Ben has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, communications and business development. He is responsible for Chango’s brand, integrated marketing and demand generation. His team has created one of the most robust thought leadership platforms in the industry and has won multiple marketing and design awards. Prior to joining Chango, Ben worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice. Ben plays a key role in launching GE Capital’s $100 million first integrated advertising campaign. Ben graduated from GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership program after completing his MBA at McGill University. Before GE, Ben held a variety of marketing and business development roles in the e-payments industry, while working at Gemalto in London. Ben is a columnist for CMO.com and ClickZ, and speaks at industry events such as OMMA, AMA and MediaPost. He is based in New York City.
PA.O: What is the state of programmatic advertising?
Ben Plomion: From the response that we got from marketers in particular, there is a lot of excitement around programmatic. We are seeing that people are optimistic. There is a really bright picture of programmatic in the future to come.
I wanted to discuss with you these differing roles in programmatic.
We have these data and media sides.
On the data side, the data for the programmatic reality is our ability to target or retarget customer devices. What we are seeing are automated messages that find and collect data from audiences and serve them with an ad; however, numbers are not everything. Programmatic is not only about numbers and machines; there is a strong human element in it.
For example, when we want to have a campaign for a client, in the old days, your company wants to reach certain demographics, age, genders, urban areas, etc. What we find with programmatic is those assumptions might be true or untrue. We look for what people are looking for online and the type of behavior that they are displaying to determine if our [prescribed] demographics fit or not.
This can’t be automated. We need the human insights.
How is the campaign working? What sites is it on? Who are we really targeting and engaging? With programmatic there is a human element in developing insights and leading, then tying that intelligence back to the brand. Not a lot of people talk about how critical this really is to the success of the campaign.
On the media side, there is no doubt that creative is not going away. Creative is driving attention, desire and action from the consumer. Programmatic is an active area that needs creative to stand out, whether it’s using humor, reverse psychology or something else – the creative matters. But it’s not just the creative in the ad, it’s the creative on the landing page too. With programmatic we are seeing an increasing number of creative needs. You have the IAB offering new formats, making programmatic a lot better and more engaging. You are seeing more and more ads fully customized to be relevant to the person.
The human element is two things: the data and the creative – which need to perform more than ever in a display ad and the landing page that follows the ad.
PA.O: Thanks. What you said makes a lot of sense. Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you have come to join Chango in this role?
Ben Plomion: It’s a very good question. I hope you like my story because it’s real and true. Before I joined Chango, I worked in media with GE Capital. I was doing all sorts of initiatives in media. One of my roles was to support our global advertising campaign, and as you could imagine, I was buying a lot of media through an agency, display media and so on. I realized that not all media is made equal and was frustrated by the performance of display for a number of reasons. So, when Chango talked about capturing audiences on websites with programmatic, I was so intrigued by it. I quickly realized that programmatic could not only solve my problem with GE, but was something I was generally excited about. I joined Chango two weeks later.
PA.O: Who do you respect and listen to in this space?
Ben Plomion: I respect a lot of people in the space. The programmatic space keeps changing every day. I think we have a lot to learn from marketers – not just advertisers. I still follow GE, even though I left it. I think CEO Beth Comstock really understands programmatic more than anyone else in the industry. I’m a big fan of her and anything that she does. This morning there was a ranking from Forbes, and apparently, she made the top CMOs in the U.S. list.
Within the advertising industry I also have a lot of respect for other people too.
We had the Chairman of 360i on the stage, Bryan Weiner. I was reading his bio, and I felt like I knew him because he is very public. I like to talk with people who try really hard to learn some of the trends and then communicate them back. It’s great to find a marketer who finds something really great and then wants to share it with everyone else in the community.
I love talking to marketers; when you have the time to spend with them, it is amazing how much insight they have to share with you.
PA.O: Can you tell me about how the programmatic space is having an impact on our culture as a marketing community?
Ben Plomion: I would make a distinction between marketers and agencies. They see programmatic in a different way. On the marketer’s side, there were a lot of announcements in the last few months. American Express, Netflix and other companies are moving programmatic in house using SEO, display, optimizing pages and so on. But you know, a lot marketers still need advertisers to operate. Agencies are doing a great job – a better job. If you are a very large brand, it is difficult to buy media and come up with a relevant campaign. You need an independent party to come in. They sometimes have the resources and the connections you don’t.
Media agencies are not going away. More and more marketers are going to need relationships with them, but they are going to have to hire programmatic staff and get a way to process, expedite and use CRM data. What we are seeing is, they understand programmatic is coming and that they have to really justify the value of the media to the brand on a daily basis.
There is the Barbarian Group – a creative shop, not a media agency – that understood programmatic quickly and understands what agency level media needs to operate: what is required from a data sample, an education sample and a media buy standpoint.
Agencies that think that way can be successful in the next several years of programmatic.
PA.O: How do you think the advances in wearable tech are going to impact the programmatic world? Unpack what that looks like from your view.
Ben Plomion: I think wearables are exciting to us as consumers and marketers. It is of course hard to say when we are going to start seeing ads on Google Glass or iWatches. I think we are seeing programmatic expand beyond those dimensions to TV and many other places. TV will need a few years before it is ready. Maybe wearables will come next. We don’t really know because it is too early.
As long as the campaign we push using the programmatic approach is helpful, consumers are going to be respective of it. On the talk of privacy, I was just at a campaign this morning and what we found is, millennials have a different view of privacy. What we are seeing is privacy to them means something different. They expect us to know everything about them, as supposed to Gen X where they don’t want marketers to learn everything about them. Wearables are great for millennials in particular, and they can bring value to marketers. The issue with wearables – say for some reason we don’t pay attention to the type of content we serve – is the content becomes useless and there is the risk that the advertising might not be well received. The way we think about wearables is new; we collect information on customers’ interests and intentions, and serve them an ad or something else that is relevant for them. This is very exciting for programmatic TV in the near future.
PA.O: What would be the cover of Advertising Age 50 years from now?
Ben Plomion: I hope that in 50 years, or even 10 years, we don’t talk about digital any more. I hope it becomes part of our day-to-day lives. Offline and online become one. Millennials are using digital devices, and soon they won’t recognize them as different anymore. I think we should start talking about how we could be helpful to the consumer, or contextually relevant to the audience. I think for the marketer, it is going to be tough because the issue of sending the right message to the right audience at the right time and at the right price is partially available in programmatic. As we collect more data on consumers and they tell us what they want to see, it will be top of mind to learn how to make the message resonate to the consumer in a way that is not obtrusive, but interesting and helpful.
These are difficult issues, and that’s why I think we will see an expansion in the CMO role – several “CMO” roles managing privacy, creative, data and all other elements, together.
I don’t know if 50 years from now that we are going to see CMOs anywhere if we are using programmatic.