The idea of programmatic doesn’t have to be complicated, according to Hossein Houssaini, Global Head of Programmatic Solutions at Havas Group. People have specific likes, needs, and wants. Advertisers want to meet those needs. Programmatic allows marketers to do that in a more effective, personalized way—and on a larger scale.
Simply put: Employing automated techniques can enable brands to connect with buyers. And as Houssaini explains in this Q&A, programmatic is an absolute essential to future success.
Tell us a little about your background.
I actually wanted to be a musician. But as you can see, that didn’t really work out.
After finishing my second degree in communications studies, I was ready for a vacation, but a headhunter got me an interview with Falk Realtime Adserver, based in Düsseldorf, not knowing that this company was already acquired by major ad-serving technology company DoubleClick.
Eight weeks later, we got acquired by Google. So, if people tell me, “You must be very smart to be working for Google,” my answer is: “Anybody can work for them, if she or he wants; I just was there at the right time, at the right place. I just got lucky.”
Later, I went to the agency side, working for IPG Mediabrands, and designing their programmatic offering. It was a great experience building and influencing that business, as well meeting all the new tech companies and learning about their solutions on all levels.
Three years later, I was approached by Dominique Delport to join the global team supporting the Global Music Data Alliance with Universal Music Group. Since then, I have supported a variety of clients in new business and created Havas University with my great colleagues, and its first program: 100% Programmatic.
When people outside of the tech industry ask you to explain what you do, what’s your answer?
For kids: I make sure the content and advertising you see is based on what you actually like and are interested in as a buyer or individual.
For adults: I change the mindsets of brands and help them execute data-driven strategies in content and media, from an end-to-end perspective, programmatically.
Programmatic marketing is simply a way to target a specific audience whom you want to see your advertising. That targeting is based on various data sources that include demographics, such as age, gender, and social standing. With programmatic marketers you can target people in very distinct geographic areas of the country. You can also limit the ads to times of day and frequency, and you can also decide which publishing sites you want your ads to show on. This way you are only paying for highly effective ads, delivered to the right people at the right time with a higher likelihood to convert. Advertisers want to address only relevant audiences.
How is Havas using programmatic to meet internal and client needs?
In creative, we have Havas helia, for example, which connects people and brands in a meaningful way. DBi, on the media side, who comes from a consultative, analytical background and helps with solutions in data-driven activation on- and off-site.
In media activation, programmatic somehow is in all our data-driven pure players. We have Socialyse for social, Ecselis for performance, Mobext for mobile first activation, and Affiperf, who is our biggest and first purely programmatic activation hub. There’s also our engineering team at MFG Labs, who have built our solutions, such as the Meta-DSP.
Each of these teams is amazing and plays an important role in bringing creativity, data, technology, and people together. And with creation, production, and media in one building at Havas Village, we can build these end-to-end solutions to connect brands and consumers in a more meaningful way.
By January, more than 25% of Havas Group’s 20,000 employees had taken a new certification program, 100% Programmatic. What does it mean to be 100% programmatic?
This was a joint initiative by global HR, who understood early on that we cannot change our mindsets for the future of advertising if we do not educate our staff on this topic.
We achieved this together with a great commitment of our colleagues. All in all, it is a huge success story—having front, middle and back office collaborating together. By now, we have already trained more than 6,000 employees and have commercialized this program for our clients with full support by the executive committee.
The program is split into three programs: Basic, Advanced, and Elite. Basic is designed to teach the fundamentals of programmatic and explains the direction of the advertising industry’s future. Advanced provides more technical and process insights. With Elite we support our people who are in front of our clients and empower them with a strategic vision. Our experts share their experiences and approaches when telling brands about programmatic. I encourage everyone to try it.
What’s the biggest tech trend making an impact on the advertising industry?
There are a few, including: wearables, in terms of connected devices; virtual reality, which is becoming more and more of an advertising channel; and machine learning, which is already being applied to programmatic trading, although we still have a lot to learn here too.
Another key trend: As traditional TV subscriptions fall, a raft of new on-demand providers will be looking for a piece of this ever-increasing pie. Huge players such as the British Film Institute and the BBC plan to launch their own bespoke services this year.
Augmented reality and chatbots are making waves too.
What’s the best advice you have for a young professional in his or her 20s or 30s?
Programmatic is the future of the advertising business. Get involved, observe, learn and adapt. Learn every day about the opportunities in this business. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas. Only as a collective can we be successful, improve, and remain ahead.
Learn about technologies of tomorrow, and don’t worry if you don’t understand them in the beginning. Expect to fail; it happened to me many times and is part of the process of learning and improving. Expect to succeed. Stay focused and positive, and never give up. You are the architect of your own future.