The Programmatic World of Panini World Cup Stickers

“How is collecting and swapping Panini World Cup stickers a bit like the programmatic buying and selling of advertising?” asked no one, ever. Until this week, apparently, when a colleague and I were having our weekly client meeting/sticker swap session and we realized that, actually, there were some clear similarities between managing a programmatic ad buy and completing the 640-sticker album.

The more we delved into the analogy, the more excited we became and realized that the crossover between these worlds was significant enough to warrant it being brought immediately to the attention of everyone! Or at least to those who work in programmatic advertising and collect football stickers, which are, admittedly, two pretty niche areas of interest…


Image from: footballstickipedia


Ad Creative aka The Stickers

In the programmatic world of World Cup Stickers, the stickers represent the ads, or the creative, that is pushed out into the ecosystem to be served on publisher inventory. Some stickers are rarer than others and worth more to the publisher. As in the ad world, there is a spectrum of ad campaigns ranging from low quality, text-based ads from budget advertisers (equivalent to, say, Honduran defender Juan Pablo Montes) through to the premium, rich-media campaigns for luxury brands (Brazil shiny!)

As any hardened sticker collector will know, this is not just about sticking a bit of sticky paper in a book. The satisfaction comes from sticking a specific sticker, identified by its unique sticker number and player name, in its rightful slot on the page (I have heartbreakingly managed to stick the two Japanese defenders with the surname Sakai, who just happen to be next to each other on the page, in the wrong place!). The number and player name which distinguishes one sticker from another is much like the data that gets layered in to programmatic ad buys, ensuring that the ad creative served is relevant to the audience that sees the ad impression.

Publisher Inventory aka The Sticker Album

The sticker album represents the publisher’s inventory, and the 640 spaces for stickers are individual ad slots/impressions that need filling with ads (stickers). Some inventory is worth more than others, and similarly in the sticker world premium slots are only able to be filled by premium stickers.

Adserver/SSP aka The Collector

The person collecting the stickers and sticking them in the album is the adserver.  Just as the adserver delivers an ad in to the available publisher inventory, the collector pairs the right sticker with the relevant sticker slot.

Advertiser/Agency aka Panini

In this market, Panini is the only advertiser with the ads (stickers) that can fill the available inventory (sticker album).

Agency Trading Desks/ DSPs aka Newsagents etc

Working on behalf of Panini, newsagents and supermarkets control the flow of demand for the ad campaigns (stickers) in to the market at a fixed price, like an ATD or DSP sending ads to the SSPs who have inventory to fill. In the sticker world, the collectors trade directly with newsagents/supermarkets to source the stickers they need to fill their album.

Ad Exchange aka ‘swapsies’

Another source of demand for the collectors is to swap stickers they no longer need with ones they do in order to fill their album. In the programmatic ad world, ads are traded and arbitraged between different SSPs to ensure inventory gets filled. Sticker collectors can trade on the “open market” i.e. in the playground with multiple traders (think “got, got, need!”), or through “private direct deals” between two parties. Be warned though, as with the ad exchanges, you can expect to pay a higher price for a sticker that you need to fill your album, especially when there’s only a few ad slots left to fill.


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