2016 will be the year of breakups in programmatic


First published in Campaign – link here

In the programmatic space, 2014 can be summed up as a year of snap decisions and bad relationships. There was a considerable amount of hot air and publishers, agencies and advertisers, to varying degrees, reacted to it in the heat of the moment. But 18 months later, I believe we will see a number of these relationships start to unravel.

Today I am so pleased to see that almost all major clients are embracing programmatic with a cool hand, understanding the pros and cons and planning for a future where data and tech are front and centre. The heat has come out of the programmatic kitchen and been replaced with good old fashioned brain power.

But that is not what I am writing about today — although related — I want to return to 2014. At an ANA event in New York last year, I joined a panel on the programmatic revolution, which followed the usual headline-grabbing presentation of whoever had run a survey that day. The air was full of fear and suspicion over transparency and media agencies were in the dock as usual. At that conference I called 2014 “the lost year” of programmatic in regard to advertisers and how they approached it. This was because the entire year had been a series of meetings, conferences and emails concerned with transparency and agency trading desks and all the good stuff we have come to know and love. Very few of those meetings were about the strategic direction advertisers should be taking in the programmatic space.

What happened last year was not just the headlines and the deafening ring of the cash till, as the myriad of consultants counted their earnings on the back of the fear and suspicion. It was worse: some big decisions were taken under those conditions. Major partnerships were signed, deals done and monies committed with an eye on outsmarting whatever the danger was — and that varied. Perhaps it was an advertiser that wanted its own tech deal to go around the agency or publishers wanting to out gun Google and Facebook. Perhaps it was procurement or the CEO asking questions of the brand manager and making them act. Whatever the catalyst was, decisions were made that are already starting to become irrelevant or just plain bad.

Next year will see the unraveling of these relationships; It will be the year that those deals and partnerships formed under intense strain will come apart. Publishers, advertisers and agencies all made decisions — some more than others — but with a new calm descending on the programmatic landscape, and the strong wind of transparency, clarity and understanding blowing through, we will see some of these deals undone. This will likely cause serious financial difficulties for some ad tech companies who sold the dream only to discover that waking up next to a partner who has already checked out of the relationship is a lot harder than they thought.

Anyone who tried to sell a service built around the notion that this topic was simple and easily solved will get called out this year. The market has moved so much in the past 12 months. Whether you are a publisher, agency or client, making a big decision last year was brave because the landscape today looks very different. We can only wonder who the jaded lovers are and who is thinking about how to break up the rather heat of the moment relationship.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.com/article/why-2016-will-year-breakups-programmatic/1373982#z2CbdEY2Q3jC5yxj.99

Dmexco – powered by professional energy

Perhaps a surprise to some but this year was my first year at Dmexco. Every year it has clashed with something or other, but this year I was there, well for a night and a day at least. It is usually the happenings around the conference that garner the most interest but at Dmexco it IS the conference. Dmexco is a REAL trade show, a place where companies come to show off their goods and hope that the circling hoards will come buy.

There is something refreshing about that, it felt a lot more meaningful, a place where business came first and rose second. Don’t get me wrong I have no issue with rose and I am certainly not one of those bitter nay sayers that write about the pointlessness of Cannes, no siree, I am a fan, but that said Dmexco felt solid and meaningful. There is no other place that so neatly distills the lumascape into a real environment, where you get to see the colossal competition for the buck all in one place. I think it is that which really struck me, just how many people are out there in the martech, adtech space and all with their piece of the action.

I did not get a chance to truly get around everything but I sensed there was a pecking order with the smaller stalls gathered in one place. They are all looking to grow of course and move into Yr2 with the big guys. Big guys they are as well, over the years the stalls have apparently grown and grown and it appears to be like Yachts with everyone weighing and rating each other up based on size and how many people fit, after the size comes facilities – does yours have a coffee machine? Meeting rooms? TV centre – shower? Swinging dicks aside it is an amazing array of companies all sat alongside each other from Adobe and Oracle to MediaMath or the agency lounge. It was great to see all the Publicis agencies there, not too big, not too small. GroupM were clearly out to make a statement on the other hand, commercially powered by Xaxis.

