Felicity Cusack: Programmatic Trader of the Year

At the recent Google DV360 awards, Croud’s Senior Programmatic Media Manager, Felicity Cusack, was awarded Programmatic Trader of the Year. Following her win, we sat down with her to delve into her programmatic career to date, her predictions for the future and how the industry will continue to innovate.

How did you get into Programmatic?

I got into programmatic pretty much by pure luck. I always knew I wanted to go into advertising, but living in the middle of Wales, there weren’t really many opportunities out there for me. I found myself applying for jobs all across the nation and eventually, Croud took a chance on me and the rest is history!

So why programmatic?

Programmatic is essentially a combination of technical ability and creativity, which means you get to work on smart creative campaigns where clients are looking to you for both advertising recommendations and advice. Whilst I didn’t specifically choose a career in programmatic, I think this is what drives me to continue building my role within this sector.

What do you think the biggest challenges in programmatic will be in the next 12 months?

I think there are a few things that will pose a challenge to advertisers in 2020, but they’re nothing new. One of the key ones being brand safety, as ad fraud and bots are beginning to become a common topic amongst programmatic advertisers. Buzzfeed now seems to cover a new story on ad fraud at least once a year. For many, ad fraud removes trust in the channel, whilst combating the issue is increasingly difficult as both sides of tech improve and evolve. It’s a constant battle and one that I don’t expect to see resolved for a couple of years.

And then, of course, tracking and attribution, which has always been a difficult factor, particularly when it comes to understanding the value of a programmatic impression. We’ve come a long way since last click and are seeing more attribution models appear as our normal reporting methods. This is great, but when we have platforms that don’t communicate with one another, such as Facebook and Google, and give us the full picture, it remains an unsolved problem!

How would you overcome these challenges for your clients?

Well in terms of brand safety, we always apply our own customer URL blacklist or translated negative keyword lists to overcome any inappropriate placements that we could appear in; that is defaulted across all our clients and is simply best practice for us. Making use of Google’s ad tech, especially their ad.txt tech, is an additional layer of safety to ensure we’re buying from only authorised buyers, and avoiding the spoof inventory.

Fundamentally, I think in order to avoid ad fraud, everyone needs to take accountability. Advertisers and publishers need to take responsibility to ensure they’re communicating effectively and thereby doing everything they can to minimise the risks of ad fraud where possible.

What do you think the trends for 2020 will be in programmatic?

Definitely digital out-of-home and connected TV. I think it’ll be a good way to programmatically target these big brand placements and thereby have better control over who can see these ads. With the capabilities of smarter targeting and smarter tactics at our fingertips, I think we’re moving to a more agile approach, which allows us to think differently to slower campaigns that may have been bought in the past.

But there are also trends from previous years such as video and mobile focuses, and I think people are now trying to take that as part of their BAU strategies before reaching for the biggest trends of the year. They’re no longer considered new, in fact, it’s generally considered the usual way to do things, so I think in 2020 we can expect this to come to light a bit more and see more innovative ideas within these areas; a huge focus being app and the creative formats that can help advertisers stand out against the noise.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about programmatic traders?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is definitely that we spend 50% of our time out on partner lunches! Programmatic advertising is more than just schmoozing and boozing, there’s a lot of hard graft that goes into creative display campaigns.

And, programmatic includes more than just performance campaigns. So much is now available programmatically that can often be forgotten. For example, programmatic teams should really be working across brands and performance teams to find more efficiencies across our clients’ media spends.

So how do you decide what platforms to partner with?

Platforms are chosen depending on the client’s overall targets or business goals. So for example, if they wanted to drive revenue, then we’d look at performance-based partners. But if they’re interested in just building brand awareness, then we’d have a wider variety of partners to choose from. So ultimately, it’s about matching the right partner with the right goal that we’re working towards.

Do you prefer to leverage PMPs or targeting sections on open auctions, or no preference?

I personally prefer the open auction options. I run a lot of performance-focused campaigns, where PMPs can’t always drive the numbers we need, and whilst this could be an unpopular opinion, I think premium is getting a bit outdated now.

Not all of your customers are going to spend time on premium sites, for example, not everyone is on Vogue every day. So ultimately if you want to drive conversions, it’s important to go and find where your audience actually is, which therefore means moving away from premium and realising that open auction and targeting is the more beneficial option to drive lower-funnel results.

What is the one app or piece of technology that you can’t live without?

Something that I really love at the moment is YouTube. I think there is such a variety of content out there on YouTube that you can learn from. But also from a programmatic perspective, I think it’s a really cool platform to work on.

If it wasn’t programmatic, what would you do?

I still think I’d be in advertising, but maybe I’d go down a more creative route. I’d love to be the mastermind behind a big Christmas campaign, that would be the dream.

And finally, an interesting fact about yourself?

When I was at university – and before – I was the women’s captain of our fencing team and ended up coming second in Women’s épée in Hampshire, so that was pretty cool. 

To find out more about Croud’s programmatic services, get in touch.

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