How independent digital agency Cramer-Krasselt built its trading desk.

Digiday – June 12, 2017

By Yuyu Chen

For independent shops like Cramer-Krasselt, the shift to programmatic presents challenges. They don’t have the resources to pour into proprietary tech like the big holding companies. For Cramer-Krasselt, that has meant stitching together ad-tech partners to form its own trading desk — and educating all of its employees on the ins and outs of programmatic.

“For a long time, media-holding companies maintained the agency trading desks as a centralized profit center, and the next trend is midsized independent shops started getting into programmatic by working with companies like Digilant and Choozle,” said Eric Bader, managing director and co-founder for digital consultancy Volando.

The system (named “DesCK”) was moved out of beta last year, and now, the agency has an ad-tech team of 10 to run programmatic campaigns for clients including Edward Jones Investments, Cedar Fair Entertainment and blender brand Vitamix. The agency uses the technology infrastructure developed by its data management and five demand-side platform partners including The Trade Desk, and then adds its own data and budget-control system on top of that.

“We would be locked in if we build our own tech from scratch because there’s a cost, and once you want to change things, you cannot adjust quickly,” said Chris Wexler, the agency’s director of media and consumer engagement. “By leveraging others’ tech infrastructure, we can be very nimble in terms of what we want to buy, how we want to buy and how to measure it.”

One big differentiator in Cramer-Krasselt’s trading desk is that the agency has built it as a multi-DSP tech stack, with one single DMP that is governed by a proprietary analytical, fraud and budget management system that “significantly” enhances the agency’s DSP and exchange partners, added Wexler.

“If we had built DesCK with just The Trade Desk, while the tech is good, we would be missing out on the best results for our clients,” he said.

Cramer-Krasselt built its DMP based on Salesforce-owned Krux and then uses that DMP as “the core source of truth” to get the cleanest view of data possible. This is because if a marketer buys programmatic inventory from a publisher, for instance, the publisher’s own analytics may show it has 100,000 impressions per month, while comScore may say that the impressions are 90,000. Then, Google shows that the actual number should be 80,000 monthly impressions, while Cramer-Krasselt’s own ad server reveals that it is 70,000 monthly impressions.

“The numbers are moving around, so we need our own DMP to assess those data discrepancies and evaluate one DSP over another,” said Wexler.

Another differentiator in Cramer-Krasselt’s tech stack, he added, is its budget-control system that ensures that ad spend is being executed in the most appropriate way possible. The agency hired programmers on its ad-tech team to write algorithms to help manage budget properly and turn data sets into different formats. “[The budget-control system] ensures that our traders execute the plans with significantly lower error rates than we have ever seen via managed service partners in the past,” said Wexler.

But from an industry perspective, Bader believes that agencies developing their own software is not a good idea. “I cannot comment on Cramer-Krasselt, but generally speaking, agencies are not designing algorithm or logic — they need great programmers and coders to do that right,” he said. “Let’s be realistic, agencies are not in the software business — they are service companies, so developing their own platform is folly.”

While the data, tech and client-service side of its programmatic business are all centralized at Cramer-Krasselt’s headquarters in Chicago, programmatic expertise is distributed across the agency’s offices in Chicago, Milwaukee and New York City. The agency’s head of digital strategy periodically travels to those offices to give Cramer-Krasselt’s 429 employees programmatic workshops.

“We have run programmatic training for every person — both media and creative — in the organization. It is a new currency, a new approach, a new way of thinking and a vital thing for everyone to understand,” said Wexler. “One of the things we are thinking right now is how we can improve creative in programmatic.”

Wexler thinks that one biggest hurdle in building a trading desk is ownership of ad-tech companies constantly changes, and there is much consolidation in the space. Meanwhile, recruiting the right talent and retaining it is another challenge as programmatic is a hot market right now.

“Having the ability to be transparent is also hard,” he said. “It is one thing to say, but it is another thing to do it right.”


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The School of Snapchat

On Friday the clever people over at Snapchat invited us to attend their immersive School of Snapchat day. We were cleverly transported back to the 90s and a world where PJ and Duncan were still cool, and indeed Donna Air was more Geordie, less royalty.

The Snapchat Lollipop lady greeted us on arrival at the secret location, we were promptly put in houses and given lockers, ahead of the headmaster leading us into an outburst of the school anthem, all before 9.30 am.

Think secret cinema does media partnerships; this day was an A+ event at getting brands and agencies to love and champion your brand for you. Complete with some serious styling attention to detail, lots of kitsch merch and a school party complete with sugar-laden bottles of Hooch.

That aside, the day was broken down into 4 lessons all designed to help us master the functionality and benefits of the app. Each lesson came with it’s own teacher, learning materials and what felt like a practical exam. We went through Maths, Science, Art and Media Studies, touching on different areas from creative to audience insights.

