Page 1


by CtrlShift

Content Foreword


How Traders Trade Introduction


Who are our survey respondents?


Where do they trade?


How do they work?


Spotlight on Optimisation


Spotlight on Reporting




How Traders Think Introduction


Phase 1: Campaign Set Up


Phase 2: Optimisation


Client FAQs


Phase 3: Reporting


Phase 4: Billing and Finance (the 0.01 cent problem)





Foreword At CtrlShift, a growing part of our business is our consultancy for brands and media agencies interested in building technology-agnostic, flexible and profitable programmatic trading teams.

Dominic Powers CEO, CtrlShift

In our experience, every successful trading desk can be distilled into 4 fundamentals: people, systems, tools and processes.

The programmatic trading desk: fundamental building blocks Enterprise programmatic Software


Functional Systems



Media Trading

We are often asked, what is it that separates a standard trading operation and those that consistently deliver a high-performance? With a high level degree of confidence, we can say that it is (1) the degree of investment into platforms or tools which facilitate seamless information exchange between the various, traditionally siloed “pipes�, such as DMPs and media planning tools, billing systems and trading platforms, and (2) the quality of talent. Increasingly, trading desks are adopting enterprise-level systems that offer efficiency, and inject agility and the potential for huge performance gains via the capture, normalisation and cross-sharing of campaign-level data. Imagine your finance platform receiving bid-level data, thus eliminating the painful reconciliation process finance staff and traders face with annoying regularity. However, even the best tools and infrastructure are just a means to an end that, without excellence in talent, and a willingness to continually test and learn, are alone unable to deliver panacea.


Neck-deep in a recent technology evaluation exercise, my colleagues and I couldn’t help but remark on how the know-how behind media trading, and trader’s regular challenges, are relative unknowns to the vast majority of marketers, and even to non-trading agency personnel. As one of the pioneers of programmatic in Asia, for almost a decade now, we’ve been lucky to have had a window into how traders think and navigate platforms and the seemingly innumerable audience strategies and targeting tactics they use to achieve a client’s business objectives. . It was this first-hand exposure to these challenges, and a clear understanding of the opportunities lost to inefficiencies, that started us on the path to develop The Hub as an internal tool for our own trading desk. The Hub is an intuitive enterprise programmatic advertising software that aggregates platforms (social, search, RTB, native and more), so brands and agencies can advertise anywhere with a single login. As we push forward with our global expansion, it is the conversations with clients from Australia to Pakistan, Japan to Dubai that have shaped much of what is contained within these pages. We hope this combined report, featuring the results of our February 2019 programmatic trader survey, How Traders Trade, and our attempt to codify the art and science that is programmatic media trading, How Traders Think, will leave you with a deeper understanding of the level of strategic and tactical skill it takes to attain the outcomes that can determine a brand’s success. And help the wider industry recognise traders as true knowledge workers.


How Traders Trade | 2019

Section 1:

How Traders Trade

How Traders Trade | 2019

Introduction How traders work and the tasks that make up their day-to-day reality has become increasingly important as the amount of ad spend in play continues to trend upwards.

Report and analysis by

John Thankamony Head of Programmatic Strategy, CtrlShift

According to Zenith’s Programmatic Marketing Forecasts report released in November 2018, 65% of all money spent on advertising in digital media in 2019, will be traded programmatically. Advertisers will spend US$84 billion programmatically in 2019, up from US$70 billion in 2018, which represents 62% of digital media expenditure.

With more dollars at stake, coupled with the pressing need for marketing efforts to be data-driven, real-time and accountable, the work of programmatic traders holds a crucial place in how well advertisers engage with their consumers. Over the past 10 years the advertising ecosystem has been infused with innovation via technology being built to support or enable functions spanning planning to reporting. Unfortunately, each point solution introduced to the ecosystem only adds to the fragmentation, resulting in increased operational burden and opaqueness that is undesirable. This prevents media buying teams from operating in an efficient and effective manner with speed and scale. It is a situation that frustrates many marketers as it hinders optimal use of advertising technology as an enabler of marketing objectives. On the front lines, programmatic traders grapple with multiple technologies, platforms and buying ecosystems daily. Challenged to respond quickly to data from a number of data sources, traders are expected to be thinkers and doers - analysing data on the go and acting on them with timely optimisations to ensure effective campaigns. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the average programmatic campaign requires a trader to log in to multiple disparate environments, master just as many workflows and spend 8 – 20 hours extracting and processing performance data to assess campaign performance. This survey is an attempt to move beyond the anecdotal and get a quantitative glimpse of the nitty gritty realities of programmatic trading.


How Traders Trade | 2019

Who are our survey respondents? 35%

Trading Leads









Trading Leads Programmatic Trading leads have some of the most interesting and challenging jobs in the media industry with responsibilities from motivating high energy teams to keeping tabs on the latest in ad tech. 36% of Trading Leads had over 5 years of Programmatic experience


42% of respondents had been at their current roles for over 2 years, though only 6% had reached the 5-year mark.



