Paul Caine, global chief revenue and client partnerships officer for Bloomberg Media, will be speaking at TheMediaBriefing’s Monetising Media conference in London this October.


Recently there’s been a backlash against programmatic advertising’s principles and practices, with many digital pureplays eschewing partnerships with ad tech companies who provide that service. Whether that’s due to a perception that publishers handing ad space to third parties invariably leads to a devaluation of the publishers’ ad proposition as a whole, or because of issues around viewability and ad fraud, younger sites like Mic and Vox Media are consciously avoiding moves towards programmatic trading.

Bloomberg Media‘s global chief revenue and client partnerships officer Paul Caine believes there’s room for both programmatic advertising and direct sales, and that the diversification is simply a result of the broadening digital media ecosystem:

“The ecosystem is moving in two different directions. There’s still continued bifurcation of the way advertisers want to buy their media. Programmatic offers a terrific solution from a automated standpoint, from an audience targeting standpoint, and their best use of inventory. That is really largely driven by the way advertisers like to consume the inventory, in order to best satisfy what they’re trying to create from an efficiency standpoint and results.

“That hasn’t stopped the amount of direct to publisher business. We’re seeing continued health – at least at Bloomberg – from the direct to publisher business.

“The creative use of our inventory on the digital side of it and the way advertisers want to tell their story, that really can’t be executed through programmatic buying, has really created a parallel ecosystem.”

Evolving ecosystems

When Caine initially joined Bloomberg in June of 2014 it did not trade any of its inventory programmatically. Caine says that was as a result of concerns about the devaluation of inventory and the brand’s overall value to advertisers. But as a board member for the IAB, the MPA and Tremor Video – and having the breadth of knowledge of the industry that comes as a result – he believes that the true nature of programmatic is more to do with value creation that degredation.

It’s that misplaced fear of devaluation that Caine cites as a reason why digital pure-plays might not wish to enter the programmatic trading world:

“Sometimes that comes across as a defensive position, more than anything.

“I’m not in favour of avoiding anything in this industry. I think you have to embrace all of it and how it works for you.”

That’s not to say that Bloomberg has leapt into every programmatic opportunity that has arisen. While the Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, and Reuters launched the programmatic Pangaea Alliance, with a global reach of 110 million, Caine says Bloomberg chose not to join as a strategic decision:

“We chose not to be participants in Pangaea, mostly because we are in a very strong growth mode and we are able to offer to solutions effectively to our advertisers without partnering in anything aggregate like Pangaea.

“I can understand why some other publishers made that choice… you make the decision to come together when you can’t offer the solutions on your own.” 

Challenges and opportunities

So why did Bloomberg Media start trading programmatically at all? After all, Caine says that in his position on the boards of the IAB and MPA he’s seen a marked increase in the amount of direct to publisher sales. It all comes down to exactly what is being traded:

“My experiences at Time Inc [are that] when you’re talking to marketers that are selling products that are somewhat ubiquitous but differentiated based on brand – think about soap, for example – then programmatic offers a great solution because it allows really strong inventory buying opportunities in order to establish your brand.

But you’re not selling the complexity of messaging.

It’s that complexity, a ‘laser’ of targeting and messaging, that programmatic by its nature finds it harder to deliver. Citing the example of a luxury car brand seeking to buy an ad, Caine believes that’s when direct to publisher sales, with a campaign whose objectives need to be massaged and adjusted, come into their own.

It’s possible, also, that programmatic trading has a reputation for being complicit in ad fraud, the statistics about which are invariably alarming. Caine believes that’s as a result of both a drive for quality across the entire ecosystem, and a rush for publishers to get in on the opportunities offered by programmatic for those large-scale campaigns:

“I think there is definitely a push to quality on every side of the equation. Quality of audience, quality of traffic and quality of environment.

“All the buyers want precision, accountability and trusted results. To sellers, really they want to deliver that but not every publisher has the ability to so they either are transparent about it and then sometimes don’t get bought or they try to… I wouldn’t say mislead, but try to create an opportunity to compete when they don’t have the access to do that yet.”


Paul Caine, global chief revenue and client partnerships officer for Bloomberg Media, will be speaking at TheMediaBriefing’s Monetising Media conference in London this October.


Image courtesy of Jerry Lai via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.