Skip to main content

“We all expected the time it took for full adoption of programmatic to be shorter. But why aren’t we there yet?” asks Megan Pagliuca, Chief Data Officer at Hearts & Science.

Pagliuca, who’s been growing with the programmatic media buying business since its advent 10 years ago, found her calling for transforming business through technology in college. During her keynote at Programmania at Ops 2019 in New York on Monday, June 3, she will expound upon the long road behind and ahead of the programmatic advertising industry in her keynote address, “Programmatic: Why Aren’t We There Yet?

Pagliuca earned her master’s degree in ecommerce, specializing in internet marketing with the sole purpose of changing the industry. Out of business school, she landed with Right Media, the first online advertising exchange and platform that led to the advent of real-time bidding. Then came a Yahoo acquisition and Pagliuca stayed on board running the Demand-Side Platform business working with many of the biggest US marketers as well as advertising holding companies with the early formation of the Trading Desks.

Merging Worlds and Languages

Following her time at Right Media, Pagliuca made the shift to the agency side, joining Merkle as the first digital employee and GM of Digital Media, where she learned about analytics and first-party data. At the time, Merkle was still a database marketing company but was evolving into a CRM agency.

“It was the merging of worlds and languages,” Pagliuca says of the transition.


She successfully scaled the business and grew the team to 100 people before leaving to become the Global CEO of Omnicom Media Group’s Accuen, a trading desk, to evolve the business model and role of programmatic within the agencies. As the model changed, she joined Omnicom Media Group’s Hearts & Science where as Chief Digital Officer she continues to be a change agent, not only transitioning the way digital is bought but mirroring that experience to transform how linear television is measured and planned.

Old-School Models No Longer Work for Media Buying

Since the advent of programmatic, many companies worked their ad-buying magic in competing siloes with each advertising group having their own individual KPIs and incentive models often based on cost-efficiencies.

But advertisers still using this old-school model are holding back the full potential of media buying–for themselves and their clients.

By establishing KPIs—new compensation models and incentives between the client and the agency while upscaling to buy advertising through technology—all parties move in the same direction with the intent to reach the same end-goals regardless of the department they’re sitting in.

Data Is the New Oil

Even with new KPIs and technology, agencies cannot reach their maximum potential without a firm understanding of the consumers being served.

“As an industry, we used to buy on context and then we swung too far back to buying on audience. We need to think more about audience-buying based on context and experience,” says Pagliuca.

And the use of data needs to be consistent across the organization.

“Historically, people think anything with data can be data-driven by keeping it just within one part of the organization,” Pagliuca said, “But it must be infused throughout the organization to work.”

“Data is the new oil,” Pagliuca continues, “It’s a competitive differentiator.”

Pagliuca stresses the importance of advertisers owning their own data. “Data is the new competitive differentiation in building long-lasting brands” says Pagliuca.  Working with an agency that enables this is a critical component to an advertiser’s success.

Hearts & Science, for example, leverages Omnicom Media Group’s identity graph via the Omni platform, a real-world view of who consumers are and how they behave, and then matches that information against an inventory graph of SKUs available for purchase to create a more valuable consumer experience in the right context, and ultimately a better ROI.”

“When done this way, not only do we have valuable insights from each individual group, but we’ve now empowered the strategy team to have a holistic view of each consumer,” says Pagliuca.

Leading Through Data and Technology

Moving to a data-driven world is an effort in change management–a focus for Pagliuca specifically in the past ten years of her career.

“Look at Venmo, for example. Here’s a company that’s doing what a lot of companies are already doing, but through technology, it’s easier,” explains Pagliuca, “This is what’s happening in the ad-buying industry.”

“The more we drive change–through new KPIs, compensation models, and upscaling technology–the more we move to a data-driven world that aligns with ROI rather than just CPMs.”

Join Pagliuca at Ops 2019 for more insights into how publishers, agencies, brands, and technology providers can work collaboratively to get to the next stage of programmatic before another ten years has come and gone.

Leave a Reply