73% of respondents oversaw annual spends of US$5 million and above.



There were also leads with less than 12 months of programmatic experience (12%), heralding a new type of programmatic trading lead – one with complementary digital and platform leadership backgrounds.

Almost 50% of our respondents had 5 to 10 team members.

Traders 50%

50% of traders had more than 2 years of programmatic experience.


65% of the respondents managed 6 or more campaigns at a given time.

23% of traders had less than 12 months experience.


One thing that did stand out was that almost half of the traders were in their current role for less than 12 months, highlighting an ongoing industry challenge - retaining programmatic talent.


How Traders Trade | 2019

Where do they trade? Analysis was based on the markets in which survey respondents managed or executed their campaigns. While most respondents (29%) were running campaigns in Southeast Asia, we also had respondents managing campaigns across markets in Europe, APAC*, India, China and ANZ. Pan-regional teams trading in APAC and Europe made up 26% and 10% of respondents respectively.

“Most respondents (29%) were running campaigns in Southeast Asia.”

6% North America



11% 29%

Hong Kong & Taiwan (North Asia)

Southeast Asia


Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) (

*APAC was independently aggregated based on respondents choosing “APAC”, “Australia” and a few other countries within the region in a free form text field. It does not include Southeast Asia and India, listed separately in the report.


How Traders Trade | 2019

How do they work? 48%

48% of respondents used 5 or more platforms on a daily basis.


Almost 20% of respondents were using 8 platforms or more on daily basis! Some respondents with less than 4 team members were managing over US$10 million annually on more than 8 platforms.

Most teams (40%) used 2 to 4 platforms.


The type of campaigns run didn’t seem to have a close correlation to the number of platforms, though there was an indication that performance-heavy desks were likely to use less platforms than their branding heavy counterparts.

Number of platforms used on a daily basis




30% 18%


Up to 2

Between 2-4

Between 5-8

More than 8


How Traders Trade | 2019

Insights: Workflows and efficiency As programmatic matures, advertisers are looking to complement and expand on the duopoly for incremental returns. Our survey results show that despite the dominance of the duopoly, 48% of respondents are using 5 or more platforms, with 18% utilising more than 8. Clearly, Google (Search 360 and DV 360) and Facebook accounted for at least 3 of these platforms. This matched our initial assumption that these 3 platforms, plus 2 or 3 more platforms, would be the “natural state” for most trading teams. In addition, 13 respondents suggested that the trading team size for spends of US$10 million and above, could be up to 10 (or sometimes more) traders. Indicating a maximum amount of US$1 million per trader. If we put the above two statistics together, our key question would be - are service companies efficient in media buying in their “natural state”? If the complexity of the platforms increases, or if the number of platforms goes up, does the service company hire more traders? How much time and resource do they allocate to retraining their team when platforms evolve?


How Traders Trade | 2019

Spotlight on Optimisation Optimisation in the platform age is expected to be agile, responding to media data as well as broader trends on the fly. Traders are expected to look at multiple reports, from multiple platforms to decide how and where to optimise, allocate budgets and decide on the right bids. This has translated into an explosion of excel reports.

“Most traders do 1 to 3 optimisations a week per campaign.”

Most traders did 1 to 3 optimisations per week per campaign. While this did tend to rise after the campaign budget exceeds US$ 50,000, we had respondents who made 1 to 3 optimizations on campaigns of US$1 million.

Number of optimisations per campaign per week


10+ times

7-10 times


3-6 times


1-3 times

55% 0%






“Optimisation habits varied by budget size, geography and other factors. Most campaigns were optimised 1-3 times per week.”


Complexity vis a vis budget

(Complexity refers to the likelihood of using 10 line items or more at campaign set-up, with “0” being highly unlikely and “1” being highly likely) 1.0


0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2






Budget (US$)

“Smaller campaigns were found to be more likely to have complex set-ups. This may reflect the performance focused nature of such campaigns.”

Size of bubble represents the number of responses


How Traders Trade | 2019

APAC, India, Europe and Southeast Asia typically set up highly complex campaigns consisting of more than 10 line items or strategies per campaign. On the other end of the spectrum, ANZ, North Asia and North America were more likely to set up campaigns with fewer line items and focus on adapting on the fly. The complexity of the setup affected the weekly optimisation process. Europe, India and Southeast Asia-based traders said they did 1 to 3 optimisations per week per campaign, while traders in ANZ, North Asia, APAC and North America typically optimised campaigns 3 to 6 times per week.

“ANZ, North Asia, APAC and North America typically optimised campaigns 3 to 6 times a week.”

