How And Why HP Brought Programmatic Advertising In-House
How do you build an agency-like environment outside of anagency? “Culture is key,” according to Freddie Liversidge, director of digitalactivation at HP, who is leading the charge at the Palo Alto-based tech giant.
He also has the monumental task of bringing all programmatic and digital media buying in-house, building a team, testing the agency model, and then moving toward expansion – all the while staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies in the space.
In an exclusive interview with CMO by Adobe, Liversidge reveals how HP built out an agency within its four walls, lessons learned, effects on its bottom line, and the interesting way he looks at his marketing budget.
Can you tell us about yourself and your role at HP?
My life has been in agencies since day one. I started in data analytics and reporting and found out I quite liked buying media. I moved into programmatic about nine years ago, just as demand-side platforms (DSP) started to become a central piece of media buying. I spent time helping brands move media in-house and then, ironically, went back to the agency space before landing here at HP to take what I’ve learned to the next level. My role at HP is to build an in-house agency and oversee all programmatic media, DSP, and social research.
Why are the advantages of bringing programmatic advertising in-house?
To me, there are six benefits that I stand by.
Objectivity is first. Coming from the agency world, one has myriad priorities – you’re working on your client, you’re pitching business, you’re watching the bottom line of your agency and making sure things are running smoothly. But my team? We’re here purely to run media for HP. That’s our bottom line.
Next is transparency: Being able to show the good things as well as the bad things when it comes to measurement or campaign performance is key, along with all the elements of media-based transparency, through the DSP and advertising ecosystem.
Collaboration is important, too. My team sits with our marketing team, and it’s quite nice to be able to walk down the hallway and meet with a marketing team member, understand their problems, and not have the issue where they live solely at the other end of a phone call or an e-mail.
Data deployment is the fourth. The ability to keep the data internal to our organization and not have to risk it being shared externally with other vendors or agencies is a big benefit. As long as we have consent, we can use [personally identifiable information] for measurement and targeting, which is a huge step in the kind of methodology for our targeting.
And equally important is agility. Just due to the mechanisms of an agency, it takes a long time to get a campaign fully into market. Internally, we can turn things around in a matter of days to respond to market nuances.
And finally, performance. We’ve seen quite a considerable performance gain just by having the team in-house. We’re able to optimize campaigns in real time and see the ROI in sales data.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in building out an in-house agency?
Adapting our financial systems to an agency model with hundreds of quarterly invoices coming from just one team was a real shock, so we’re working on a system to ensure that’s handled. There was also the risk of it all – if an outside agency or vendor messes up and spends a million dollars, the agency or vendor finds a way to pay for that. If we do that and spend a million extra dollars, well, then it lands on me and my team. HP must find that money.
We set out with the idea that we’d just take over performance programmatic media, but this turned into a full realignment of how we approach holistic media buying.
How did you source talent when it came to hiring for this team?
This was actually my biggest concern when I was building this team – how do I build an agency-like environment inside HP? We needed to hire leads that were excited about building a team and growing the business from one, two, three people to 100-plus. That was key. If they could build the culture with me to make it exciting, well, I knew we could do this. If we didn’t get the culture right, it would be a serious issue.
What was your process, from start to finish, in building out this team?
The conversations preceded my hire date at HP, but it was our new CMO who was the catalyst. From there, our media team scoped it out to see if it would make sense. Could we do it? We decided we’d start by picking a market we could build this in – test it, beta it, and prove it out. Then we’ll expand.
We started by taking all the tech contracts in-house so that we owned all of our own data. Then it was working out the financial and procurement and operational models for how we’d actually run an agency in-house. For five months, before I hired a single person, I was ensuring that all of our systems worked together.
Are there any new channels you’re exploring?
Everything we buy now is back to focused on going through a DSP. Digital buying isn’t just video and display on desktop and mobile any longer. It’s out-of-home, connected television, OTT – we’re putting our focus on bringing everything in the ecosystem in.
How do you keep up with industry trends and new tech?
I was concerned about this initially. When a publisher releases a new product or DSP, the agency is always the first to know. I was worried we wouldn’t have that kind of information passed on to use. But my fears were unfounded because as soon as we started buying media – we announced it at Programmatic I/O – we’ve been in the thick of it all, and it hasn’t stopped. My team has all come from a DSP or agency background and have brought with them their networks as well.
What does customer experience management (CXM) mean to you?
The customer is central to our business, and we’re trying to understand that once we serve an impression to someone, how does it look all the way through to the point of conversion? If that’s B2B or B2C, it doesn’t matter. We want to create the most efficient but powerful journey for that potential or existing customer, so we’re doing a lot of personalization to ensure the journey is up to their expectations.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I interned at National Semiconductor, working in marketing, and a marketing lead told me to think of any marketing dollars I receive as my own money. I’ve always kept that with me, which I quite liked.
This has been quite an undertaking. Have there been any “a-ha!” moments?
We’ve just finished our first full quarter. As I look at the size of the team we’ve created, the work we’ve been able to do right out the gate, and that fact that we have built a reasonable size agency in three months, it is a, “Wow, that actually happened” kind of moment.
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