Wayne and I exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.
Marc Goldberg :Wayne start by telling us about where you were and where you are now.
Wayne Blodwell: My career prior to founding The Programmatic Advisory (everyone calls us ‘TPA’) was entirely agency side. I’ve worked at Dentsu (twice), Havas, IPG and Group M. I was fortunate enough to work with some incredible people who really supported & invested in my career and who bought me into programmatic as a means to buy media more effectively. I always speak highly of that agency experience, it was chaotic and challenging, but fun and rewarding.
I now run TPA, a strategic advisory firm. Consultancy seems to be the new ‘Gluten-Free’ in that it’s very on trend, but we’ve been doing this a while and we’re entirely independent with zero deals.
I’ve said before that I don’t think consultancies having deals is bad per se, but far too often they aren’t declared – at least with what we do the clients never have any doubts – that’s one of the best things about running my own business, I’m the most accountable person and a client can just look me in the eye and know that’s true!
MG: So based on your font, you are from London. Are you still there?
WB: I lived in London for 12 years, but in October 19 we bought Forge Group, a brilliant consultancy based in North Carolina. I moved out to NYC in Jan 20’ to take that to the next level, but Covid-19 scuppered lots of our plans and I had to go back to the UK. Long story short, involving trips to Barbados and Cancun, I’m now based in Hoboken, New Jersey with my partner, and I absolutely love it here. It’s such a fantastic place, super laid back, great views of the city and lovely people.
MG: Welcome to America, sorry for the mess, it is gonna get better. Has the pandemic changed your business ?
Our core advisory offering hasn’t changed, empowering advertisers with impartial advice is still what we do day to day, but we did launch a training site, The Programmatic University.
We ran virtual sessions in Q2 2020 to over 500 people covering a range of topics but come Q3/Q4 everyone was a bit ‘zoomed out’. We’re about to launch a free on-demand foundations course, so people should look out for that. We have literally spent 400 hours developing it, the content is comprehensive and not like anything I have seen before.
MG: The clients that are engaging now, they want to learn something for their team. What is the most common theme?
WB: Are our agency fleecing us?
Are Apple & Google going to screw us with identity changes?
Should we use a custom algo? (When they can’t even login to the DSP!)
Tonnes of fun ones, but generally, as broad as it sounds, just getting the best from programmatic. That comes in all sorts of forms; in-housing, agency reviews, brand safety, dynamic creative, identity etc.
I think marketers read about the promise of programmatic in trade press or from their peers and also read/hear about the challenges, and then look at what they’re doing and start to think if there’s a better way.
Programmatic is an umbrella term for data and technology delivering advertising. There’s tonnes of elements within that. To do programmatic well, you need to consider all of those elements. We’re well placed to bring that all together given our experience and impartiality.
But my favourite thing is an inquisitive and ambitious client. That’s definitely the common thread between all of our clients, they want to do the right thing and push things forward. It takes a brave marketer to push against the tide/lack-of-understanding internally and champion programmatic and we love to support those.
MG: You are paid for your unvarnished opinion, what is a brutal truth that you have had to tell a client?
WB: Do not, under any circumstances, change your agency or in-house (when I’m sure they hired us to tell them to change agency!).
MG: Did it help you or hurt you?
WB:I don’t really think about this in all honesty. We just give the most well informed unbiased advice that we can and that’s it. I’ll always stick by our advice because it comes from the right place. We never think beyond that & thankfully our clients trust us for that.
MG: What are the 2021 topics that people should be asking about but are not yet?
Supply path optimizations need to move from a tactic in a DSP (& often owned by a DSP) to a strategic lever by brands. They need to better understand where their budget is going and why, and start to optimise that.
WB: Ha, yes, your world. Measurement and how it’s going to be impacted by increased browser restrictions and regulation is another.
Operational efficiency – we are a reasonably nascent industry, but if you look to other industries, there are huge businesses who automate tasks and reduce operational overheads, I think we’ll start moving to a point where costs are made to work harder, and not simply by squeezing fees.
MG: How has quarantine life been for you? Professionally and personally.
WB: Professionally all good. My team and I galvanised behind our vision and I also leant on my industry network for support. We also have unbelievable clients (I know everyone says that, but genuinely) who kept utilising our services.
Personally, I think like many others, I found it difficult. I had come to the US to start a new life at the start of Jan 2020, super energised by that, and it was taken away. Lockdown was difficult, there were some days where I felt exhausted as my sleep went to total crap because of the anxiety and uncertainty. At 35 I didn’t think I’d be living back in my childhood home. I know it was far worse for others though.
I did, however, realise I needed to be proactive in looking after myself and I found running as a hugely positive outlet for me. I used the runs to listen to podcasts – it completely changed my lockdown experience. I’ve taken that forward, and now spend so much time thinking about how to take care of my mental health and the mental health of those around me, more than ever before.
MG: Imagine a world where we are all back. What would you rather do:
Go to a pub and watch a Football match
Go to a pub and watch a Football match.
WB: What I would give to watch a match in a pub with friends right now! We’ll get back there eventually if we keep hanging in there!