Insights: Optimisation and budgets Our survey of campaign complexity and optimisation uncovered interesting patterns across geographies and budget levels. Complexity, inferred from the number of line items or strategies created at campaign setup, tended to be consistently higher across APAC, Europe and Southeast Asia compared with ANZ, North America and North Asia. Furthermore, the frequency of optimisations varied inversely with complexity at setup. This may reflect typical budget sizes and traders’ understanding of audience homogeneity levels in the targeted geographies. For example, North America-based traders may deploy large budgets over a relatively homogenous audience set initially, then optimise (including, potentially, creating more line items) only after the “test phase”, when specific patterns of audience behaviour and campaign performance become clearer. On the other hand, traders in the Asia Pacific region, familiar with high levels of heterogeneity across the different markets and audience groups, may choose to set up multiple line items upfront, making a subset obsolete after the test phase, and optimise the remaining strategies less frequently thereafter. This may reflect trading practices being codified in the mature markets and knowledge dissemination being more open and available. However a deeper investigation is needed before conclusions can be drawn.


How Traders Trade | 2019

Spotlight on Reporting The one thing that stood out was that traders across the globe felt they spent a lot of time on reports. While reporting is critical to get insights to optimise and plan better, a number of respondents felt that too much of their time was spent on the task of reporting. Around 42% of our respondents said more than 50% of their reports were done manually. A process that involves stitching together data from multiple ad tech platforms such as search, social, programmatic and ad servers. Over half of Southeast Asia respondents (57%) said that over 50% of their reports were done manually. 28.5% said over 80% of reports were done manually.

“42% of our respondents said more than 50% of their reports were done manually.”

“28.5% said over 80% of reports were done manually.”

Traders who worked on intensive performance campaigns suffered the most - more than 80% of reports were done manually by all the traders, who said they made more than 10 optimisations per campaign per week. Survey results also showed that campaigns with budgets above a million and below US$ 50,000 required the most manual reporting. While smaller campaigns were driven by performance considerations, larger campaigns - likely branding campaigns, saw the need for customised insight.

Prevalence of manual reporting

12% 35%

Less than 20%


Between than 20 - 50% Between than 50 - 80%


More than 80%


How Traders Trade | 2019

Insights: Reporting Manual reporting seems to be the norm rather than the exception, based on the survey results with 50% of reports being manual, as reported by 60% of the respondents. This despite the success and availability of numerous dashboarding platforms and software that have been in the market over the past 5 years. This indicates, firstly, that common templates across the client base of a service provider are not working well or may not even be possible. Secondly, there may be a lack of expertise in using complex dashboarding systems that are inflexible or incomplete for automated media buying. Finally, there are asymmetric requirements, knowledge and evaluation practices across the organisation when it comes to the reporting being provided to clients. The broader implication? That visibility and transparency have been deprioritised amidst other pressing concerns in ensuring effective marketing outcomes. The frequency of optimisation is also positively correlated with the amount of manual reporting. This was most prevalent for performance campaigns, signalling the existence of a coalition of factors that contribute to the intensity of trading. This combination of campaign objective (performance), frequency of optimisation and a lack of automation in reporting has implications on stress levels and the likelihood of â&#x20AC;&#x153;burn outâ&#x20AC;? in traders. This ultimately means that many marketers are not receiving real time information about their campaigns. This disconnect between campaign execution and reporting invites marketers to question the value and use of advertising technologies. Why bid in real time if decisions are not also made in real time?


How Traders Trade | 2019

Summary The survey corroborates some existing challenges and throws light on some new ones.  Talent retention remains an ongoing challenge, with almost 50% of traders surveyed clocking less than 12 months in their current role.  A percentage (12%) of Trading Leads surveyed had less than 12 months of programmatic experience – indicating a new category of leadership that stems from related digital and platform backgrounds.  The “natural state” for a large number of trading teams (48%) appears to be an operating environment comprising 5 or more platforms. This need to engage with multiple platforms naturally raises questions about media buying efficiencies.  While a deeper investigation is needed before conclusions can be drawn, there were distinct differences in how campaigns were set up and optimised across different regions. India, Europe and Southeast Asia typically set up highly complex campaigns consisting of more than 10 line items or strategies per campaign. While North Asia and North America were likely to set up campaigns with fewer line items and focus on adapting on the fly.  The majority of respondents shared that 50% of reports were done manually, and this was most prevalent for performance campaigns – highlighting a state of norm that has yet to be addressed by many organisations.  The survey results collectively signal the existence of a coalition of factors that contribute to the intensity of programmatic trading and trader “burn out” – especially with 65% of respondents managing 6 or more campaigns at a given time. The disparate and complex reality of programmatic trading operations today inadvertently contribute to marketers undervaluing not just advertising technology and its usage, but the people at the heart of its dealings.

