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Direct Sales Vs Programmatic: How to choose between the two?

Website owners worry that if they turn to programmatic, it will devalue their sales efforts and inventory. How to choose between the two? This topic was discussed in a panel discussion at the recently held Digipub World, a convention for web publishers.

The panelists included Ganish Bahl, head digital marketing, Vivo India, Gopa Kumar, chief operating officer, Isobar and Faizan Ahmad, head programmatic and content marketing, The Hindu. The discussion was moderated by Anirban Roy Choudhury of afaqs!.

Faizan Ahmad was asked if The Hindu, as a publisher, worries that the growth in programmatic buy might cannibalise their direct sales efforts. "There is a problem if you think in silos. At The Hindu, we do not believe that if we turn to programmatic, it would devalue our direct sales effort. You will have to create a mechanism where both direct sales and programmatic are complementing each other," opined Ahmad.

As a marketer of a smartphone brand, Ganish Bahl said he believes that everyone has to move with the ecosystem, which according to him is headed towards programmatic. "Four years ago, we as marketers used to only think about direct sales, roadblocks etc. We need to understand that we all have limited funds and so we need to keep a check on the reach that we can get and programmatic is helping the brand on that front," Bahl added.

Shedding light from an agency perspective, Isobar's Gopa Kumar said that about 50 per cent of the buys are driven by programmatic. Brands already accustomed with the digital world are more comfortable with programmatic buying whereas the newer ones are still trying to figure it out, Kumar revealed.

During the session, the importance of platforms became a point of discussion too. Bahl was of the opinion that the publication does not matter anymore as marketers only care about the target audience. "A mistake that a lot of marketers make is that they think from a platform's perspective instead of the audience's perspective. For a marketer, it does not matter if the audience is on The Hindu, Google or The Times of India. For me, what matters is getting the return I want on my investment," he said.

The moderator immediately turned to Faizan Ahmad to ask if Bahl's remarks worry him as a publisher. Expressing a counter argument, Ahmad said, "We believe that different sets of audience behave differently on different platforms. So, I think audience plus platform will create differentiation in time to come. You need to reach out to your audience when he or she is on the correct platform to make better use of your spends."

Many brands still don't find programmatic trustworthy and that remains a challenge. During the discussion, trust and safety issues were also talked about. "What we are observing is that certain clients have issues with trust when it comes to programmatic platforms. That is because there are people who are not using programmatic in the way it is supposed to be used. If they are using it just for trading benefits, it loses the plot," said Gopa Kumar, while sharing his experience of dealing with both publishers and marketers.

What happens to direct sales if everyone moves towards programmatic? "It will stay and marketers will use it to do clutter-breaking innovations which cannot be done through programmatic," summed up Ganish Bahl.