Scalability and Efficiency Prompted LinkedIn's Switch to Programmatic Display Advertising
Head of Products, Marketing Solutions
A haven for business-to-business (B2B) users, LinkedIn has dipped its toes into programmatic advertising for sponsored content. Now the business networking platform is making display ads available programmatically as well. Russell Glass, head of products for LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions business, told eMarketer’s Maria Minsker how the company plans to combine its extensive B2B reach with programmatic technology to deliver better ad scalability.
eMarketer: What drove LinkedIn to introduce programmatic advertising for display ads?
Russell Glass: The decision was primarily about meeting advertisers’ needs and following buying trends. We see over 70% of display ad purchasing occurring through programmatic means. The vast majority of our advertisers asked us to provide them with an ad-buying channel that is more congruent with how they’re buying ads elsewhere. In the past, we offered a manual, insertion order-based, guaranteed-display solution, but it’s more efficient to buy programmatically.
eMarketer: LinkedIn’s strength is in the B2B space. Why is the move toward programmatic advertising important for reaching this specific group?
Glass: Historically, B2B has been a difficult area of marketing to scale. LinkedIn has the opportunity to change that, given the hundreds of millions of members and the context in which they come to LinkedIn. With programmatic, we have such scale in the B2B world that advertisers can target exactly who they are looking to influence and turn them into customers.
“...our advertisers asked us to provide them with an ad-buying channel that is more congruent with how they’re buying ads elsewhere.”
eMarketer: Sponsored content is already available programmatically on LinkedIn. What learnings did you apply to the programmatic display ad roll out?
Glass: For sponsored content, we’ve offered a programmatic API for a number of years. It’s been a very successful program for us. We’ve learned that we can innovate quicker when we have a programmatic channel where our partners can help solve problems for advertisers that we may not have the internal resources to solve.
In moving to programmatic for display, however, one big difference is that it’s an RTB [real-time bidding] channel. This isn’t something that’s available for sponsored content—it’s specific to display. Still, we’re borrowing from our sponsored content experience as we tap into RTB.
eMarketer: What does the growth of mobile use mean for advertisers on LinkedIn?
Glass: Over 50% of our members access LinkedIn from a mobile device, so the majority of our revenue on the marketing solutions side comes from mobile use. As a result, [traditional] display advertising won’t play a big role in our future. By transitioning to programmatic channels, we reduce costs while we service advertisers how they want to be serviced. It’s a win-win. This way, we can focus our efforts on mobile and native advertising, where we’re doing most of our innovation.
“By transitioning to programmatic channels, we reduce costs while we service advertisers how they want to be serviced.”
eMarketer: What challenges do you anticipate as you move into programmatic display advertising, and how are you preparing for them?
Glass: Change is always hard. Customers that are new to programmatic ads will have some questions, and we have to make sure that our teams are ready to help. Another challenge is that as more companies buy programmatically, they’ll start asking, “Can you invest in X? Can you invest in Y?” Often we’ll have to say, “We’re relying on our partner platforms to make those investments.” [We want] display innovation to take place in the platforms that customers already use.