Afterword If there is one other takeaway to be had from this survey, it is the significant need for more research into the business challenges and operational issues unique to the digital advertising industry. Sharing information and improving on the challenges highlighted remains inadequate in our industry. We have just started and it's early days, but it is clear that the ecosystem, the traders and the decision makers, must demand solutions that offer efficiency, effectiveness, speed and scale across the mentioned challenges, it is after all 2019!


How Traders Trade | 2019

Trading Pains Inspired by our friends in trading, the survey also included an optional section that asked respondents about the literal pains of the job. Of course, these ailments and challenges are faced by everyone working a desk-bound role but one thing’s for sure, “Trader Shoulder” definitely exists!


A whooping 44% said that they had Trader Shoulder (shoulder pain, stiffness of the muscles and limited range of movement).


15% of respondents shared that they face recurring back pain.


Traders generally have good social lives with only 8% saying they suffered from “death of social life.”

Promotion comes at a price!


39% of the Trading Leads said that they had sought therapeutic help versus 25% for Traders.

About The Survey: The survey was anonymous, taking place from November 2018 to January 2019, and garnered 93 respondents from the programmatic trading field.


How Traders Think | 2019

Section 2:

How Traders Think

How Traders Think | 2019

Introduction CtrlShift’s How Traders Trade survey and report helped shed some light on how programmatic traders operate and the inefficiencies inherent in a multi-platform setup. With their in-depth knowledge of the mechanisms of digital advertising and the myriad of quirks of this ecosystem, the next question we asked was: How do they think? In How Traders Think, we attempt to catalogue and codify media traders’ mental process from campaign set-up to execution and analysis. This is, more often than not, a mental checklist cultivated over years of trial and error, and for the most part lives only in the minds of the traders themselves. Not an instruction manual to be followed to the letter, this report is intended as an insightful window into the considerations that influence how media dollars are deployed. It is also a high-level guide for the rookie media trader or the curious digital marketer; a synopsis of the end-to-end trading process, and the issues that regularly surface. Programmatic campaigns are a rich source of marketing insights that, in turn, can have a meaningful impact on ROI and business objectives. Knowing how traders mentally navigate the complex mechanisms of programmatic advertising can offer both clients and vendors a rare perspective on what works and what can be achieved. As the definition of programmatic media starts to morph to include any media that can be bought in an automated way, and levels of complexity therein increase, we at CtrlShift firmly believe that it is high time we expand the repertoire of questions directed at our trading teams beyond “is the campaign live yet?”.


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 1:

Campaign Set Up

How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 1: Campaign Set Up It would not be an exaggeration to say that the phrase “setting up for success” applies here. This is where the parameters of any campaign are defined and translated for input into the diverse systems and software required to place a digital ad in front of its intended audience. Ideally, a trader would have visibility not only into the campaign’s KPIs, but into the client’s broader objectives. For the campaigns they are tasked with running, understanding the wider marketing strategy can make a difference. It could inform spontaneous mid-campaign decisions that need to be made, or even spark inspiration for tweaked campaign parameters that might help achieve the desired goal more efficiently. Such broader lens information is not always shared with the trading desk. It is up to each trader to procure as much information as possible pertaining to a campaign prior to set up.

For a typical campaign, set up requires performing the same set of actions across multiple platforms, each with their own unique workflow. A single campaign can take up to 3 working days to set up. In ‘How Traders Trade’, CtrlShift’s 2019 survey on programmatic operations, it was found that 48% of traders operate across at least 5 platforms daily and a significant 20% ran more than 8 platforms daily.


How Traders Think | 2019

A Basic Campaign Checklist Key Questions and Considerations Campaign Budget

How much budget has been allocated to the campaign? What is the currency in use?

Campaign Period

How long must the campaign run for?

Campaign Objective

Is this a performance or branding campaign? What are the key objectives and KPIs?

Geo / Targeting Location

What markets or geographical areas does this campaign cover?

Brand Safety + Site Blacklisting

What brand safety parameters must be put in place? Does the client have a whitelist or blacklist of inventory sources that should be applied at the start of the campaign?


Who is the campaign targeted at?

Frequency capping

How many times should target audiences be served the ad?


Are all tracking pixels in place and firing properly to collect data?


Are all creatives associated with the campaign ready and sized correctly for each intended ad format?


What tactics are going to be used for the channels chosen for this campaign? Whitelisting, geo-location, retargeting, in-market, affinity, contextual or 3rd party?


How Traders Think | 2019

The Timing of Campaign Tactics Once the campaign objective has been identified, a range of tactics can be deployed in its pursuit. In programmatic, there is a logical flow to when each tactic can be deployed in the course of a campaign. The reality is that despite all the advancements that enable real-time advertising, generating impact takes time. Patience is key. In an ideal world, campaigns would be given at least a month to gain momentum and show results.

