Educating your talent is core to programmatic success

Authored by James Patterson, General Manager, UK from The Trade Desk

As part of The Digital Trading Awards Program US we hear from James Patterson, General Manager, UK from The Trade Desk who talks about creating an Agency Programmatic team.

In a fast growing industry like ad tech, nimbleness is necessary just to keep up with the ever-changing trends as it evolves. With endless jargon and buzzwords and constant industry shifts, it can be difficult to maintain programmatic expertise.

But before you brush up on ad tech acronyms, it’s important to first assess your fundamental knowledge. No one wants to admit it but many people are a little fuzzy on how programmatic actually works or why it is the way it is. In order to understand where the industry is going, we need to learn where the industry has come from.

Agencies play such a critical role in how brands, technology partners and publishers work together to deliver highly relevant advertising experiences to consumers. In order to be successful in bridging the gap between brands and the marketplace, agencies must foster and develop a deep knowledge of programmatic. Inevitably in an industry growing at such breakneck speed, the hiring pool may come up short, so internal education is key.

Here are four steps to creating an Agency Programmatic team:

1. Change your hiring focus

Jay Stocki, VP of digital services at Experian, makes a strong case for changing your approach to hiring. “I had to laugh recently when I saw a job posting where one of the requirements was seven years or more of programmatic experience. Is that even possible?”

True, experience is core to building an excellent programmatic team, but in such a young field, pure programmatic experience at that high of a level is downright unrealistic.

Instead, look for individuals with the right foundational skills that will help them excel as they get training and hands-on programmatic experience. A strong balance of understanding both the data and creative sides of the equation makes a good foundation for a future programmatic expert. Many agencies have looked to their Paid Search teams for this type of experience.

2. Find budget and time for education

It’s not enough to hire strong candidates. Investing in your employees helps with retention, grooms them for promotion, and leads to higher engagement. When The Trade Desk launched our proprietary Trading Academy in 2013, we knew it had to be scalable and had to speak the language of the buyer. With a goal to empower buyers to become experts in their own right, The Trading Academy provides video tutorials and quizzes in its Programmatic Certification course.

Of course, a comprehensive programmatic training program doesn’t just appear from out of nowhere. Building education into your internal training requires planning, and a big part of that is dedicating enough budget towards it to ensure it has a real impact.

The same goes for budgeting time towards initial and continued training. Understand and prepare for the need to increase non-billable hours in order to make sure that you give your staff dedicated time to stay on track.

3. Define and structure a curriculum

Adults and children learn in radically different ways. For example, adults need to know why it’s important to know something before they learn. Therefore, setting context for learning is a critical part of a successful internal training curriculum.

If you’re building your own training, use the principles of adult learning theory (andragogy) to inform your program. You may even want to bring in an instructional designer to help.

Other important considerations for programmatic curriculum include:

A training platform and resource repository (such as Cornerstone OnDemand)

Comprehensive orientation on where the industry’s been and where it’s going

Strategic chunking of content into modules to make it digestible

Immersive and engaging material (e.g. video that incorporates a teacher, visuals, and discussion)

4. Test knowledge

At school or university, tests and exams involved a lot of cramming and a lot of stress! Testing for internal training is a little different. Testing actually supports staff retention of knowledge. It also helps trainers and instructional designers fine-tune the training program to make sure your staff are getting the most from the experience.

Your programmatic training should test core concepts in each training module. The questions don’t have to be difficult, but they should demonstrate understanding of key points.

Investing in an educated talent base will help you open your hiring pool and train the next generation of programmatic experts. As the media agency’s role evolves, experts will be key to continued success.

The Trade Desk are a sponsor of The Drum Digital Trading Awards US 2016 and more details can be found here, and

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