It doesn’t take an account strategist, creative or client Brand manager long to discover that Media buying has joined the influx of industries going through a “rapid state of constant change”. I was recently reading a media brief where a salesman was trying to explain to me that his practice had the best media solution around because of “indexing demographics of subscribers against data sets that are cross platform based on purchase history?” WTH? And herein lies the issue. Transparency, baby! In the words of Association of National Advertising, Bob Liodice, “when there is mystery, there is Margin”.

Furthermore, some have estimated highway robbery, claiming that in some programmatic environments only 30 cents is going to the media publisher. Really, only 30 cents? And what has the IAB done about this wretched commandeering of client dollars? They write a manifesto that no-one seems to be reading.

So with these “rapid changes”, let me help reality set in: I’ve been purchasing online and traditional media programmatically for nearly a decade (you know Google has been in the programmatic game nearly 15 years, this isn’t new), and its only in the past few years (even months) that these “big data” players have really made a apparent slam-dunk. I get more sales calls from technology companies trying to sell me media than media publishers. And like my mom said, when its too good to be true, it likely is. Maybe the account director was too hung-over, stood up and forgot to ask the most basic question, “So, where is my budget going?” Maybe not.

At Thought House, I like to take a very different approach to media planning and buying. I’ll use an acronym for you corporate marketing folks. It’s: CIA

Collaborate. Integrate. Automate.

…And use all the intel you can to Innovate.

A few questions before I go into my method:

  1. Do we buy programmatically? Yes.
  2. Do we also buy traditional and traditional digital? Yes, of course.
  3. Do we buy direct? Every time if we can.
  4. Do we understand how some DSP and SSP steal from clients? Yes
  5. Do we allow them to take our clients dollars for “technology”? No.
  6. Are there shady media agencies that steal client dollars and run on garbage sites? Yes.
  7. What’s the best way to programmatically buy? Well that my friend, is why I should be your buyer.


Collaboration is more than early flights, late-night dinner parties, last minute strategic shared Google doc revisions and webinars where we confuse the other departments—it begins with transparently hooking our systems up together…. well, it really begins by buying into our Brand approach of D.I.P.B.E, but that’s our Brand side. Yes, we are customer centric and by the time you find me, my team and I know about your customer and have the courage to improve upon it.

Our goal with collaborating is so that the agency and client departments see the same data, transparently. “If you can’t see it, neither can we” is a best-practice approach for today’s agency-client relationship. Bury the proprietary thing. Its dead and smells of corruption.


Its not, “takes three months and costs $10K budget integration”, just third party integration from our development team and yours, where agency and client get to see the same thing. Its fun to play together. For most, this means Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. For some, it can mean a whole lot more. Once data sets are hooked up and talking to each other,  you can take the agency data and shape it to your corporate reports.

Syncing these channels is key because we can begin accessing new data provided by Google. We like to say, “integrating systems will reduce the frustrating “not set” or “not provided” report you get from Google every month.


Once channels are syncing (I mean every every publisher, campaign message, offer, URL, and conversion funnel, Google (and many other great reporting tools), allow you to automate. If you hear another person complain, internally or externally that the marketing report takes two weeks and therefore only can happen once a month, let them know you know a magic wizard named Bastien. Have them Google: “Magic Wizard named Bastien”.

Reality is, if you collaborate upfront effectively, integrate your channels and funnels appropriately running a report takes a whole 2 seconds. Now interpreting that report …….takes time, knowledge, energy and courage to have the guts to tell the client what they need, not want to hear.


I’ve heard of these “innovation” conferences, where smart people get together and come up with big ideas. How’s that going for ya’ll? I innovate by collaborating with internal and external partners and getting the first three steps right. And for the business development teams who have the latest and greatest, please know I will ask you the basic question, “so where are my clients dollars going?”.

Jason Knill is the co-founder and CEO at Thought House, a San Diego based research, creative and advertising agency. Thought House opened to be a guide, bringing our curiosity and rigor for excellence to generate insights that inspire customers as they discover, interact, build, purchase and enjoy life.

By way of customer research, creative services, technology development, data analysis, media planning and buying, and content production – we help navigate the ever-changing world.

Specialties: Sharing really great information to my industry peers, making birdies on really tough par 4's and easy par 5's, exploring the realms of content creation and distribution, making my clients laugh, enjoying our new office at Old City Hall in Historic Gaslamp with our wonderful team of fearless minds.


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