I recently sat down with Rebecca de Sousa, Acquisition Team Leader, from TUI in the Nordics to discuss their move to bring programmatic buying in-house. TUI in the Nordics is the largest travel agency in the Nordics region with roughly 1,600 employees and over 1.5 M customers, annually. They boast over 80 M visits to their respective sites and properties and maintain 20 percent of the Nordic travel market.
Check out her responses as we discussed their successes, challenges and learnings in their recent move in-house.
1. What was the main reason for moving programmatic buying in-house?
We wanted to offer our travelers more personalized and relevant advertisements as well as make our media investments work better for us. We really thought in-housing programmatic would give us better results—in terms of performance—and more control of our digital media buys. It would also give us the transparency we needed in a complex media landscape.
2. Has it been successful and in what ways?
Yes, it has been extremely successful. We base this off of looking at both the results and the way the programmatic organization has grown beyond just the trader and the team that works together to deliver the best solution (which is now a mix of marketing professionals, IT and the sales team).
When we took programmatic in-house, the goal was extremely clear. We had CPC targets that we had to reach in order for it to be beneficial for us to handle it ourselves and we reached those CPC levels almost immediately, allowing us to focus more on optimizing, messaging, automation and testing.
Handling all four Nordic countries from one operations team allowed a cross-market strategy (while of course taking into consideration the local differences) to be implemented and carried out, saving us a lot of time and resources.
3. Can you please share some insights in the challenges that you faced in the start and how you solved them?
An important step, especially in the beginning, was educating stakeholders within the company to make sure they would consider the programmatic channel for campaign, media planning and content production. In TUI’s case, the production happens long before a campaign goes live, which means we (the programmatic channel) always have to be top-of-mind when we do our film and photo shoots. We have to ensure we have content that will fit a large number of standardized display formats, as well as short- and long-video clips for large and small screens.
A challenge in the beginning was making sure that if someone is sick or on vacation, others in the organization can handle the campaigns, or arrange backup from the outside. This was quickly solved as the programmatic team grew.
4. What’s the main benefit you have gained by in-housing?
Results, in terms of CPCs and CPAs, control of our digital media buys, such as global frequency capping, and ensuring relevance to our customers, through data usage, both our own and 3rd party. Further, we have also gained the ability to connect programmatic buying to other areas such as CRO on our site and automating processes that would previously have taken a lot of time and effort. We’re still working on making our programmatic buying even more efficient, but more in terms of content and creative management, rather than just the media buying. However, without the automated media buying, we wouldn’t be able to do that.
5. What advice can you give to other companies that are thinking about doing the same?
You have to be prepared to educate, educate and educate again within your organization. If you have a team in-house who sees the value of programmatic, and the benefits of having it in-house, you will have a whole team looking out for your channel, with a common goal to make it as efficient as possible.
It’s also helpful to have a couple of proof-of-concepts to display to your colleagues quickly, once you’ve taken programmatic in-house. It’s important that the board and other decision makers understand the basics of programmatic buying as it will help in the budgeting and development of data-driven advertising, going beyond just display banners and an occasional video campaign.
Finally, stay friends with your agency! In-housing doesn’t mean you don’t need and can’t learn from your agency anymore. Instead, you will need their expertise in other things so continue to rely on them.