It’s been several months since the COVID-19 virus has pushed a large percentage of the global population to stay-at-home which has caused massive shifts in consumer behavior and media consumption. During these unprecedented times, we offer our publishing partners key insights from the buy-side.

In this edition of our Insights from the Buy-Side blog series, Sean Reardon joins TheXchange blog to provide his perspective on the state of programmatic.

Sean Reardon
US - CEO at MiQ

Sean Reardon is the US CEO at MiQ, a programmatic partner for brands and agencies. He typically flies 100+ times a year, but his travel has stopped giving him a lot more time on his hands. While a vast majority of his time goes towards MiQ endeavors, he’s been spending significantly more time with his family - helping his daughter stay on top of her homework, working their way through The Avengers movies and picking up new hobbies like (wait for it)…puzzles! He’s also sticking to a consistent Peloton curriculum which has been a great mental and physical outlet.

OpenX: How has COVID impacted your overall business? Have any verticals been more impacted than others?

Sean Reardon: We’ve been quite fortunate. Our business has remained quite strong over the last two months and I’ve seen enough signals to maintain a cautious optimism for what lies ahead. Granted, we are likely the beneficiary of being a proven programmatic partner who thrives in providing outcome-based results for clients. There was a strong demand for our services leading into the COVID era and as dollars are pressed to work harder in a harsher economic climate, we are seeing demand hold.

Not surprisingly, we’re seeing some categories and clients feel the business impact of COVID more so than others – companies in Auto, Restaurant and Travel industries in particular. With that being said, we’ve also seen increases in activity from numerous clients and signs of life are already showing in some of the categories that were most impacted. I can’t help but hope that the resilience we’ve observed for ourselves and for many of our clients will translate more broadly across the marketing industry. Not all is doom and gloom from my perspective.

OpenX: How are you as a company navigating through the current economic climate?

Sean Reardon: We took pretty decisive action to provide our employees with as much certainty as possible during a time of tremendous uncertainty. Under a framework aptly titled “Project Unity,” we actioned a game plan that aligned all regions under a global P/L, introduced a framework to reduce fluid costs like event marketing, travel & entertainment, placed priority on mental wellness for our employees and committed that we would not institute redundancies in any capacity for the foreseeable future.

While Project Unity provides a roadmap all the way into Q4, we provide weekly updates to the organization through the lens of a MOBILIZE-ENABLE-PREPARE-COMMUNICATE construct to ensure we are overtly transparent and communicative. This approach has been well received.

The agility we’ve demonstrated through Project Unity and the positive response we’ve seen from our employees are something I’m quite proud to be a part of. I believe we’ve navigated the current climate in exemplary fashion, and I believe this will aid MiQ in both the short and long term ahead.

OpenX: What do you predict to be the new normal for companies and when will you get there?

Sean Reardon: I think you will see a new energy put towards partnerships from agencies and clients directly. There will undoubtedly be some who aim for the future in isolation and merger and acquisition strategies will be maintained on some level to enable this approach. But, given the economics of the world and the increasing complexities of the programmatic space, I believe demand for joint ventures, business alignments and partnerships in all its forms will be on the rise. Binary views on managed service vs self-service oversimplify the complexity of the programmatic ecosystem. The shades of gray that lie between will be hard to cover without help and there are paths other than M&A that will be explored to find that help.

I also believe working-from-home and working-in-office ratios will come into much greater balance. We’re already uncovering unexpected benefits of work-from-home scenarios. While I don’t believe we’ve seen the end of offices as we know them, the degree to which we spend our time in an office versus working remotely will surely evolve. I also suspect “road warrior” tendencies will diminish as a sought-after quality during the hiring process as we go more virtual. 

On a related note, I think (and hope) that there will be a much greater tolerance for long-distance employment without excessive travel requirements. However, I’m not suggesting we all move to Bali or Hawaii if it suits us. There are benefits to same-time-zone team building and proximity to office cultures that will always ring true. What I’m suggesting is that we might be able to look beyond some of the typical geographic borders to find the next generations of talent and/or we might be able to attract great talents to an organization in scenarios where geography may have once been a barrier.

If this hypothesis holds up, we should see a much greater diversity in hiring candidates resulting in more diversity around how we think as an industry in the long haul. I would consider this a very good thing.

OpenX: Has COVID made you rethink what you look for in technology and publisher partners?

Sean Reardon: Honestly, COVID doesn’t really change what we look for from our partners. We want a commitment to partnership built on a foundation of trust from companies that see the opportunities ahead with the same enthusiasm we do.

In terms of specific technologies and publishers, our approach is increasingly “omni”: we’re committed to developing relationships across the expanding canvas of programmatic supply – video, audio, digital out-of-home, shopper TV. We anticipate 80-90% of all advertising will be programmatic in the next 5 years. That’s what we are preparing for and the partners that position us best in this pursuit will be at the top of our list.

Interestingly, the speed with which we’re moving into new formats has accelerated in a COVID era – we’re finding a ton of value in partners who are moving along the same journey and can do so with the same pace and agility we maintain.

OpenX: What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown is over?

Sean Reardon: Live music, going to see movies in the theater with my daughter and an iced honey badger from Gregory’s coffee.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation with Sean Reardon from MiQ. Stay tuned for our next Insights from the Buy-Side blog post.