top of page
  • Writer's pictureGenevieve Braine

Should a ‘digital’ team still exist in 2021?

by Genevieve Braine, Client Partner at TPA Digital

Within digital, programmatic as a way of buying media has been on the rise YoY since its inception, with programmatic digital display ad spend up nearly 20% from 2019-20, and over 80% of display traded programmatically in 2020. Programmatic was traditionally used to buy digital display and, more recently, video. However, other areas utilising programmatic are on the rise, such as connected TV, programmatic audio and digital out-of-home (DOOH). Alongside the biggest change in how media is bought, there is also potentially a big shift in how teams need to be setup either internally or at agencies.

Marketing teams are changing, technology is filtering into every aspect of the team, the advances in technology and data are starting to encompass the channels that the traditional marketing teams would usually look after; TV, radio and OOH. Historically, teams may have been setup to manage certain channels individually; with a brand team (or agency), looking after TV, radio and OOH, and a digital team (or agency) that looks after each of the channels from PPC through to programmatic. The point is that, with digital and traditional media channels usually siloed, with the rise of channels such as Connected TV, Programmatic Audio and DOOH, who should own these? The shift in technology challenges how these two teams might work together within a merging medium; digital teams because the media is bought programmatically and traditional teams because they understand audio or TV best. Should a ‘digital’ team still exist? Does budget allocation need to become more fluid? Each business is different, but in this blog, we’ll explore what is changing and what brands may need to consider.

What is driving this change?

Programmatic has come a long way from where it started, allowing brands to overlay data to enrich the audience, through to buying ads via header bidding to reach better placements. Some of the mainstream DSPs have added these new channels to their platforms (CTV, programmatic audio and DOOH), bringing nearly the whole media plan into one place, providing a clearer holistic view of the customer journey.

Connected TV

Connected TV is one of the fastest-growing channels with 35% of media buyers expected to increase their ad spend on CTV in 2021. Particularly given the shift in consumers from traditional TV to watching TV online, connected TV allows advertisers to be more precise with the use of IDs and still maintaining the reach of TV.

Programmatic Audio

With the changes in how we consume audio, from listening to radio on our smart speakers, through to Spotify, advertising through this medium was inevitably going to go through some form of change. Previously, audio was one message to the masses. However, programmatic audio allows advertisers to tailor advertising to interests, geo and demographics, depending on the data available.

DOOH (Digital Out of Home)

DOOH still has to go through some growth as billboards are replaced and become digitised. However, available inventory has grown and, a medium that previously took a long time to execute can be done in a fraction of the time. Messaging can be tailored based on location, time of day or weather, moving from the one message to the masses to tailoring it using a variety of data sources.

What might you need to consider in the future?

Every business is structured differently, some manage activity in-house exclusively, some use entirely agencies and some are a hybrid in-between. How teams should be setup to best address the changing landscape is a complex challenge and each business is unique in how they might approach it. Traditional media isn’t going away. Therefore, a marketing plan needs to encompass all channels, reaching audiences in a range of different mediums. However, there should not be a dismissal of new channels. Are you missing opportunities to be more efficient and shift spend to CTV because you aren’t sure where it should sit within the team?  Food for thought, but there are some key considerations;


Businesses need to become more customer-centric, breaking down the silos between the marketing channels, aligning the focus across the whole funnel. The customer needs to interact with the brand, from TV through to the display ads, and feel like they are receiving the same message and tone. The customer sees a brand and not different marketing channels. If you want to raise awareness and evoke emotion, why does it need to be broken down into whether this is bought traditionally or digitally? The answer should be which channel will deliver the message to the consumer in the best way, focusing on the consumer, not whether it is bought traditionally or programmatically.

Sharing Internally, Breaking Down Silos

Leading closely on from the point above, sharing and communicating information across the marketing teams is important. As teams have built up, digital teams have been added to the business structure and are working in a silo. Teams may be creating content and advertising for their channels in silos, but by sharing it may become apparent that TV advertising can be adapted for CTV, for example, so that it all feels a little more seamless. There are of course limitations to this, but there are some big wins for sharing knowledge across teams where strengths are in different areas.

Tech & Data

Technology and data are leading the way with the rise of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple etc with 80% of media spend going towards these platforms due to the data they have available and how they can target consumers. Many brands are sitting on high levels of data, which are going to become even more important as the changes in the cookie impact how we currently target consumers. Marketing teams will need to build closer relationships with their audience and analytics teams, as data filters into all elements of media, to identify, create, measure, analyse and optimise towards the audiences to be used in any of their marketing channels.


Media plans have changed over the last few years, and nearly all briefs are likely to include a digital element. Specialists are still needed as no one is expected to be a jack-of-all-trades, but understanding how the other channels work is beneficial. All channels will likely have a digital component in the future, so it’s vital to keep all teams well-trained. Traditional marketing roles aren’t going away, they are just adapting and evolving and that includes training on the new technologies to make their channels even more powerful than they were before.

Marketing transformation is a continuous process and there are many nuances on how different marketing teams are setup, but what is clear is that traditional and digital media are merging more than ever before. None of us knows how technology is going to adapt to the work we do in the future. However, keeping teams educated and agile allows the business to continue to tackle any of the changes ahead.

Talk to us about your teams and how this might change to align with your goals for 2021 and beyond.

bottom of page