Week 0

Week 1

Embed pixels and check landing pages.

Start with prospecting and targeting broad audience segments. A DSPâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in-built optimisation algorithm will start to deliver results after 5-7 days, once it has already gathered enough campaign data for a trader to start making strategic decisions on how to optimise the campaign.

Week 2

Refine (narrow down) the audience definition and start blacklisting sites that are not performing or do not meet viewability/brand safety requirements. Start identifying sweet spots amidst the permutations of variables.

Week 3

Start lookalike modelling and retargeting on audience segments that have shown results.

Week 4 onwards

Narrow down the audience funnel further to push conversion. Depending on the objectives at play and the maturity of the campaign, a trader could shift budget to focus on more specific tactics and audience segments that are delivering on the KPIs.


How Traders Think | 2019

How do you deliver effectively when the scale is small, and duration is short? It's a bit of economics. The supply of quality audiences is always less than the demand for the same. Where budgets and timelines are tight, you simply have to bid higher. The eCPM might be higher than average, but you'll get the audience you want. You’ll increase the chances of success by diversifying your audiences where possible. Many audience segments share strong affinity with each other. Select segments that might work well alongside your primary intended audience. Consider setting the campaign pace to “ASAP” rather than “Even”. Given that targeted audiences are so rare and precious, we want to ensure that we reach them as soon as we identify them. Loosen the frequency cap where possible. It could be a case of consumers needing that extra nudge to click on your creative.

Frequency - how often is too often? Unfortunately, there is no set frequency cap recommendation in programmatic. The “magic number” depends on the type of campaign, your objective and the available inventory. If you’re looking for a benchmark, take a look at historical ad frequency data and make an educated assessment.


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 2:


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 2: Optimisation A media plan is only good the day it is prepared. Given the information we are able to collect and the pace at which consumer behaviour can change, the trader actively adjusts or deviates from that plan based on the insights and signals the live campaign surfaces. How fast a trader is able to adjust variables can impact incremental gains and help avoid negative returns. It is at this stage where a trader’s knowledge of digital trends and each platform’s characteristics, and their ability to problem-solve spontaneously as issues surface, are fully leveraged. There are three core areas of concern for traders when optimising campaigns: Pace, performance and accuracy.




There should be an even (or optimised) tempo of spend across all chosen channels to avoid the scenario of having too much budget unspent with only days left in the designated campaign period.

Tracking a campaign’s progress is the bread and butter of a trader’s job. There are a myriad of checks that need to be made on a regular basis to ensure that the final outcome meets expectations.

A campaign’s performance is tightly correlated to the parameters set during the setup stage and how closely that aligns with the end objective.


How Traders Think | 2019

Cross-channel optimisation: No longer a pipe dream? Your ability to make sound decisions while a campaign is in-flight is as good as the data you have at any given point in time. The speed at which traders are able to access reports from all channels, harmonised and de-duplicated, and make the necessary adjustments to tactics and budget allocation, can make the difference between an outcome that is acceptable and one that is extraordinary. Against a backdrop of campaigns which usually run between 4 to 8 weeks, and with todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s typical reporting delay of 3 to 7 days, optimisation is commonly done only within each channel. But true cross-channel optimisation is now possible with powerful reporting tools and aggregating platforms which help to pull, standardise and visualise data from every channel in real-time. Ensuring your reporting set-up is complete and tailored to your campaign objectives from the outset can lead to significant incremental gains.

Optimisation Checklist Is spending progressing as planned and is the campaign gaining enough successful bids? Is the pace of spending even or uneven?


How many days are left in the campaign period? Am I on track to fully deliver the campaignâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s budget?

Are we hitting campaign goals? Are we serving ads with agreed KPIs and managing cost?


Are brand safety and viewability metrics within acceptable margins? Is it fraud free? Are we bidding for the right audience segments?

Are we serving the right creatives?


Does our performance support the assumptions made about our audiences? Have we defined our audience correctly or is there more we can do (redefine, refine, broaden)? Should the budget still be running as is or moved to different channels? Were the brand safety, ad fraud and viewability filters applied correctly? Are the pixels firing and placed where they should be? Were there any changes made since the campaign launch? Are we spending in the right currency and applying the correct foreign exchange rate? Are all the measurement and attribution tools working?


How Traders Think | 2019

Spotlight: Troubleshooting No campaign is perfect. Problems can and will pop up with every campaign and it's up to the trader to troubleshoot the issues as quickly as possible. Here are some of the more common hiccups that can occur when a campaign is ongoing - along with some common fixes.

Why isn’t my campaign budget being spent as expected?

