Will media owners and tech vendors be scrutinised by procurement?

25-30 Billion dollars of spend up for pitch. The whole industry is alive with comment on it. What does it mean for the agencies, who is up to lose the most and so on. The reason for it has been unclear, could it be digital capabilities, transparency, a stagnant commercial marketplace meaning advertisers have to extract more from their business, there have been many suggestions. Perhaps it is a simple as no one wanting to miss out.

All that said, the blog is not about that topic per se, more what impact all of this is having on the whole industry. There has not been too much of a knock on effect to the world of technology, technology that is now powering so much of the agency media landscape. Across the whole landscape deals have been done, tech fees agreed and contracts signed. The tech companies and tech/media companies are sitting back and watching this all play out with little impact to them, at least for now. But how long can that continue?

As all these pitches play out one thing is for sure, media fees will have reduced across the board, one way or another. Not to say that with increased billings they can’t find other offerings and models to make it up but at a media level, they will be squeezed. So those fees are reduced but the tech fees remain the same. The managed services and RTB networks and even one could argue Facebook and Google margins remain solid and published. So at what point does the advertiser start to turn their attention to those parties?

If the squeeze continues then how can an advertiser be happy that Criteo and Rocketfuel are taking 50+ of their IO and turning it into revenue for themselves (published numbers). Is the only answer to that ‘they are not an agency of record?’ If you can squeeze a percentage point out of an agency, how about 10 from the people your dollars eventually end up with? The topics of taking it house and aggressive sales tactics direct to advertisers such as Tubemogul and others also means that they are trying to take the role of the agency and so would surely have to make sure that their every transaction, their every margin on data and tech be revealed.

I think we are entering interesting times and auditors and procurement are going to run out of room on the agency approach, something has to give. In my eyes their valuable media dollars being passed to tech and inventory players will have to come under scrutiny a lot more than today, and if you want to be the partner that dis-intermediates the agency then you will have to answer to the same scrutiny an agency does, not just commercial but standards of protection, payment terms and all the other lovely stuff that goes with it. But first lets start with the 50% of the advertisers dollars that don’t make it into media.

Stunned by Microsoft Hololens : Future in our hands.

Over the years I have been asked to join a number of client advisory boards for a multitude of companies. Today I was with Microsoft, I was expecting to be discussing data and tech and some of the hot topics of programmatic. However there was an agenda item I was certainly looking forward to. Hololens.
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The whole Virtual reality, hologram excitement had passed me by to date. Oculus was gaming with a motorcycle goggles on and although not correctly in the same camp, Google Glass was just a let down. That said I am a techy at heart and so was keen to see what it could do.
I was left absolutely gob smacked, I think the room was and even more so when we found out that everything I was seeing was actually real, not mocked, real. I know I was not the only one who left that room thinking that we had just seen the future, a future that changes everything and I am talking about how we see, think, learn, and do. I will come back to marketing later but first let me try and explain it.
You slip on the goggles with visor that gives you a big visual canvas but still allows you the opportunity to look down and out the sides, giving you a sense of stability and less motion sickness. Once you put on goggles they take in your surroundings and you can start to create a VR world layered upon yours. There were so many highlights – check the video here, but let me list a few of the simpler ones!
  • Watching – open the Netflix App and turn it into a 40″ viewing experience or a cinema experience on your wall – or at least that’s the impression you get.
  • Communicating – take Skype app and have it float in mid air, following you as you walk and chat simultaneously or just there as you sit.
  • Educational – Need to change that fuse but don’t know how? Get your dad to dial in via his tablet on Skype. He sees what you see and can annotate and point right in front of your eyes so it looks like he is actually circling the wire, he can show you exactly what to do.
  • Schooling – your son needs to understand the body? Well have him see a life size body being stripped to bones / organs and more in a non gruesome way and see how the body functions.
  • Gaming – let’s face it Warcraft gets dull in the same old environments, turn your house into the playground, right up to knocking huge holes in your walls to reveal another universe the other side.

