5 ways to train the next generation of programmatic talent

Michelle ChenProgrammatic advertising is still a new discipline. So how best to nurture talent in this field? In this guest post, TubeMogul’s Michelle Chen has five pieces of advice for how to source, recruit and train programmatic talent.

1: Be transparent and flexible

Every day is different in the field of programmatic ad buying. So, someone who likes structure and set patterns may not be a good fit for the role. Instead, look for people who appreciate flexibility. We have three codes of practice, namely FSO (figure shit out), MSH (make shit happen) and GSD (get shit done). Recruits need to be adaptable to change, be accepting of a certain level of uncertainty and appreciative of the bigger picture.

2: Skills and experience

It goes without saying that hiring someone with a background in digital, programmatic, broadcast or media buying is ideal. But, given this is a new field, it’s not always possible.

If hiring for an entry-level position such as media trading, trafficking or campaign management, look for critical thinkers who are good at problem solving and have an uncanny attention to detail. Some of our best media traders and campaign managers come from a background in data, sciences and mathematics.

If someone is applying with experience in advertising, but is new to programmatic, probe them on their perception of what programmatic means, test their knowledge on the elements of a campaign lifecycle and see how they do when given access to a programmatic platform. You could also take it one step further and ask them to watch a tutorial and try to set up a campaign.  

If you’re hiring for account management roles, look for customer-facing experience, people with strong writing and speaking skills, and those who possess an innate ability to explain complex issues in simple terms. In the interview, see how the candidate would react to a particular client scenario and what steps they would take to try to solve the client’s concern or issue. Persistence is key.

3: Sell them on growth potential

Programmatic positions are great for those who want to try something new yet already possess experience in the advertising sector, mainly because the opportunities are enormous. We’ve had folks who moved from being media traders or campaign managers to positions in application engineering or product management. There are other team members who have moved from account management or media strategy into sales roles. Within the client services organisation, there are also sub department opportunities where you can expand your skill set and specialise in a different product such as going from digital to television, display, social, mobile or cross screen. The programmatic industry is growing at such a rapid rate that it’s the perfect field to go into for someone who doesn’t want to be pigeonholed and is constantly hungry to learn.

4: Be honest with training timelines

Getting someone up to speed on programmatic basics can’t be achieved overnight. Our experience shows us that it takes the typical programmatic specialist about three-to-five months to learn the platform they are working on to a decent level. It’s important not to judge a new recruit on their knowledge until after this time period has elapsed, as they need this period to understand the industry, strategies and goals and get the hands on exposure to internalise their learnings.

5: What should be part of the training package?

There are two skill sets that all programmatic specialists will need to succeed: soft and technical skills. Soft skills include client-facing items such as presentation and public speaking skills, client communication, strategic thinking, data analysis, storytelling and objection handling. Technical skills will include campaign planning (e.g. understanding of ad formats, targeting strategies, brand safety, fraud, viewability, inventory sources, private inventory, DMPs, PMPs and planning best practices), campaign execution (e.g. ad tags, tracking pixels, campaign building strategies and pacing strategies), optimisation strategies and troubleshooting, measurement and reporting.

Michelle Chen is the director of learning and development at TubeMogul


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