• Campaign line status It should be in Active or Live status. • Targeting parameters Has the right targeting been applied? Sometimes, when target audiences are too niche, the number of successful bids may be lower than expected. • Bidding level Are you putting in high enough bid amounts to beat out the competition and get the impressions you need? • Spend limit Has the spend limit been inadvertently maximised on another campaign line? • Campaign budget If the budget is too low, some line items may not be able to gain winning bids. • Compliance with advertising standards Have any of your ads not been approved? An ad may not be approved because it does not meet the DSP’s requirements. Common reasons include file size restrictions, missing links and inactive landing pages.

My campaign is not hitting its KPIs. What’s going on?

• Targeting strategy Targeting strategies should be tailored to the campaign objective. For example, using 3rd party data could be a good strategy for a conversion campaign. • Audience definition The defined audience may be too niche. If you think this is the issue, look into expanding it. Recommended estimated audience reach at the beginning of a campaign is at least 100k-1m. • Bid level Check if the bids are competitive enough • Line-level performance Find sweet spots by identifying the segments or line items that are performing well. Increase budget on those line items or create duplicates. Turn off non-performing line items or segments. • Negative targeting Excluding users that have already converted and those that have not converted after a specified number of hits can help you avoid budget wastage.


How Traders Think | 2019

Why are there no conversions at all?

• Tracking issues Conversion pixels ought to be placed at least 5 days before the campaign goes live so there is sufficient time for testing and troubleshooting, and to ensure that sufficient data can be gathered. • Pixel Placement Check if the pixels have been placed correctly and set to trigger upon the intended “conversion event”, i.e. page view, button click or other event. • Attribution Ensure all conversion pixels are set up with the correct attribution parameters. • If the problem remains, the trader could opt to revisit the targeting strategy. Are you targeting the right audience? Review the current audience selection and do an audience split test to find the right segment to target for your objective.

My pixels are not firing (or they are firing too much). What should I do?

• Pixel setup Check if pixels are placed correctly to fire on the right conversion event (for example, a pixel firing on page views instead of on button clicks) or page.

Why am I not seeing clicks?

Remember: Clicks do not equate to conversions. A click is defined as an action on the creative while a conversion does not have a fixed definition; its definition depends on the campaign’s goals and it may involve multiple actions.

If the pixel is firing multiple times, it could be that other website elements share the same triggering variable. For example, two buttons having the same button ID.

• Check if click macros are included within the creative tags. • As with a lack of conversions, the targeted audience segment may simply not be responding to the ad. Re-evaluate and adjust the targeting parameters. Often, doing an audience split test within the campaign helps with assessing targeting accuracy.


How Traders Think | 2019

Deep dive: Click macros Each DSP has their own specific macros that may not be compatible with other DSPs. Check if macros implemented on creative are compatible with your chosen DSP. Certain DSPs have their own ad preview function which will flag if click macros aren’t inserted.

Look out for this notification. A more manual process would be to look within the ad tag for the code snippet: ${CLICK_URL} or ${CLICK_URL_ENC}

Refresher: The basics We’re all human and amidst the pressure to meet KPIs, many fail to see the obvious. Here are some tips for what to look into when you struggle to answer seemingly simple questions.

Why is my CPM/CPx so high? • Media plans feature estimated costs. Costs can go up if there are other advertisers bidding for the same inventory. Types of targeting will also affect the costs, e.g. business/news segments have higher CPMs than art/entertainment segments. • Brand safety, ad fraud, viewability, frequency cap and bidding strategy could affect the CPM as well. • External factors such as peak periods will also affect the overall campaign performance. • Typically, CPM is higher at the start of the campaign and will improve once the campaign has stabilised.

Why are there so many creatives?

• Different creative messaging resonates differently among the types of audience we’re targeting. Having a selection of creatives would help to generate more audience insights. • Clients often have KPIs based on impressions per audience segment, hence the avalanche of creatives. • For direct response campaigns, we advise that the creatives be kept simple, have a clear proposition, and a strong call to action.


How Traders Think | 2019

Why is there so little budget for the campaign? • Alas, budgets are finite but channel/audience choices are not. It is up to the media planner to come up with the best possible plan and for the trader to be creative in how they maximise campaign performance. • For campaigns with a low budget, the typical recommendation is to focus on channels or platforms that have been proven to be effective and efficient for the client’s needs.

Why is my creative not being served?

• Check if ads have been approved by the platform you are using. If there is a notification for rejected creative, follow the platform’s troubleshooting guidelines. • Ensure that the selected date range is correct. Sometimes the creative may already be live and running but that information does not get displayed because the selected dates do not reflect the active campaign period. • Audience-related reasons: check if the targeting is too restrictive or if the bids are too low.

Pro tip: Checking on pixels There are a few ways to check if a pixel is working as intended. • Install a browser extension such as Ghostery or EditThisCookie to view all the active trackers on a particular webpage. • Use Inspect Element to find your tag in the page code.


