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Why Self-Service Programmatic platforms are crucial for Agencies

Singapore, 30 November 2018 – Earlier in November 2018, Lee Chee Wee, our Managing Partner & Head of Digital attended DataXu’s inaugural Asia Summit as a panelist and provided his insights on the importance of bringing programmatic capabilities in-house for agencies. In his session, Chee Wee shared about how an agency can use programmatic platforms to deliver even better results for their clients.

Being a panelist at the DataXu Summit brought a great opportunity for Chee Wee and his team to mingle and learn from programmatic leaders in the media industry. The digital team also walked away inspired by the many awesome developments in the programmatic space.

Chee Wee (4th from left) with the group of panellists

Here are Chee Wee’s thoughts and views shared during the event:

The Landscape

As media gets increasingly commoditized, many agencies see this as a threat because it empowers brands to bring digital marketing in-house by leveraging on platforms such as programmatic solutions. The Media Shop views this development and the availability of programmatic platforms as a great opportunity for independent agencies to level the playing field when competing with their larger network counterparts.

When brands work with network agencies, programmatic advertising typically get passed on to their group's trade desk. That's akin to outsourcing and farming out their programmatic operations. On the other hand, independents with in-house trade desks offer clients more control and flexibility which very often, results in delivering better campaign performance and business outcomes.

Our Journey

When I joined The Media Shop a few years ago, our offline business dwarfed our digital business. Since then, our digital business has grown significantly. Throughout this journey, we placed a huge emphasis on building up our digital capabilities. We ran a lot of media including social, search and display within the agency so the digital team is well-versed with the requirements of self-serve campaigns.

Our initial experience with programmatic advertising was via managed service. Relying on managed service is an excellent first step, because you are outsourcing to experts who can effectively execute your campaigns, as opposed to bringing talents in-house to achieve the same.

As an independent agency, we consider ourselves as an extension of our client's marketing team. Because of this, we want to take full control of the entire media planning, buying and optimization process so we can provide better value and insightful advice to our clients. The requirement for more flexibility and control resulted in a natural progression for us to bring programmatic self-service in-house.


The main challenge as an agency is really to right size your digital business, especially the volume of programmatic spend to a level which makes business sense to bring programmatic self-service in-house.

Being independent often meant that many brands we work with are challenger brands. Some of them do not have marketers who are well-versed in digital media. For display advertising, their usual go-to is Google Display, not programmatic display. Similarly for videos, they rely a lot on YouTube, so convincing them to explore programmatic out-stream video ads is something we need to push really hard.

To counter this lack of knowledge, we spend a lot of time and effort having conversations with our clients to educate them on programmatic advertising. We want them to see the value and let them understand the benefits it can bring to their businesses.

Talent Shortage

Most industry observers will tell you that it is a known fact that there is a shortage of digital talent, especially those experienced in programmatic media in the market. The demand simply out-strips the supply of good digital talents in the current landscape. Being independent also meant hiring is more challenging as talents naturally gravitate towards big network agencies.

Because of this, The Media Shop scouts for a different kind of talent to join our family. We actively look for those who value independence and empowerment. To us, hard skills are easy to pick up. On the other hand, personality and one's attitude towards work are what we look out for during our recruitment process.

At The Media Shop, we encourage and enhance work-life harmony by implementing flexible work arrangements such as flexi-time, flexi-place where the staff are able to work from anywhere and anytime.

We are razor focused on quality work output and do not measure success by counting the number of butt hours.

The Future

As consumer media consumption habits change from linear to preferring on demand content, I believe programmatic TV will play an important role for brands to connect with their audience. For starters, we are already seeing programmatic advertising on VOD and OTT platforms. It would be exciting for linear TV to offer that in the near future as well. Combined with the audience data media companies have, we could see programmatic advertising effectiveness brought to a whole new level!


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