But as well as taking programmatic in-house on the buy-side, there’s an opportunity for publishers to use their know-how to maximise their revenue potential on the sell-side too, and keep inventory fresh and healthy.

I joined lastminute.com group to found and direct its new media branch, The Travel People. From the start, we knew we wanted to bring our programmatic in-house, and build a full-service trading desk across the buy- and sell-side. This is something that no other travel site is doing.

While it hasn’t been easy, the benefits it has brought are huge. It gives us more visibility and control over where our spend is going, which in turn helps us make substantial savings. And it has created a new revenue stream for the business. For those brands thinking of taking the plunge, here are three important lessons we’ve learnt along the way

Hire the right talent

While you can invest in the best software and technology money can buy, it’ll be worthless without the right team behind it.

With programmatic still in its relative infancy, today’s buy-side advertisers require a cocktail of skills that aren’t often found together. Employees need to be commercially astute, while having the technical know-how of a trader, without losing the creative flair that’s key in advertising.

We rarely find this skillset ready made. At The Travel People, we’ve seen an interesting trend among philosophy and social science graduates starting out in tech-based jobs: they are often the ones who ask the right questions and make links between disparate information. It’s not an obvious source of marketing talent, but it’s important to think laterally and look at both hard and soft skills. The tools and interfaces we use can be learnt by anyone who understands a few basics of digital, but you can’t teach a way of looking at the world.

For me, a big part of building a team has been hiring for attitude, rather than skills. It has been crucial to build a team full of people who I trust to really drive forward our services – and for that you need to possess a sense of urgency, responsibility and attention to detail. Those are characteristics you either have or you don’t. You can’t teach someone to care, or to work hard.

Don’t underestimate the power of data

Programmatic is just the nuts and bolts. It’s the data that sits behind it that makes it exciting. And the more data we can analyse, the more accurately we can predict future outcomes.

So, instead of just targeting people with ads for products or services we know they’ve expressed interest in in the past, we can predict who else might be interested in those products or services, based on historical behavioural patterns.

The deeper transactional data you can gather, the better. The real-time bidding tools that programmatic offers then enables brands to use this rich data to both monetise their inventory better, and find and target customers when they are browsing on third party sites.

Get the rest of the business on-board

Needless to say, bringing programmatic in-house is a big investment – and those investigating the opportunity may face some resistance internally.

But having the right staff will help to educate others internally, ensuring the organisation understands what programmatic buying is and the benefits of doing it in-house.

This is what we’ve seen happen at The Travel People – and in turn it has helped to break down internal silos, brought tech and creative teams closer together, and encouraged a culture of knowledge sharing. These are all benefits in themselves, but most importantly we’ve been able to produce better work and reap the rewards – increasing ROI and lowering operational costs in the long run.

Need to get to grips with programmatic? Take the Econsultancy training course.

And here’s some further reading: