Ask an Expert: Matt Tugender, Director of Programmatic Strategy at Attain

Welcome to the first installment of Attain’s Ask An Expert series! We’ll be talking to experts who are innovating in the marketing and advertising space, starting with our stellar team at Attain. Our first interview is with Matt Tugender, Director of Programmatic Strategy. He gives us the scoop on his 10 years in the programmatic world, and what the future holds for us.

How did you begin working in this field, and what do you do at Attain?

I started my career in advertising working for big agencies such as Starcom and Omnicom. After a few years, I moved to the brand side where I built and led the programmatic department for SmileDirectClub. I’ve also worked at platforms like TubeMogul and Roku. Now, I oversee Attain’s programmatic activation operations.

You’ve had experience working for brands, agencies and platforms. How do they differ, and what are your biggest takeaways?

For a brand, it’s always “what’s next.” You have to constantly reinvent the wheel, defend your investments, and sort through all of the partnership options to see what will move the needle. 

At a large agency, it’s “do your job well, and innovate where you can.” You need to have workflow efficiency and pick your battles when it comes to innovation. There are a lot of stakeholders you have to get buy-in from before you can try something completely new. 

For a data and tech platform, it’s collaborating to generate revenue at all costs. The thing I enjoy most about working at Attain is the constant cross-functional work. And, because it’s a startup environment, you’re able to try something new every day, and no ones there telling you you can’t. 

The ad tech industry is constantly evolving. What’s the most dramatic change you’ve witnessed in programmatic advertising?

The technology. When I worked at TubeMogul, now part of Adobe, the technology was focused on things like frequency management, consolidation, efficiency, and audience overlap. It was really thought of as an efficient way to place your media, not necessarily a strategic option. Since then, things have completely turned upside down. Programmatic budgets far exceed what they were in 2012. We have emerging channels like CTV, radio, digital out of home that are now part of the programmatic ecosystem, which traditionally was used for just display and video. Now we have access to first, second, third, and zero-party data, including commerce data, to target with, instead of just opaque third-party audience segments that may or may not be accurate, let alone produce better performance.

AI and bidding algorithms have also dramatically changed the game. In the early days, these platforms were mostly powered by manual optimization. Now, you let the machine drive and make the necessary contextual optimizations based on the business’s direction and things the algorithm isn’t privy to. It’s a great example of what we all hope AI has in store for us: doing the tedious parts of the job so humans can work on the more strategic, creative aspects. 

What programmatic trends are you seeing emerge this year?

CTV growth isn’t slowing down, especially with the rise of ad-supported streaming platforms like Netflix and Max. 

Additionally, with the massive shift towards first-party data, commerce data and retail media networks are kicking into high gear, not only for targeting but also for insights, measurement and optimization.

Lastly, AI. I already mentioned what it’s done for programmatic trading, but there’s also room for this technology to disrupt copywriting, creative production, and dynamic creative optimization.

How do you feel about the current state of programmatic measurement? 

Sales attribution is becoming more important as marketers experience pixel signal loss, leading to identifiers malfunctioning across the internet on both desktop and mobile. 

I’m most excited about the prospect of layering sales data onto established verification and attention metrics to not only validate upper funnel media with lower funnel traditional measurement, but also give credence to the traditional media metrics. For example, is a 85% viewability rate actually generating a better conversion rate than a 55% viewability rate? 

What’s your biggest challenge right now? 

Keeping up with the growth of the company and ongoing product innovations. Everyone at Attain is an important cog in the wheel, and expanding the team to keep up with our growing roster of clients and product development will take us to the next level.