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What I love about this tech is that you can pin Apps to locations – so when you put the glasses on, if you want to have the Netflix app always on the same wall – it will be there just like your big TV screen. If you want the weather and your to do list on the fridge door, so be it. Alternatively if you want them to follow you around, it can do that too. You create another parallel world that appears every time you put on the glasses.
Don’t you have to wear those crazy glasses all the time? Well yes you do but first expect to see the tech get smaller and smaller and secondly imagine at least to start with that they will be used in a task led way. Watch something, talk to someone, demonstrate something, I could see it working. As the apps that are created grow I can see this being something that truly changes our world and from an educational, human support perspective very much for the better. Some have made comparisons with Google Glass but they wanted you to walk the streets with Glass, these are more for home and office which makes the act more manageable.
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Of course in our business we have to answer the big question of what it means for marketeers. The first thing I thought was that this was another topic to add to my blog ‘the death of advertising.’ When asked by Microsoft about advertising I think we were all suddenly shocked to find that we did not want to think about it, it was too blunt in this environment. As we chatted though we started to realise that the role of marketing is to provide experiences not Ads. We have talked about this theme for some time but this was the opportunity. Live chat customer service turns into holographic walk through of what to do, car configuration is life size in your room, hotel reviews include walking into the room to see it and so on. What it is not is Blade Runner esq Ads talking at you from every angle when you put the goggles on.
The overall sentiment was that we as an industry have an obligation to protect this new world and enhance our marketing opportunities rather than ruin the Hololens experience. We also get that the data generated by such a system will mean an even deeper lense into how we behave and consider purchases and again we need to have the utmost respect for that data and privacy. As this whole system will be on the Windows 10 platform it will also connect with all your other Microsoft activities and be just another ‘screen’ meaning further data connectivity.
Be clear though, in this session we saw the future in our hands today, scary, amazing but bringing a world of opportunity and I think for the first time Microsoft just made the others look ordinary.

Powerful internet fraud – Moneyexpert360 & Swoggi

It is not often that I write about consumer issues but I came across a lovely little scam the other day that took some money off me, luckily I worked it out before it was too much but it left me amazed that these businesses still exist and are not challenged by trading standards or Action Fraud. The story starts with a fake site called http://www.moneyexpert360.com where one of the writers talks about this amazing site called http://www.swoggi.com or http://www.swoggi.co.uk where you can bid for ipods and ipads etc and win at very low pricing. It does of course look too good to be true but at the same time professional and backed by Moneyexperts360 who of coursed ripped off the moneyexpert url.

So basically the site encourages you to bid but every bid will cost you 50p. The other clever feature is that the auction runs one penny at a time. So imagine trying to get to a £150 ipad – do the maths and consumers pay http://www.swoggi.co.uk thousands to get that ipad. The final twist is that people get bored of doing that and so employ the bidrobot to do the bidding for you and you set how many bids you want to do – all without realising that you are paying 50p a click.

The one line of explanation is hidden in reams of writing and frankly its hard to find and understand. Nowhere obvious does it state that you are paying with every bid, they know what they are doing and it is mis representation and as good as fraud.

Please share this blog, retweet the tweet and do anything you can to help shut down this scam site – if any of you are journos then please spread the word with your huge followers and lets stop these sites thrive on ignorance.

Digital foot print of parents

It struck me the other day as I posted an image of my wife and I plus friends on a no kid ski trip and the comments that came after that we are actually saying a lot about us as parents and revealing so many thoughts that would have disappeared into the sky in our day. We have all done it and seen it! ‘YES! weekend away without the kids!’ ‘Finally they are in bed’ ‘they have been little shits today’ and so on, you get it.

Now we all know that we don’t say anything with any malice but at the same time if you were to go back and read some of it, maybe it would strike a nerve. I know if I was posting about my wife, ‘thank god I am going to get away from her for a few days’ I may come in for some problems at home! So what is the difference and will they understand? Will kids understand for the first time just how much pleasure we got from ‘us/me time?’ All those photos from glamorous locations that some friends I know who travel a lot for work (not me of course), will they understand that you were actually working and not playing instead of being with them at home.

