Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Stars: Andrew Hayward-Wright, Head of Programmatic Solutions, Guardian News & Media

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

The market itself. It is designed in an opaque manner resulting in buyer and seller being disconnected.

We are often led astray by new shiny technology that promises to fix a problem only to add another layer of complexity. As publishers, we have fallen into a difficult self-fulfilling prophecy with our over-reliance on the Open Exchange and now prop up a volume-based commodities market.

A large disconnect (on both sides of the industry) exists between what is being said at the head of companies and what actually happens at the exchange and trading level.

Market KPIs and valuation of media needs to change at a grassroots level and an element of scarcity and value of context needs to be restored in market. 

We are on the path to achieving this with collaborations between premium publishers and also industry-wide initiatives, I think it’s a case of watch this space.

Change is coming and it will come at a rapid pace. 

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

Four to five years ago I would have said the head of programmatic is the person sat over in the corner who writes a big OMP £ £ number on the board at the end of the week and keeps a level of mystery about them.

Now it’s across everything; digital, commercial, ops, product, and partnerships.

Each publisher and agency will be different but as programmatic becomes the norm and takes the lion’s share of budget for trading you may even see the titles start to change to head of digital advertising.

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

The continuous change. No day is the same, the marketplace is in constant movement meaning you are always learning.

At The Guardian I am lucky enough to have the resource to test, experiment and push the boundaries of what is possible to innovate with the current technology.

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

Collaboration between advertiser and publishers.

As advertisers become more clued up on what is going on within programmatic it presents an opportunity for publishers, who know their audience and context better than anyone else, to act in a consultative manner to help drive more working media and performance for their advertising partners. 

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic? 

Being part of the team that has grown programmatic tenfold over the last three years and helped not only our sales team win team of the year but also been a cornerstone in helping The Guardian achieve break-even for the first time in many years. 

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

In a post-GDPR world where there are questions around the future existence and use of the 3rd party cookie, the ability for buyers to target audiences effectively and use programmatic to its full potential is very exciting. Alongside the push by vendors around unified ID, the evolution of the DMP/CPD space is really interesting and has the potential to benefit premium publishers if we get it right.