LONDON — Media people are talking a lot about “barbells” – Tim Armstrong’s metaphor for an advertising world that is coalescing around the seemingly polar forms of sponsored content on the one hand and data-driven display sales on the other.

But one ad exec reckons those opposite ends aren’t as distinct as the metaphor suggests.

“Media are polarising around two extremes – the programmatic piece and creatively-driven stuff on the other side,” says Caspar Schlickum, EMEA CEO of Group M’s data targeting unit Xaxis. “Those two things are very complementary. “The ‘pole’ that connects them has to be extremely strong. I don’t see the two as being contradictory at all.”

Schlickum says many advertisers are buying both sponsored content and programmatically-driven inventory, data from both of which can inform the other.

We spoke with him at the FT Digital Media Conference. To view all our coverage of the conference,  visit this page.