Explore programmatic selling & the trends with Saurabh Shukla | Pubhouse 1 @ AdOmega

Date: May 9, 2023

Welcome to the latest series of Publisher focused conversations – PubHouse. Pubhouse is a place for experienced professionals to share their experience in the publishing industry. It’s a place where we try to bring out the best out of them and focus on how they are contributing to the society and the industry that sits inside it.

Our first episode features one of the most experienced programmatic sales professional of the publishing industry. With close to 10 years of experience in digital organizations, he has seen it all and done it all. From being a developer to a sales guy, he is known in the industry for delivering results.

So without further delay, let’s start with the first episode of the most intriguing publisher conversation.

Q) Hey Saurabh! Could you introduce yourself to our audience?

A) I am Saurabh Shukla – A programmatic & AdTech professional with close to 10 years of experience. Presently, I am working as a Programmatic Manager at Dubizzle & Bayut. In my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working on diverse digital platforms and amazing people. With my skills I’ve delivered great results in terms of revenue & products. I continue doing so with my current organization in a different country and hope to continue the journey where I learn more about new things like Generative AI & Web3.

Q) What is Saurabh outside of office like?

A) Outside of the office, I like to meet new people and share my experience with them. I love taking long walks with my wife and try to cherish all the moments that life has to give to you. I am fun and a great listener and love to watch sci fi movies a lot. Recently, I’ve acquired a knack for cooking too; so it a work in progress.

Q) When did you decide to choose a career in advertising?

A) I didn’t exactly chose a career in programmatic, it just happened to me while I was working in Ad Ops. I saw how ad networks & small vendors were monetizing inventory for publishers. I decided that I also want to do the same and then I landed in programmatic. Being a developer myself, understanding technology came naturally to me and so I understood all the complex component of the industry very easily. Further, I am also an ex-entrepreneur and hence business comes naturally to me. These two vivid experiences made my journey in the world of programmatic smooth sailing.

Q) You have worked with Travel, News & now classified publisher. What is the experience like? Was transitioning to a classified publisher difficult?

A) That’s right! I’ve worked with Travel, News, Financial & now classified publisher. All these platforms are different in their own way and their traffic pattern & monetization strategy is different. So Yes! I’ve had the experience of working on all kinds of users. From transacting, in-market & content consumers – I’ve seen it all. Classified platforms are different as they classify their listings as ads themselves. However, the core of the strategy is to monetize an this is what I do and hence the transition was not so difficult.

Q) We noticed, you recently published an eBook on programmatic selling. What inspired you and how’s the response?

A) I always found it hard to find detailed information about programmatic selling and the right way to do it. So, one day I decided that if it’s not out there, I’ll create it and hence started the process of writing the eBook. Now I can happily say that programmatic selling for budding programmatic professionals is going to be a cake walk. The response has been good so far and I’m in talks with a couple of publishers to release a hard copy version too.

Q) In your book, you’ve advised programmatic professionals to be more involved in discussions with trading desk at agencies. I’ve seen agencies being restricted to direct sales only. Why would you advice this?

A) One Answer – The world has changed! PMPs & SPO partnerships are now agencies’ preferred way to buy media. A programmatic person need to be in sync with the trading desks inside agencies so they can grab incremental budgets. Guys at the trading desks are data oriented and direct sales people find difficult to talk their language and hence end up using trading desks as just a way to route traditional campaigns via PG. This leads to a lower selling potential of a publisher as they risk shifting programmatic spends to open auction, which are sold cheap. In order to understand the higher order functions of programmatic, publisher’s programmatic team need to be in meeting rooms with trading desk. That’s the only way to graduate. Direct sales guys need to focus on more customized solutions for brands and not just sell vanilla display as programmatic sales can do that too.

Q) What excites you about programmatic?

A) The advertising industry spends close to $250B annually and a large chunk of it is going programmatic. So the very idea of billions flowing through a single channel opens ups a lot of potential and learning. This excites me the most. With more money flowing in, innovations will rise. Take GDPR, Ads.txt, sellers.json, oRTB, UID & others are just a tip of the iceberg. Wait for blockchain to be part of the programmatic world. Things are going to get exciting.

Q) Do you consider yourself a programmatic salesperson or a SME?

A) I am a programmatic SME who happens to be a good at selling solutions to brands and agencies to help them with their user acquisition & branding needs.

Q) What has changed in the world of programmatic between pandemic and now?

A) Pandemic was a surprise for everyone. It broke all the perceptions about advertising and different markets saw different results and most of them made a lot of money as people were glued to their screens. The focus is now more towards RoI than ever before. While the brands are willing to spend more, they want the ROAS and hence focus on engagement formats & products has increased.

Q) Which trends in programmatic & advertising in general excite you the most?

A) I’m very excited about enablement of generative AI in daily operations & the blockchain. You know with Generative AI, organizations could see productivity multiply while increasing efficiency. I am also excited about google’s confirming gross revenue features turns out for publishers.

Q) I saw a teaser video on linked in of something coming up on soon? What is it about?

A) I’d like to keep it under wraps as it’s still a work in progress. However, I’d just want to tell you that its a culmination of all that I’ve done and will be a boon for the publishers in specific.

Q) What are the things you don’t like in the world of programmatic advertising?

A) To be honest, I don’t like programmatic people being forced to sit behind the keyboard. They are the most tech enabled people in a company and can spin off ideas on the fly while also considering data insights in the back of the mind. This is something that traditional sales people cannot do. While, I’m not questioning the efficiency of traditional salesperson, I’m just highlighting the need for programmatic guys to be out their in the market along with the traditional sales guys to supplement additional revenue channels.

The other thing I don’t like is affinity towards the anti-reseller/networks movement. I get it, reseller can be notorious, but the right one’s can be your golden arrow. Programmatic professional are now smart enough to understand which reseller or networks adds value and they need to be trusted with that.

Thank you for the awesome conversation, Saurabh. We hope to have more of these with you soon. So folks, that’s it for the first episode of Pubhouse. We will see you next week.

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