The programmatic skills shortage, and how one Dutch start-up is tackling it head on

The programmatic skills shortage, and how one Dutch start-up is tackling it head on

Programmatic advertising is now at the core of most publishers' digital monetization strategies, with the  global programmatic market set to increase from $14.2 billion in 2015 to $36.8 billion in 2019. With billions of euros being spent programmatically, one of the biggest challenges the industry has is a programmatic skills shortage; people not knowing their SSPs from their DSPs and their Header-bidding from their Waterfalls.

Whilst working at the Italian sales house Manzoni in 2015, Luca Brighenti spotted this advertising programmatic skills shortage and went on to co-found Lens Academy with Riccardo Guggiola - an e-learning academy 100% focused on programmatic advertising.

Whilst in Cologne for the DMEXCO conference, Hackers.Media sat down with Brighenti to discuss this industry skills shortage and what Lens Academy is doing about it.

Q: What inspired you to start Lens Academy?

A: The constant launch of new programmatic technologies on the market, and new buying and selling methods, has created a programmatic skills shortage. The problem is that technology is evolving faster than up-skilling can happen. To address this problem, major agencies and tech vendors started to invest in programmatic training for their teams. However, because this training is generally ‘vendor-led’ many of the skills taught aren’t hugely transferable.
We saw a gap in the market to provide a ‘platform neutral approach’, which is why we created Lens Academy.  The end result for all Lens Academy students is that once they’ve take our course they’re able to work knowledgeably for any media owner, agency or ad tech vendor they like, as they will have been tutored in the fundamentals of programmatic, in a neutral way both on the buy and sell sides.

Q: Explain how Lens Academy works? 

A: In short, Lens Academy is an agnostic online educational based company that offers a variety of self-led certified courses to aid media professionals on their journey to becoming a media industry expert. 
In particular, we have created an exam that lets the individuals become a certified Programmatic Specialists (one of the most requested professional profile in the media online industry).  The exam is validated by local associations (like IAB Italy, Assocom, etc) and international organisations like EACA.
The learning path comprises three modules – 1) BASICS, 2)  PROGRAMMATIC BUYING and 3) PROGRAMMATIC SELLING, across 36 Lessons and with one Final Exam. The length of each lesson is max 10-15 minutes and after every lesson, you must take the quiz in order to prove that the student is acquiring skills for real. The lessons include an Ad Tech Platform simulator, which simulates all the major SSPs, DSPs and DMPs in the market.
The certification lasts one year as digital advertising is constantly evolving as programmatic technologies evolve. At the end of the online course, we offer the chance to focus on different specific topics through live workshop classes.
You can check out an example of one of our courses here

Q: What’s the most frequently asked question on your course?

A: The biggest misconception is that programmatic technology platforms are some kind of rocket science, rather than actually being fairly simple browser-based apps.  The most frequently asked questions are around data, metrics and buying / selling models.

Q: What’s the biggest 'faux pas’ you have seen someone make in programmatic advertising? 

A: Programmatic industry is best ‘learnt by doing’, and because technologies give buyers and sellers the ability to run tests before starting a campaign, the risk of making a big mistake is (in principle) fairly limited.
The biggest mistake is to underestimate the potential of programmatic advertising, thinking that is “just a trend” or not trying to learn more about it. Programmatic is going to become the default global media-buying approach within the next two to three years and both sides (buy and sell) must be conscious about the opportunities of the automation. 

Q: What are the biggest new trends / innovations do you see in programmatic?

A: Auditing and verification is an increasingly hot topic. Today, media-buying ‘transparency' has become a flashpoint and measurement tools and metrics are something that need to evolve and improve. Buyers and sellers want measurement that is more accurate and more standardized metrics because there is a growing distrust on the ad technologies and exchanges. Metrics are not the same as before, because programmatic introduced new ones like viewability - the lack of standardization remains a massive headache.
Data usage is also a hot topic, as buyers and sellers are struggling to understand more about how to use their first party data in advertising and the opportunities of the ad tech platform.
Possibly the biggest innovations in programmatic will be on mobile and proximity marketing. Beacons, Smart Tones and Wifi Technology are already allowing marketers to both deliver content and collect data points in order to serve the right message to the right audience based on their locations.
Advertising is also starting to be enhanced by AI.   Data is going to be more and more valuable,  but advertising today assumes we live predictably and marketers need to switch from this paradigm to one driven by AI.

Q: Finally, what industry blogs do you read / people do you follow on Twitter?

A: I am a big fan of ExchangeWire, Ad Age and Digiday. Ad Exchanger and Video Ad News are also very valuable website to get updates in the media and programmatic industry. Instead of Twitter, LinkedIn is my favorite information source and I follow pages like Harvard Business Review and professionals like Dr. Augustine Fou, Timothy Whitfield, Marcus Ruhe, Paul Gubbins, Xavier Garrido, Ricardo Izquierdo and Mazen Mroueh.
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