Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Stars: Sturae Hickley, Head of Programmatic Buying Unit, GroupM

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

The latest to join the series is Sturae Hickley, Head of Programmatic Buying Unit at GroupM.

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

There are so many challenges that we’re facing, such as questions on transparency, lack of knowledge and understanding I’d have to say that the biggest challenge is finding the right resource.  With the ecosystem changing all the time, we are struggling to find people fast enough to grow with this. 

I believe the solution for this is for businesses to groom young talented interns, teach them the foundations and the basics and allow them to grow with on the job training

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

With DMPs(cookie-based data) moving out, and more room being made for Customer Data Platforms I’d have to say that’s quite exciting for me.

CDPs will not only benefit programmatic campaigns, but it will  assist in personalisation across marketing as a whole.  In many instances, marketing channels work in silos, and is quite fragmented, however if we have a tool that can work across marketing holistically, this allows for better consumer experience which in the end is quite important. Brands don’t exist without their consumers.

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

Although the role has always, and probably will always be technically driven, I believe we’re gearing to a role that’s not only focused on programmatic strategy, but also guiding stakeholders both internally and externally into becoming forerunners of digital advertising.

I would also like to believe that we are custodians of programmatic education,  and the responsibility lies with us to shape young minds into becoming even better than we are at the this present moment.

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

There are so many elements to my role that I love, firstly, leading and mentoring a team of young minds within an industry that is constantly evolving and being part of that evolution is quite fulfilling.  Taking a brand on a journey of growth by conceptualising performance strategies, implementation of these strategies and performance measurement against realistic KPIs.   Advertisers are becoming more intuitive and being able to educate, direct and assist in this growth is quite exciting

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

Besides clients managing their own data, I’d definitely say the move into a cookieless future is probably one of the biggest opportunities for programmatic. As we move into a new era of targeting, audience building, measurement and accurate reporting, while being completely transparent, it’s exciting to see what this dimension of change will bring.

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic

I would have to say, when my team won the IAB Bookmarks Award for best ad operations teams in South Africa.  Getting that type of recognition from such an established institution globally definitely puts a feather in my cap.

Programmatic Stars

More posts from ->

Related articles


Realising the utopian vision for smart cities

With smart cities promising to deliver the modern utopian dream, architects need to address the tangible challenges of the technology involved. There are a number of key areas that need exploring as architects, city planners, and government officials plan the next phases of smart city evolution.


The NDA Roundtable: Metro Bank, The FT, Betsson Group, CvE, THG & Ribble Cycles on aligning marketing and tech

Chaired by NDA’s editor Justin Pearse, the roundtable featured Matthew Lawson, Chief Digital Officer at Ribble Cycles; Peter Barr Watson, Chief Technical Officer and Director of Digital at The Spectator; Rob Webster, VP of Strategy at CvE;  Ulrich Gilot, Head of Media for Global Marketing at Betsson Group; Jim Meadows, Director of Influencer, Media and Partnerships at THG; Katrina Broster, Marketing Performance and Technology Director at the Financial Times; and Cat Daniel, Growth Marketing Director at Monzo Bank.