How Traders Think | 2019

PMP Troubleshooting Private marketplaces are a good inventory source for traders seeking quality, brand-safe audiences. They offer a pool of known and trusted publisher brands with clearly defined audience segments for targeting. However, engaging with PMPs comes with its own set of potential problems. Here are the ones that crop up most frequently.

Why are my PMP line items not delivering?

Look for where the road blocks could be. • Are bid requests being sent? • Am I placing any bids? • What are the match rates? • Am I winning any bids?

My bid requests are not being sent.

• Check the deals IDs and the buyer IDs. Check that the PMP is correctly setup (deal ID, SSP, floor price, etc.) • Check that the publisher is already pushing inventory in, and the priority level at which you have access.

None of my bids are being placed.

• Check if you are inadvertently bidding below the floor price • Check the filters and targeting that have been applied and ensure they match the inventory that is being sent (e.g. if the Publisher is sending you video formats on mobile, make sure your campaign's line item is not targeting standard formats on desktop) • Check that creatives are attached

I'm making bids, but not many. Why are my match rates so low?

• Check the targeting again, as the parameters might be too narrow. If any variable can be removed, deactivate it. For example, if the PMP inventory is already based in a single country, you can remove the country requirement to increase the potential match rate as the “duplicated” geography filter may have an adverse impact on bid results. • Check if other restrictions applied, such as blacklists, whitelists and ad quality settings, can be lifted. These could contribute to the low number of matches.

I'm making lots of bids, but not winning.

• Within the auction system, others may be making substantially higher bids than your own bids. To increase your chances of securing the impressions you need, check the price of your previous winning bids and bid from that price line upwards in increments of 10 percent.


How Traders Think | 2019

Client FAQs

How Traders Think | 2019

Client FAQs A useful primer for those who are new to programmatic. Why does it take so long for a campaign to go live? • On average, a campaign takes about 1-2 days to go live. The more complex the campaign is, the more time a trader needs to set up the campaign. A campaign running on Facebook only would take a much shorter time to set up than a campaign that has to be run on Facebook, Search and YouTube. • Creatives, once uploaded are required to go through the DSP’s ad review process before they can be served. This can take an additional few hours depending on which DSP the creatives are running on. • Pixels should ideally be placed 5 to 7 days before the campaign start date. This is to ensure that there is sufficient data collected for the optimisation engine to gather learnings even before the campaign starts.

Why can’t I see my own ads? • This is very likely because you are not the intended audience. Some DSPs provide ad previews which can be mounted on mock sites to be shared with the client.

Pro tip: If clients want to know how their search campaign is performing, there is a performance dashboard available within search platforms that allows you to see how your campaign/ keywords are performing in real-time. Traders can send these screenshots to the clients.

Why doesn’t my Google Analytics (GA) number match up with your report? • GA measures website traffic while trader reports measure campaign performance. • Specifically, GA will capture the last click across all platforms. That is, if the user sees an ad on Facebook and clicks on it but does not convert, then later searches the product and converts, GA will record this as one conversion from Search. On the other hand, the trading desk will record one conversion each on Facebook and Search in the campaign report.

Why did my creatives fail the platform’s audit? • The most common reason for creatives failing the various platforms’ audits (failing to display correctly) is that they do not follow the platforms’ creative guidelines. Most DSPs have a notification on the error which links out to a troubleshooting guide. • Another reason could be that safety tools are not correctly implemented.


How Traders Think | 2019

Why are there discrepancies between the analytics report and the dashboard performance report? • Different measurement tools have different methods of calculating the same metrics. • The date ranges and filters across different platform reports could be different. • There may have been periods of downtime where campaign activity is not recorded or executed during the campaign duration on one or more platforms.

How reliable are benchmark reports in determining whether my campaign is performing above or below average? • Variances in campaign performance benchmarks occur because there is currently no globally accepted benchmark. The acceptable variance can range between 20-30% in Asia while IAB UK holds 10% as acceptable. • A campaign’s performance depends on the industry the brand is in, the platform(s) in use, the creatives deployed and the set objective(s). The best benchmark to use is a brand’s own historical campaign data.


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 3:


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 3: Reporting The information delivered in campaign reports forms the basis for needle-moving marketing decisions. Yet, for most, the task of reporting remains more of a bugbear than a blessing. According to CtrlShiftâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s How Traders Trade survey, around 42% of traders still manually stitch together more than 50% of their reports. This process involves making sense of data from multiple platforms and often takes up to 7 working days. The key to a smooth reporting process is to ensure that everything is set up in alignment with the campaignâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s objectives right from the start. The central question is, what type of report does the client want and what data do they want to see? Nothing saves time and effort like making sure the information in your report is relevant.

Reporting Checklist How frequently are reports required? (weekly/ monthly/ quarterly/ yearly) What reporting format should I use? (Raw data? Graphs? Write-ups?)


