EA Ups Its Game in Programmatic

January 19, 2017

By Ken Beaulieu

As director of global media activation at Electronic Arts (EA), a developer, marketer, publisher, and distributor of video games, Belinda Smith directs the media strategy and activation for the company’s console and PC titles. We caught up with Smith, who will speak at the ANA Media Conference, March 1–3 in Orlando, Fla., to learn about the company’s progression with programmatic ad buying.



Q. EA recently moved to programmatic ad buying in real-time to streamline its media-buying operations. Please share some of the lessons learned.
A. It’s been a number of years since we began investing significantly in programmatic and bringing the core programmatic buying functions in-house, but the key lesson we’ve learned is that fostering in-house buying expertise and running a relevant media-buying team is a continuous process of learning and shifting to adapt to a media landscape that changes so quickly. Certainly, we’re more agile and data-driven than ever, both in data usage and in data visibility, and we have an internal media-buying team whose members know EA-specific challenges and priorities better than anyone. We can very quickly map new opportunities in the marketplace with what’s important for us internally, and the flow of frontline feedback and information with other internal teams is obstacle-free.

Q. What are some of the challenges of programmatic that, perhaps, you didn’t foresee?
A. One challenge that we didn’t foresee when we first dove in was the importance of not only having channel or platform expertise, but also having territory expertise to meet our very global needs. As user behavior patterns and technology usage differ across continents and countries, the natural progression for us, as a North America-based company, has been to acknowledge these differences structurally and better support the core knowledge sets and expertise we hope to expand across the organization.

Q. You leverage the collective strength of internal and external agency teams. How have you made it work to the benefit of both sides and cultivated a relationship built on mutual trust?
A. What’s been important for us has been to make expectations clear on both sides from the beginning of our agency relationship — this might mean crafting incentives in a way that motivates teams to do good, collaborative work — because I do realize it can be challenging to a relationship when a change is unforeseen. I also have to credit our agency Starcom with partnering with us on our programmatic journey from the get-go, and understanding the long-term strategic role of an agency when partnering with a company like EA, as player-centric and data-driven as we pride ourselves to be.

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