Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Programmatic Stars: Ben Hancock, Head of Programmatic at CNN International Commercial

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

Ben Hancock is Head of Programmatic at CNN International Commercial. Before joining CNN in 2015, he worked at publishers including The Guardian, Northern & Shell and Time Out.

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

Quite rightly, in recent years the digital advertising industry has had to answer questions about Identity and use of data, with these issues generating mainstream news and consumer interest. causing wider consumer inertia which is holding back growth.  CCPA will bring this into sharper focus.

With GDPR already implemented and the introduction of CCPA, the platform is set for the industry to work together to solve these issues and drive the industry into the future making sure it works for brands and consumers alike.

What is your proudest achievement in programmatic?

Not mentioning GDPR for two straight weeks in 2019.

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

I’ve lived through the birth pangs of programmatic since its inception over 10 years ago.   At the start, premium publishers dived headlong into a tempting collaboration with machines – but were unaware of the unintended consequences this new technology would unleash.  

If we could go back to day one would we build the ecosystem to look like it does now?   Is it really working as well as it could do for everyone?

I feel the biggest challenge we face as premium publishers is commoditisation – making standout difficult in this crowded market of content.   But by its nature, programmatic and tech has to standardise in order to scale.  

We will overcome this by putting people, ideas and brands at the heart of what we do and proving our value.

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

Coming back to my earlier point around Identity, there’s a big incentive to get that problem solved and I’ve seen some innovative technology that could do this.  

What it really needs is the industry to get behind one (preferably agnostic) and allow it to scale.

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

People who work in the industry generally have a better understanding of programmatic now, its use is now much more commonplace and is becoming the norm — so there’s less to do around education and dealing with inertia.

What’s most exciting, is that a lot of growth is being driven by top-tier brands either coming into the market or spending more.  

At CNN International we work with many premium brands through programmatic who can see the benefits of working as closely with us as possible on a ‘direct’ basis which solves a lot of the challenges — if you work with CNN you get CNN!

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

I work at one of the world’s biggest and most talked about brands at CNN, which means I have the privilege of connecting advertisers via programmatic with our high-end, global audience and sought-after premium inventory. 

2020 is set to be an interesting news year with myriad of unfolding Geo-Political events. CNN International will be at the centre of it holding big business and government to account.  I’m proud to be part of the team that monetises those efforts.