Five questions to Sebastien Janin, Programmatic Team Lead at Rablab Agency.
Sébastien, a French national, moved to Canada a few years ago, bringing with him his expertise in programmatic advertising. At Rablab, a Montreal-based marketing agency, he built his team to create a whole new department, 100% dedicated to programmatic. Since 2022, they trust Adloox for ad-verification and brand safety management.
1. Your role involved building a programmatic department, from scratch. How did you manage this?
The experience that really got me started in the programmatic industry was at Jellyfish, an American marketing performance company with a global presence, in Paris. There, I built myself a unique, ultra-useful programmatic approach. When I arrived in Canada looking for a new challenge, Rablab appeared as a great opportunity to bring my expertise to a sturdy project with a programmatic ambition. Rablab is a digital marketing agency which, like many others, didn’t have a specific department for programmatic, but saw it as just one part of the overall reach of digital ads. Yet the team understood that it was more and more crucial to have pros at the controls, to offer the closest and most sagacious approach to each client. That’s how I ended up as Programmatic Performance Manager.
The first year was an experimentative one: we did a lot of work on market discovery, implementing a business model for the programmatic department, and then progressively structuring this brand new business unit. Sure, we stammered with some clients at first, but the results weren't long in coming.
2. Can you tell us about the programmatic advertising market in Canada, and the main differences with what you previously experienced?
I think there are three key specificities to the Canadian market:
First, despite having a very high level of expertise in terms of digital marketing in general, programmatic advertising is its achilles' heel. It seems to have been undermined for some time. But not voluntarily.
The second specificity is the lack of qualified workforce for programmatic engineering. In general, there’s a lot of opportunities in technological and high-end marketing jobs here, but not enough demand or people to fill it.
The third and most important, is the lack of big “publishers”, owning big web media assets with loads of traffic, reunited under a common roof. Something that is common in France and other markets and really helped to consolidate the programmatic framework.
3. What vision do you and your team have of the programmatic industry and the way you collaborate with your customers?
When I arrived, the programmatic context in Canada was really interesting because of what I said earlier. Advertisers, despite being ahead of other markets in terms of digital marketing, were not mature yet regarding programmatic management, its challenges and its huge potential.
When we set up the department at Rablab, our executive team immediately understood the challenge, and the vision was clear and altruistic. We wanted top-of-funnel quality, to do refined diffusion research. Not only to offer an additional brick lost in catch-all multichannel campaigns.
We had to provide expertise, teach customers: this represents a huge part of our work. Many thought "It must be quite similar to what we do on Search and Social". No. It's really paramount to building good campaigns and customer loyalty. You have to make them aware of the rough edges of programmatic, submit and explain the right KPIs, do awareness on cross-leverage, show that you can't target consumers in the same way, at the same level of funnel, etc. It's a full-time support dynamic.
4. How big is programmatic in Rablab's ecosystem today, and how is it helping the agency's growth?
Today, the economic model of our programmatic unit is well in place. Everything is timed (number of hours of optimization, management, paid to the client) and we have established a contractual minimum. It runs well, very well. I have recruited two Traffic Managers, which allows us to scale up. In fact, our programmatic department has become a key driver of our growth. Thanks to a recent strategic repositioning, it's becoming pretty smooth operationally speaking: we capitalize on our existing customer base, while seeking gradual growth. With the context explained earlier, it can be sometimes difficult to accept new customers, so we really choose the ones that get why programmatic is key to their funnel.
The fact that we specifically chose to focus on top of funnel campaigns means that we want to bring in quality traffic. The bias that I frequently notice in the programmatic industry is that we pride ourselves on bringing cheap traffic, but customers must be able to measure the quality of this traffic. If we analyze the open auction, the stats often give us an average +70% of non-human traffic, while the average CPV is at $1.5. If you multiply it by your fraud percentage, then you have a much higher real cost. That’s why we, as an agency, pledge to provide transparent and educational support to our customers, so that every dollar spent is well spent.
The luck I have at Rablab is the trust they place in us. In France, there’s some sort of “1 euro invested = how many euros generated?” mentality. There, they trust you to push further, to seek quality over the long term. It's rewarding to be able to go deep and justify the quality of our programmatic campaigns. Plus, I can educate the whole team so we can come up with smart incentives for our customers.
5. You use Adloox for ad-verification on a daily basis, can you tell us about your experience with the suite?
Adloox allows us to measure visits on a really deep scale. When we analyze the traffic with basic analytical tools, we can see very high bounce rates, or very short visit times, but without any details. We need to measure and show our customers that we value quality over quantity, that yes, we are making fewer impressions than an “all angles” campaign, but we are driving traffic that drives conversion. Adloox helps us a lot to monitor and report to our customers.
The repercussions, after several months of deployment, are already glaring. For example, we built an Adloox blacklist of fake domains, which allowed us to block more than a thousand urls, seamlessly. I have a client who saw his CPV deteriorate drastically when the tool started removing a lot of bots. By cross-referencing the data and showing him the bounce rate also dropping on their visits, we proved to him that ultra-efficient refining makes it possible to concentrate spendings on really qualified traffic!
The other thing we love is the close assistance provided by your Technical Account Managers. All the time they spend sending us analyzes and making recommendations is time we save. Overall, the tool gives us access to precise metrics, with a high level of granularity, with the human touch others don’t generally provide.