives are often mooted as the solution, a future-proofed standard can’t be a workaround, rather it must have consumer privacy at the heart and be based on clear and explicit consent. Scaled first-party data solutions will be key and it’s fascinating to see how this will evolve.

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

Programmatic continues to carry the burden of non-transparency.  The complex interplay of technology and often convoluted supply chains have made it challenging to regulate. The recent PWC/ISBA report has shone a renewed spotlight on this area, and rightly so.   

Having direct relationships across the supply chain, paying each partner directly and supporting quality publishers is the solution. At Omnicom Media Group, with the recent launch of OMG Marketplace UK, we believe we have delivered just this. 

It’s vitally important that advertisers receive complete transparency and as an industry we back professional journalism, along with a free and open internet.  The market as a whole is moving in the right direction, but there is more to do.

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

The continued application of programmatic within the CTV market.  To date, outside of the commercial broadcasters, the exponential growth story in CTV has been wholly US-centric.  This could be set to change with the rise of the ad-funded video (AVOD) model. 

Eventually the ad revenue opportunity will be too difficult to ignore for the big subscription VOD services.  This represents huge opportunity for UK advertisers, bringing further technology-enabled, large screen, scaled targeting opportunities.

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

Programmatic has now become truly ubiquitous.  It commands circa 90% of the digital display market, its principles drive search and social media and it’s rapidly evolving so-called traditional media markets.  In the face of this dynamism, the Head of Programmatic role is one that has to constantly adapt and grow. 

Understanding the short-term ROI driven by retargeting, lookalike modelling and digital optimisation techniques isn’t anywhere near enough anymore.  Rather, a Head of Programmatic must now have a complete understanding of how technology and data application disrupts all media markets and how it works to drive short term business goals as well as customer lifetime value.

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic?

I’ve worked in a small, consultancy-based unit and as sole programmatic point person over the years, but building a team that delivers a passionate, integrated, thoughtful and holistic approach is what drives fulfillment.  We work in a dynamic market and being proactive to change is key to driving results. 

We don’t rest on our laurels, but rather thrive on the fact that constant evolution of structure and balance of skillsets keeps us agile.  It’s this team ethos I’m most proud of and what’s been fundamental to our collective success.

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

There are many great aspects to the Head of Programmatic role, but ultimately what makes the job exciting is its breadth.  I made the move into programmatic in 2014 and whilst it had been around as a concept since 2007, back then it was still a maturing market. 

When I look back to how the role has evolved over those 6 to 7 years, it’s amazing to see how platform automation and data have transformed the way we approach media planning and buying.  This constant evolution and broadening of the programmatic footprint keeps things fresh and interesting.