What I have been impressed by is the level of seniority of attendees, Global CEOs, Group CEOs all attending an event that is relatively new. All around the event you will find leaders from every corner of the business and with that brings some gravitas and focus and less feel of a jolly that comes with Cannes.

I hope to go for longer next year and attend more of the actual presentations, but for a first trip I was hugely impressed and will definitely prioritise. The event ended on a high as I managed to hitch a lift with the lovely (am I allowed to say lovely?) Nikki Mendonca who had a cab waiting for me even as I stood in a long queue.

Adblocking – I am going to make you an offer you cant refuse

Italian organised crime started with men ‘offering’ to protect the olive groves of Sicily from the roving gangs of people who ‘might’ burn them down at any point. It was a slightly one sided offer in that they had little choice as to whether accept that or not. As I have been reading and listening to publishers I have started to see some parallels with the Adblocking industry, especially as you delve into the commercial relations behind the scene.

As a publisher, under so many different pressures, probably the last thing you were planning for was a slick salesman roll up and make you an offer you could not refuse. Pay us some money and we can make this ‘adblocking thing’ go away or if you don’t give us a cut, we are going to let the adblock software loose on your site. Of course the publishers are not the only ones being shafted. The customer who signed up to the software may be surprised to find that he or she is seeing Ads again because the publisher paid the protection racket.What you need is a saviour of course and so enter stage left the guys that come and offer the publisher an option to block the blockers. Now of course they are not quite out of the Superman annuals as you have to pay them as well but I guess its better than not getting any ad revenues and they are working to some extent in their interests.


Overall the whole landscape is very messy, very challenging and right now seems to be a little too much like the Sicilian olive groves of yesteryear.

Should advertisers care about Alphabet?

This was first posted on Campaign – link here.

In the dead of night (UK time) one of the biggest news stories in advertising slipped out into the blogosphere.

‘G is for Google’ announced some pretty significant changes down at Google HQ. The creation of a new corporate structure called Aphabet, that now houses Google as just one of a number of businesses, has taken with it the founders of the behemoth that is Google as well as some other luminaries.

When you consider the heat that went with the appointment of a new Microsoft chief executive, and all the column inches associated with the departure of Steve Ballmer and the promotion of Satya Nadella, it is remarkable that Google just appointed a new chief executive for Google, a $450+ billion company, and announced it through a blog post.

This approach, and the very fact they have created this structure, shows that Google is desperate not to become Microsoft. There was already some commentary floating that Google was becoming a little too like Microsoft as it grew and grew and was slowing in terms of innovation and ability to make smart bets.

So, in part, the opening comment on Larry Page’s blog that says we “wrote in the original founders letter 11 years ago, Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one” is a warning shot to announce their intention to continue evolving.

I would suggest that most of this is about corporate and financial motivations and has little impact on the advertising community. I do think however, that we can look forward to a more simplified mission with regards to Google.

When we talk about working with Google, it now clearly means search, video, maps and all things connected to their advertising business. The new chief executive, Sundar Pichai, can be singular in his ambitions to grow and innovate without distractions and this can only be a good thing for the business and for their largest advertisers. It is also reassuring that things will not go the way of Microsoft albeit it from a different angle; they gave up advertising for software.

With these changes it is clear that Google is not going to be distracted on its advertising offerings by saving the world or allowing us to email and drive simultaneously.

YouTube could have spun off into the Alphabet organisation such is its size, but I think they did well to keep that under Google. Video is now an integral part of the media landscape and needs to be intrinsically linked to all the other Google offerings.

The announcement earlier this week, that YouTube inventory will no longer be available on the open exchanges, re-enforces Google’s commitment to dominate the video space as it did with Search. It sent a strong message to all third party video companies that the doors are now closed for direct business only, a trend we are only going to see get stronger.

Both Sergey Brin and Larry Page are engineers. They like to build things and the creation of Alphabet is an affirmation of their desire to continue to do so. The new pared-down Google will come out of it stronger and more powerful. Watch this space.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/googles-alphabet-restructure-shows-its-desperate-not-become-microsoft/1359549#pcoO7ZdQJikIljKt.99