Here’s just four things we learnt, one from each lesson:

The Snapchat audience aren’t kids. 61% of Snapchat users are between the age of 18-34, de-bunking the rumor that only teenagers are using the app. 

Four ways to engage with ads. When running ads across Snapchat, users can be encouraged to swipe up to read an article, install an app, watch a longer piece of content or be directed to a web page. 

Filters and lenses get huge engagement. Every day over 60% of snaps sent include one of the apps creative tools, whether that is a dog-face lens or a colour filter.

Discovering new content. Over 10 billion videos are watched every single day. Bitesized content from Snapchat’s media partners like Sky, offer a new way to enjoy both long and short form content. 

Whilst this was far from your average day at school, it was most certainly a lesson in good brand communications and sales.

Hats off to Snapchat – we’re confident many of the graduates will buy very much into the programme and you’ll see many more filters and lenses to come this summer.

The 4th Industrial Revolution and what it means for employers

In the last month or so I’ve spoken at both an Association of Graduate Recruiters interest group and The Recruitment Leaders Summit. My topic? The 4th Industrial Revolution and the choice it presents us as employers. Whether recruiting or retaining. Hiring or holding. Diversifying or including. We have a pretty stark choice:

Automate the hell out of how we run a process – or to put people first and empower them. Win or lose.

So, what is the 4th Industrial Revolution and what does it mean to you and I?

Here’s how Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum sets it out:

“The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

He’s quite concerned about this – and so should you and I be. He’s not thinking as an employer, but it’s easy enough to draw the parallels. Easy to see what attraction, development and retention will become if we’re not careful.

Klaus Schwab’s basic point is that the rapid technological changes we see around us have the potential to “‘robotise ‘ humanity, depriving us of our heart and soul. On the flip-side, he goes on, technology can be harnessed to ‘complement to the best parts of human nature – creativity, empathy and stewardship’.

The parallel is that if we robotise, automate or dehumanise the way we deal with people – because we can, or because a new technology is developed – we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We won’t become attractive potential employers (or increase our attractiveness if we’re well regarded already). We won’t develop our people as well as we could – and we won’t hang on to the people we need to do business best.

If we take the decision to pay more attention to human nature; nurturing and supporting talented folk both because we should, and because it grows our reputation as a great place to work, then we will gain competitive advantage. The most creative, most enthusiastic and most able people will want to start, grow and develop their careers with us. They’ll join us rather than a competitor. They’ll do so because they know we care about them and their wellbeing from the outset.

I can’t imagine many of the people reading this will purposefully set out to take the ‘robot path’. But, here’s the problem: Almost every recruitment technology or recruiting technique is designed or used in a way that does just that.

Next time you go to a conference and you find yourself watching either employer case studies or supplier presentations, listen to how many times the presenter talks about actual people. I bet it’s not that frequently. I bet that the focus is on process. I bet that the process holds people at arms length and limits real human interaction. I bet that the short-term numbers look amazing (they have to be great for the deck, right?). But I bet that the way that the people in the process feel about their (potential), employer is sub-optimal. Especially if they don’t get the job, promotion or training they’re looking for. I bet the long-term isn’t half as rosy. I bet retention is a problem.

As employers we’re being spoon-fed ways to unwittingly undermine our recruitment, retention and development efforts, at the expense of crowd-control techniques or impersonal recruitment models.

That’s likely contradictory to your EVP and the service that you’re setting out to deliver to candidates, employees or, as a business person, to your own employer.

Now, in the real world (I hear you say), processes must exist. Time is short. Resource is limited. And yes, you’re correct. You may get tons of applications (like Google does), each month. You may only have a small, function-led talent acquisition approach, like we do at Tonic. You may be the world’s most sizable employer – but unless those processes and technologies you have truly support your people, future, current or past, you’re missing a trick.

I don’t have all the answers for you. How could I? I most likely don’t know you and your exact circumstance. But if you do want to be more like a human and less like a robot, here are some things to consider:

  1. How can you make the way your organisation communicates more personal, more individual?
  2. How could you adapt your recruitment model to humanise rather than automate?
  3. What can you do to adapt the tools you have in place to build a better experience?
  4. Does your app, ATS, RPO etc move you closer to your people – or push them further away?
  5. How could you spend more time listening to what people need rather than telling them what you think they want to hear?
  6. How can you play more of an active role in helping people get, or further, the career they want?
  7. How can you interest people in the purpose of your organisation?
  8. How can you better include people in achieving that purpose?
  9. How can you give people the opportunity to experience your business before they join?
  10. There has to be ten doesn’t there – so, over to you…

This list is not exhaustive – and just some of the considerations we have taken into building our team. I’d love to hear what you’d add.


