Thought Leadership
Sometimes boutique is better: A Regional Agency and Programmatic Advertising


John Drake
Vice President, Brand Planning
Drake Cooper

John Drake has worked in advertising and marketing for 19 years. He currently serves as Vice President, Brand Planning at Drake Cooper where he leads all brand strategy for the agency’s clients. Named one of Outside magazine’s national “Best Places to Work” four years running, Drake Cooper is an advertising and digital agency that practices its own form of strategic development called Campaign Planning.

John has previously worked at WONGDOODY and Deutsch LA. His clients have included Baskin-Robbins, DIRECTV, Tillamook Cheese, Carl’s Jr. and Nestlé.


How does being the largest advertising agency in Idaho, with a great Pacific Northwest regional presence, affect the way you view media buying?

We have to carry an extra focus on precise geographical targeting. We have clients who only target consumers in certain states, select cities or even limited zip code areas. And this need still gets combined with finding the right lifestyles and behaviors. When you’re buying nationally there are lot of options. But when you need to really confine your spending to highly focused areas, you need think very critically, and creatively, about the media options you choose. 


Would you say there are things that you do differently, than say an agency that primarily does national media buying? What are the strengths of having a strong physical local presence?

It’s very easy for us to combine media teams and creative teams. This benefits clients because these teams are briefed together, their work sessions are together, and our client presentations are integrated. When you’re a national media buying agency having that type of relationship with creative teams is extremely difficult to do. And when these departments aren’t tied together there are inefficiencies and missed opportunities. 


A lot of people have very different definitions of programmatic media buying, how would you define it personally?

Advertising that has less waste because it’s individually selected for each person. 


What are some ways in which you leverage the efficiency and scale that programmatic offers within your agency?

The ability to custom-blend audiences with programmatic is a big opportunity. The combinations of demographics and lifestyle behaviors are endless and they can be tested against each other. This is where we look for creativity with our programmatic teams. We affectionately refer to this way of creating audiences as turquoise audiences: take a little bit of blue, take a little bit of green, etc., and then find wonderful mixes of relevant audiences for the brand. 


Do you feel that programmatic has changed any of the ways you do direct buys with publishers/networks, and, as programmatic evolves, do you think personal relationships will become less and less important?

I think they’ve become more important. Programmatic is great, but having a unique and tailored brand presence on notable publisher sites remains an excellent opportunity. Programmatic enables a brand to see what’s working strongest. Then we can take that learning, approach the right publishers, and work to create a brand experience that is even more relevant to their audience with regard to our brand. We seek to have direct-to-publisher components on our buys. There may be a way for this to become more programmatic someday, but for things like this, and native, that person-to-person dialog really helps to create something unique and relevant for each publisher. 


What are your thoughts on programmatic video? What are the differences you’ve seen between programmatic video buys and direct in-stream video buys from publishers?

It competes. We’ve found success in both and will continue to use both. 


Do you think that the scale and efficiency that programmatic provides, outweighs the potential concerns about transparency, viewability, and lack of premium inventory?

No. Programmatic can be achieved at very efficient costs for a brand but the industry still needs to address these concerns. We’re at a very early stage with programmatic and I’m hopeful that the industry can increasingly do better here. 


What are your recommendations for a smaller, or boutique agency to best leverage programmatic?

Find a way to bring programmatic capabilities in-house. Having that data and insight instantly available is extremely beneficial because it can immediately inform creative and media choices. Whether that’s during campaign creation or refinement, not having to wait on data, and to be able to parse it however you need right then, is helpful.


How do you see programmatic evolving over the next 5-10 years? Do you see most boutique, regional, or smaller agencies/media buyers adopting it as a primary tactic?

We’ve combined programmatic with Account Planning as much as we have with Media. As the data gets better, audiences become more precise, and the industry gets a stronger hand on viewablity challenges, I see programmatic becoming an important tool to developing messaging strategy. So perhaps in 5 – 10 years it’s more than a media tactic and can evolve to become an helpful resource for brand strategy development and brand management



Drake Cooper is an advertising agency that’s for the ambitious. Offering design, advertising, digital and media buying services, the agency has been named one of Outside magazine’s national “Best Places to Work” three years running and is one of the most creatively-awarded agencies in the northwest.

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