VIEQUES, PR — It’s arguably five years since real-time ad buying went mainstream.

At the start, ad agencies tended to concentrate their programmatic specialism in distinct corporate units, run as a service for sibling departments.

But, as the techniques have gained adoption, some have been tempted to make the function available across the group. Case in point: last year, Publicis’ VivaKi unit moved from a centralized offering to threading the discipline throughout sibling agency departments.

So, are we about to see programmatic go large, by disappearing as a separate off-shoot? The man who led VivaKi’s reorganisation advises caution.

Mac Delaney, formerly the programmatic head at Publicis’ SMG and now programmatic head at performance marketing agency Merkle, says: “The assumption is that this is a skillset, like ‘digital’, that can be decentralised quickly. The reality is that no one stack can do it all, you have multiple layers of complexity.”

Delaney says agencies have been “centralising in order to refine the skill set”, and says: “You need to have a concentrated team that can refine best-in-class processes and realise ‘we’ve got to move slowly’. Don’t decentralise all at once.”

According to a two-year-old Digiday write-up of Delaney’s thoughts on decentralisation, the practice is preferable from a client perspective but: “It will be ‘years, not quarters’, before agency teams are able to effectively use programmatic planning and forecasting tools to implement, optimize, analyze and report campaigns without error.”

Delaney says an added challenge comes from the fact that many of the staff required by programmatic technology, decentralised or not, are attracted to top tech firms – and perks.

“That team of experts represents the future employees of Google, Twitter and Facebook,” he says. “When they leave, they’re going to get equity and a bonus they can bank on.”

This video was produced at the Beet.TV executive retreat presented by Videology.  You can find more videos from the session here.