Tom Chesterton is co-Founder of Tonic, a brand, activation and innovation business that works to bring employers and their people closer together. Find out more about what we do here


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My Favorite Work Perk: Convenient Showers and Changing Rooms

5W Public Relations employees are passionate about their work and their interests. Agency life is busy, and we know how important it is for us all to take a break and pursue the hobbies we love in our free time. We’re so happy to hear that one of our facilities – the showers – has made life so much easier for Marijana G., one of our Consumer executives, who says the office showers have enabled her to make the most of her free time.

Marijana 5W PRTime is something Marijana values and guards closely. As the Associate Vice President of our Food & Beverage Division, her days are jam packed with exciting activities – from time spent in her office developing needle-moving programming to busy hours off-site with clients and media. She thrives on her fast paced days, but time flies and she admittedly wishes she had more.

When we moved into the Helmsley Building, the first thing most of us noticed was the stunning skyline views. Marijana noticed the showers. See, in her personal life she dedicates most of her time to loved ones, travel and sports – including hiking, kayaking, and competing in marathons. Her marathon training schedule used to consist of late night runs from the office to her apartment and detours in between, requiring her to be creative in scheduling everything else in her personal life, from time with friends and family, to dinners, errands and more. To her, the office showers quickly signaled “MORE TIME!” and the luxury of being able to run to the office in the mornings and have an easily accessible place to get ready before the work day kicked off. Life changing, she called it.

Today, Marijana runs daily to/from the office with her trusty backpack full of the day’s clothing and essentials. She’s able to cut out her subway commutes and invest that time into running – a more enjoyable and beneficial experience for her. She starts her days off feeling more energized and accomplished, and feels better prepared for her athletic pursuits. To think, all this because of a couple of office showers.

Brands: How to Effectively Infiltrate Music Festivals

It’s the aroma of fried food and warm beer, getting the perfect picture in the perfect #ootd and getting the ultimate snap of the wild crowd dancing to this year’s biggest radio hit. It’s the era of music festivals, and it’s not slowing down. According to a study conducted by GMR, a whopping 14.7 million millennials attended at least one music festival in 2014. With over 800 music festivals in the U.S. alone today (and a new one was probably just announced as you’re reading this), one can only imagine how the number of festival attendees continues to grow.

Millennials demand authentic, shareable experiences. To garner as much exposure with America’s largest consumer group, brands are infiltrating the music festival industry. As the commercialization of festivals rises, sponsorship spending is on the verge of hitting $1.5 billion—the equivalent of buying 3,000 trips to Mars.

Today, festivals rely on brand sponsorship, and brands rely on festivals for unparalleled fan engagement. With all this partnership, it’s critical to ask, “What does a successful brand-festival relationship look like from the eyes of music fans?” As a 21-year-old self-proclaimed festival expert who has attended over 15 music festivals in the last year alone, to me, these are some of the brands that understand their market.

  • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen: Teaming up with Coca-Cola at Shaky Knees Music Festival, Popeyes launched its summer campaign in the heart of festival season—summertime. With an activation targeting both festivalgoers and chicken lovers (seemingly, there are a lot), the massive Popeyes drumstick pod, known as the Marinating Machine, had festivalgoers literally lined up to experience a world of flavor.
  • Budweiser: Last year at Stagecoach Festival, the iconic beer brand took care of country music fans and beer lovers with its “Country Club”—a three-story, open-air structure that provided a lot of beer, elevated views of the festival and a chance for fans to “live on their own terms.”
  • H&M: Understanding fashion is as important as the music at Coachella, so the trendy and affordable retailer became a massive sponsor and created a West Coast-inspired line of clothing available in stores, at the festival and seen on all its major fashion influencers.
  • Waterloo Records: Austin-based Waterloo Records can be found at some of the biggest festivals like Austin City Limits (ACL), SXSW and Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City because they bring fans what they really want—an intimate opportunity to meet the artists.

Shares, hashtags, selfies and tweets are the currency of the digital age, and these are the brands that get it. Their integrations are thoughtful and meaningful, not plug-and-plays. They combine elevated experiences, pop culture and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to capitalize on millennials’ need to keep sharing moments.

Today’s festival junkies expect impressive brand integrations just as much as they expect good music, because experiences are what make spending hundreds of dollars on a single weekend worth it.

Regaining Public Trust After a Crisis

Before talking about building trust after a crisis, let’s at least mention the need to build trust with your clients and customers on an ongoing basis. Part of that will be in friendly and helpful service and part will be in integrity and honesty. If you have those components going for you, if that crisis (or maybe “when” is better since with social media it’s almost impossible not to meltdown with something or other) comes, those people who have done business with you are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. Or if not, more likely to forgive faster.