We are all creating a digital footprint, not just the teenagers we so often talk about when it comes to this subject, our lives are there for ever splashed across the various platforms – I wonder what other people will see in them when they look back. I hope for all our sakes that actually our children will see just how much we loved them, took them places, photographed them and showed them off with pride because they are going to need it to make up for some of those ‘brilliant another holiday ruined by sick child comments’

Ryder Cup of programmatic – my review of US vs Europe programmatic

First published in The Drum – click here

Back in 2010 when I started the European arm of VivaKi’s Audience On Demand, I had to turn to the US for everything. Half the companies I dealt with at the time had to turn to their data centres in the US just to make a bid, something that today would be impossible to imagine.

The US led the programmatic revolution, my own colleagues kicking things off in 2008. I was certainly wowed by the work going on in the US and the sophistication with which they approached this new and complex advertising technique.

Europeans often complain that Americans just don’t understand us. Having spent five months in the US last year, I realise that the reverse is also true. We just don’t understand the sheer scale and complexity of the US market either and because of that it creates more challenges for a single country than for Europe as a whole.

People would say without hesitation or doubt: ‘Oh so how is the UK, what are you, about two years’ behind us?’ Frustrating. So often the opinion was based on scale, not sophistication, and the two are fundamentally different in a market like the US. As I consider my time there and compare it with the UK, I would say there are three primary differences:

Scale vs campaign sophistication

There are advertisers in the US who at times spend more individually than two major European markets combined. Daunting as it is, this type of scale drives innovation and startups. It powers research and learnings because budgets are so large that testing new technology and funding research is that much easier than in smaller markets. But take a narrower view of the work, the strategy, and this is where Europe starts to come into its own.

While scale equates to innovation on a macro level, smaller budgets often lead to more rigorous optimisation on a campaign level.

Let’s take something like centralising retargeting. In the space of about a year the UK revolutionised the marketplace. It was a marketplace where an advertiser routinely had 10+ ad networks and publishers each with a pixel on the advertiser’s site. They would happily retarget their first-party data, creating incredible internal competition and price inflation on their audiences as well as data leakage. This is like letting multiple companies bid on brand search terms. It would never be allowed in search so why in display?

UK advertisers realised relatively quickly the problem needed fixing – and it was fixed. The US is still pondering the complexity.

Vendor management

Vast agency networks across multiple cities creates an opportunity for publishers and media sellers to find money in any number of cracks. Policing spend and agency-preferred partners in the US is incredibly difficult. Say no to a tech company in one city, and they will pitch to your counterpart in another.

Europe appears to have a much better grasp on that process. With relatively smaller teams, overarching strategies can be put into play and monitored effectively. This may not be to the liking of some media companies, but it needs to be done to ensure best-in-class partnerships.

Invented in the US, adopted in Europe, private marketplaces (PMPs) are another of Europe’s success stories. The speed with which the UK alone created PMPs surprised my US colleagues and competitors. Building bespoke PMPs is now the norm in Europe to drive programmatic business. In the US there are still DSP providers without PMP functionality, which I find incredible.

At a dinner I attended in New York, publishers were bemoaning the lack of buyer demand. In Europe we see the opposite – publishers and agencies are driving an ever higher proportion of spend via PMPs and there is massive innovation as well.

La Place Media in France is a prime example, and another more recent is theglobal launch of Pangaea, the publishing alliance led by The Guardian but including FT, CNN, The Economist and others. This is not happening in the US, as most players consider themselves too large to need that kind of collaboration. I think this is a mistake as Google, Facebook and others are only getting bigger and stronger.

Agility and innovation

Things just seem to move faster in European markets. Ideas are put into action very quickly. Geography helps. When AOD launched in the UK, I would walk down Charlotte Street in London, dealing with just a handful of leaders. The same approach in the US spans as many as six cities, 10 agencies and an army of people.

This is not a criticism, it is a fact.  Even when you have a well-developed idea, beta-testing is much quicker in a European market as you work with smaller teams who work next to each other.

Innovation is a hot topic and one that I think we lament when we look at the hotbed of Silicon Valley and the burgeoning New York scene.  However huge strides are being made in EMEA with hot new companies emerging from Israel to Amsterdam and Moscow.

One continent awe-inspiring in scale and opportunity. One continent agile and swift.  Operating in parallel? Formidable.