Does the reporting template reflect the campaign KPIs in a clear and concise manner? How should I visualise the data? Whom should I send the reports to? What questions are we aiming to address through the report?

Are we getting access to the most recent data we need to compile the report? Is the data the client wants to see available?


Are the data extraction settings correct (date range and time zone)? Is the data all in the same format? For example, are budgets in the same currency and are we utilizing gross or nett spends? Are reporting date ranges aligned? Have daily reports from offline or external sources been set up?


How Traders Think | 2019

What insights or points of observation can I highlight? What key learnings were gained from this campaign that could be applied to future campaigns?


If you did A/B testing, what were the results? If you did a brand lift study, what were the results? Which audience segments were the most responsive? Which campaign tactics were the most cost-efficient or effective? What creative message worked best? What channels/platforms worked best for the client objectives? What overarching recommendations would you give to the client for future campaigns?

Sharing is caring Don’t let the learnings gleaned from campaigns live only in client reports! Actively sharing what you’ve learnt or observed with your team helps to consolidate knowledge to improve operational efficiency. It also helps to keep everyone collectively up to speed on the neverending ad tech updates and the latest benchmarks. Discussing the nitty gritty of trading can spark potential ideas that can be applied across campaigns, current and future. Take every opportunity to share what you’ve discovered with clients as well. By doing so, you build a better understanding of the decisions made on campaigns and the limitations faced. This keeps clients in tune with the rationale behind the strategies adopted by the trader and eventually builds trust, positioning traders as “digital advisors” rather than a “backend” operations team.


How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 4:

Billing and Finance

(the 0.01 cent problem)

How Traders Think | 2019

Phase 4: Billing and Finance (the 0.01 cent problem)

In the programmatic trading world, things can get a little tricky when finance departments are used to dealing with pre-defined costs that wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t deviate. Thanks to the auction-based systems of programmatic media-buying, you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell until a campaign is done and dusted what the final bill will be. Welcome to the 0.01 cent problem. Reconciling spends with billing over multiple platforms often requires significant effort involving traders and members of the finance team, an unavoidable manual task that comes with the status quo multi-platform trading desk setup. Here is a helpful billing checklist which could help minimise any downstream pain.

Billing Checklist Are we using the correct billing entity? Are we billing the right agency? Are we providing finance with what they need to have an accurate revenue forecast? Are our revenue trackers up to date? Have I recorded the financials into our finance system? Has finance paid the vendor? Has finance billed the client for the correct amount?


How Traders Think | 2019


How Traders Think | 2019

Conclusion Traders are the exclusive keepers of a highly valuable – and tragically uptapped - body of knowledge that encompasses both the technical and qualitative aspects of programmatic media trading. This report is but the first attempt to codify what they do. More than anything else, this report has shed light on the sizable amount of human intervention and manual administration needed to manage a programmatic campaign and consolidate learnings, exposing the unsophisticated operational reality behind the industry’s promise of automation, accountability and optimisation. Given the status quo multi-platform trading desk setup, an in-depth familiarity with various constantly evolving platforms and optimisation strategies is essential for any trader. Each platform is a silo with unique workflows and unique data. On top of this, many operate with no real-time, universal (cross-channel and cross-platform) reporting mechanism. The corollary is that traders, and their downstream collaborators, heads of performance, and even marketers, spend an inordinate proportion of their time using spreadsheets and other cobbled-together solutions to resolve issues caused by this lack of connectivity in platforms, workflows and data. Beyond the inevitable loss of campaign-level learnings, the full potential of a trader’s knowledge is unfulfilled. Connective infrastructure that unifies workflows, platforms and data can relieve them from such mundane, menial tasks as those described in this report, and help the industry realise the value of their skills and training. With the proper application of their knowledge, we can expect to see improved performance and budget efficiency across the board, and more proactive, strategic use of programmatic in consumer engagement. The emergence of enterprise-level digital media management and delivery systems that aggregate platforms and inject automation, scalability and intelligence into programmatic media trading are heartening. Solutions such as The Hub, Kenshoo and Marin are an indication that the industry is waking up to this issue. By unifying the fragmented ecosystem, these new “connective systems” have the potential to unlock, record and augment the knowledge that, for now, resides exclusively in the minds of media traders.

Acknowledgements The information collated in this report would not have been possible without the support and input of The Studio Trading Team, led by Kar Wai Low. Special thanks to all those consulted for allowing a peek inside their heads and into their detailed thought processes.


How Traders Think | 2019

Produced by CtrlShift CtrlShift is a technology company simplifying the digital media ecosystem via aggregation and automation. We aim to make advertising truly "frictionless" in a complex playing field. The Hub, our flagship product, is enterprise programmatic software for unified media planning, activation & insights. We aggregate platforms (social, search, RTB, native and more) so that brands and agencies can advertise anywhere with a single login and achieve more.

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