Between real-time bidding, buying and selling programmatic advertising, publishers have plenty to learn when forging deals in the digital advertising space. However, publishers have devised ways to optimize their sales teams to better benefit from the platform, utilizing the technology to ultimately enable them to drive premium programmatic deals.

"We are looking at each platform in the programmatic space holistically," says Alanna Gombert, general manager of Condé Nast’s CatalystDesk, the company’s programmatic engine started last year.

In terms of revenue, programmatic practices are not a primary money maker yet, but Gombert says in the next two to five years, her team will be very much aligned with the changes currently taking place in the market.

"CatalystDesk is basically a consulting group. We help every sales team in the company," she says. "The beauty of programmatic is you can access different types of budgets because everyone’s buying in this channel."

Gombert’s team consists of five individuals dedicated to selling and advertising operations. All have an ad operations background with most also coming from ad tech startups.

At Forbes, programmatic sales have become a significant portion of overall revenues.

"On the digital side last year, [programmatic selling] represented 30 percent of our revenue," says Forbes Media chief revenue officer Mark Howard. "It’s doubled two years in a row."

Howard says current results are based on a strategy put in place two years ago guided by the concept that success is based on presenting its inventory transparently under the exchanges. Forbes invites buyers to come and bid for their inventory on the open exchange market.

Forbes has a small, dedicated trio who handles programmatic separately.

"They work very closely with our ad operations team, our data analytics team and our corporate technology team," says Howard.


As programmatic generates more revenue, publishers are offering incentives to keep their small teams focused.

"Our team is compensated on an overall number, so we have to bring in ‘X’ amount," says Gombert.

At Forbes, there are incentives in place, but they remain connected to overall revenue goals between the direct-sales and programmatic teams.

"In very high sell-through months, that means there’s really not that much inventory available to the programmatic team," contends Howard. "It wouldn’t be fair for them to only be held accountable for what they’ve got because it’s still obviously great business for us."