Programmatic market turbulence as trading desks and ad platforms raid Australian publishers

By Brendan Coyne | 7 February 2014

Australia's publishers face the prospect of a talent drain as their programmatic specialists are targeted by ad platforms and agency trading desks.

Jason Barnes, until this week head of commercial development at News Corp, is set to take over as Asia-Pacific general manager at Pubmatic, AdNews understands. Meanwhile News Corp head of publisher trading desk, Evgeny Popov, last month left the company to become Asia-Pacific operations director at programmatic firm RadiumOne.

Popov's exit follows the recent exits of Fairfax sales bosses Ed Harrison and Paul Sigaloff to Yahoo!7, and the news last month that Fairfax programmatic specialist Jess White will leave the firm to become general manager of IPG Mediabrands trading desk, Cadreon

It is thought that other platforms are actively tapping up publishers' staff because of the shortage of talent in the market and the rapid growth of programmatic advertising. Meanwhile senior execs on the vendor side are moving up the chain, increasing the suction.

SpotXchange boss Matt von der Muhll has taken on APAC responsibility, while Adap.tv boss Phil Duffield has been moved to a bigger role in London. Meanwhile Turn boss Simon Holt recently left for Nanigans, which is expanding into Singapore.

Parties on all sides are competing for talent within a very small pool.

Traditional publishers are under pressure to drive efficiencies in the face of declining revenues while the ad platforms are arriving from the US to carve out a slice of the Australian market. They are faced with a choice of parachuting in staff from overseas, training their own or poaching the best of what is available locally.

The supply and demand imbalance means those with the skills and knowledge of the market can effectively take their pick of suitors.

Pubmatic's recruitment of Barnes is a logical step, given its business model is based on the sell-side, i.e. the publishers.  Pubmatic president Kirk McDonald recently told AdNews that there was "no magic formula" to the skills shortage.

"You have to invest in the local market. In the long run that is good but it's tough in the short term. The good news is that the industry is growing so fast that if you devote yourself [to programmatic] you can rapidly get up to speed. So I'm not too worried about the long-term aspect."

News Corp may feel slightly aggrieved that Pubmatic has poached Barnes, but McDonald, a one-time president of digital at Time Inc, and former advertising boss of the Fortune Money Group, said the firm was "all about solving the publishers' problems".

All publishers had to do, he said, was invest in their data and then "use it to raise the price of impressions in the market."

But they also have to keep hold of their staff when lots of others are waving money at them, and try to develop the best talent in house before they are left behind.

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