Nature of the Crisis

The reason for the crisis will make a difference on how your proceed as well as what to do early on and later. If the crisis is something like Volkswagen or Wells Fargo have recently faced, then the efforts will need to be long range and extensive. When people find you’ve been grossly dishonest with them and all for your greed in their perception, you’ll end up crawling back inch by inch. Once trust has been violated, it’s always more difficult to gain it back.

If the crisis is something like your airline employees dragging someone out of his seat and off the flight because of a company policy. That is bad, but issuing an apology and making a change in policy may be enough to fix most of the damage. After that, increasing customer service ideas and implementing those should eventually get you back in good grace.

What Else?

Refocus some of the efforts from the company and employees. Find a charity or group of them that you can get behind and get the PR out on those actions. Consider a new value statement for your company that emphasizes something more than profit. Make it about helping customers or making the world (or your state or city) a better place and then set actions in motion to accomplish that end. Get rid of policies and people that stand in the way of making things better. Start apologizing with a solution tacked on at the end. “We’re sorry this happened, but now we can offer you XYZ.”

Put in ethics training courses, and make sure all of this starts with commitment and follow through from the top down, not from the down and moving upward. If you do it the wrong direction, it’s unlikely you’ll turn things around in time.

Don’t forget to ask for people to share their positive experiences they’ve had with your company. Word of mouth and social media can be the best referrals and ads you’ll ever receive

Friday Reading #97

Summer time is starting to descend on Corinthian House this week, well paired with the smell of bacon wafting across the terrace to sooth sore heads this morning. It’s all in the name of charity, raising funds to help our good friends at The Alzheimer’s Society. Adding to the charitable good natured fun, some Goodstuffers have started a photo challenge to help raise awareness of our other favourite cause, SWAN UK. Simply post a picture of you as a child with the hashtag #SWANphotochallenge, asking five friends to do the same, and donate £3 to our Just Giving page. Seeing the cherubic baby faces of your friends can’t help but make you think about the 6,000 equally lovely kids who are born each year with sydromes so rare they are often impossible to diagnose.


I don’t know about you, but I was partial to a sneaky power
nap during double maths on a Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately for children in
the future, it’s going to get more difficult to have a cheeky siesta once
teachers start using facial
to find out whether students are actually listening while they
talk about long division. AI is currently being developed and tested in France
that can identify whether or not students are paying attention by using
software to examine eye movements and facial expressions. The software is
currently being used to build patterns which can then predict when students are
more likely to lose focus, and thus may be able to notify them. Facial
recognition is increasingly being put to use for security purposes so it’s
interesting to see it used in the field of education.


Imagine a world where your drunken 3am tweets, @’ing your
least favourite politician to demand a better healthcare system (and a greasy
kebab) could prevent you from going to the USA. Imagine a world where the
American Dream is just a distant memory because you once tweeted TFL
complaining about the ridiculous delay in the unbelievable heat
which made you late for your in-laws dinner-party. Well yes, it’s happening.

Donald Trump has requested that anyone seeking a visa to
travel to the USA must provide 5 years of social media handles, along with 15
years of biographical information as well as previous telephone numbers and
email addresses.

Whilst critics have argued that this will ‘lead to long
delays in [visa] processing’, supporters of the new requirement believe that
social media can supply important information about possible terrorist
networks, and help keep dangerous individuals out of the country.

What about a piece of technology which has the potential to make it less likely you’ll make it through the new US border laws? Snapchat spectacles, the lighthearted party cousin to the sci-fi Google Glass, is finally going on sale in the UK. For the bargain price of £129, you too can record 10 second clips of first person circular video through disco coloured sunglasses. The innovative circular video format is designed for mobile, so it can be viewed in both portrait and landscape orientations in full screen.

It’s on sale now through the boring old website, but also through Snapbot vending machines which are popping up all over the country in locations which change every day.  


Microsoft are
attempting to turn the internet upside-down, ‘paying’ users to use Bing rather
than other more generally favoured search engines. Thousands of searches are completed
every second, with a whopping 86% being made on Google. First launched in 2016 in
the US, the incentives scheme is a rewards program for using Microsoft’s
which launched on Wednesday in the UK. Collect points by searching on
Bing or purchasing an item from the Microsoft Store and exchange the points for
items… simple! And we thought reward schemes were limited to coffee shops.

No I don’t know what they were thinking either, look at that girl in the middle, she can definitely peek past the paper blinkers. But let’s not get too hung up on the reference image, the real story is an interesting new piece from former PHD planning director and remarkably square jawed media thinker David Wilding for Campaign. He points out the limitations of a media measurement world blinkered to coverage and frequency – a system which ignores the texture and quality of a plan, and sells creativity short. There’s no simple solution, but some smart points on how we can think more expansively about the way a plan is evaluated in four core areas: ideas, impact, mindset and context.