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

Youtube ADEX closure – Is the future a closed ecosystem?

Originally written for Digiday – link hereimages.

I have watched with interest the backlash against the Google decision to pull its YouTube inventory back from DoubleClick Ad Exchange. It got me thinking about the past and the present and the fact that there is this view that all companies must make everything equal to everyone. Google has disabled something that represented 5 percent of its total YouTube sales — is that really worth all the fuss?

While it is an issue insofar as many businesses are built on the back of disruption and filling niches and a multitude of other business models, Google has no obligation to make life easy for them. Indeed, Google is not alone. Facebook locked everything up; Amazon would rather shut sales down that let you get hold of its data; AOL, Yahoo and others hold all their best inventory back so you can only buy it through their platforms.

Welcome to the future. These companies have invested billions into their product, and they have no obligation to make other competitive businesses rich on the back of their investments. It is called competitive advantage.

Holding on to the Google debate a little longer, five years ago it had a poor ad server and limited display business. It was seemingly going backwards in terms of innovation outside of search and video. And then a few things happened: Some smart people made some smart decisions. Google bought companies, it invested in their stack, it invested in data, and before you knew it, it was dominating display. It did the same in video, so if it chooses to limit the access to just three entry points from four, then that is Google’s business. If AOL, after investing in content, tech and data, wants to only allow access to the best of what they have via its platform, that is its prerogative.

It was only five or six years ago that we were all forced to work like this. If you wanted inventory from The Telegraph, you rang up The Telegraph, likewise Guardian, ITV and so on. We were forced to deal with hundreds of walled gardens. We have improved the situation with technology, so now we have many fewer entry points to inventory, but when we started down this road no one ever said everyone had to sign up to this new way of working, the deal was that we could buy inventory through platforms and use data — not — be able to access all inventory through any platform.

As an example, AppNexus is the self-proclaimed independent solution outside of Google. It is doing well. But should Google then help AppNexus or worry about whether it can get access to YouTube inventory via AdX? Of course not. The same would go for many other demand-side platforms that would issue complaints on the topic.

Now, as a buyer, we would prefer to see an ecosystem where we can access whatever we want from wherever we want. And we do rally against the approaches of Google, Facebook and Amazon. But at the same time, we have options. We can work around most of this, and we will create solutions that help us navigate and deliver against the utopia we were once searching for. That said, this is business. This is about companies investing and then looking to make returns off the back of it. YouTube is not the BBC, and it can decide how you buy its content.

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.

Jay Sears interview in advance of Adweek New York Panel

photo for blog

Your Name: Marco Bertozzi

Your Company: VivaKi

Your Title: President EMEA and US Client Services

SEARS: Where do you read your daily news [not just industry news, but all news]? Do you still read a newspaper? Listen to the radio? Use social media?

BERTOZZI: Twitter is usually where I start the discovery. Where I end up reading the news varies. I also use the Guardian News app as an anchor. Occasionally I will grab a newspaper but safe to say most of my news consumption is online.

SEARS: What’s your favorite commercial of all time?

BERTOZZI: My favorite commercial of all-time is an ad for Blackcurrant Tango.

SEARS: Today on average in the United States — out of each $1.00 spent on media (all media, not just digital) by one of your advertisers — how much is spent on automated or programmatic channels?

BERTOZZI: We’re seeing $0.08 of every $1.00 spent on programmatic channels in 2014, and I think we’re still in the early stages of adoption — even in the U.S. — but it’s starting to rise. We’re going to see a sharp increase as education continues across agencies and clients.

SEARS: What was this number in 2012?

BERTOZZI: $0.06

SEARS: What will this number be in 2016?

BERTOZZI: $0.14

SEARS: What is the mission statement of VivaKi AOD?

BERTOZZI: Audience On Demand® (AOD) was built exclusively for Publicis Groupe agencies and their clients. Created in 2008, our sole purpose has been to help our agency partners and their clients control their brands and messaging in a fragmented, digital ecosystem. We work as an extension of the agency team our clients trust to steward their advertising spend and marketing activity.

SEARS: Please tell us:

SEARS: Overall United States managed budget (media spend) for your trading desk, expected in 2014:

BERTOZZI: A lot

SEARS: Percentage increase, United States managed budget (media spend) 2013 vs. expected 2014:

BERTOZZI: It’s a healthy increase

SEARS: How many employees are there in your United States organization [headcount number]?

BERTOZZI:
Total across USA: 261
Total in:
New York: 80
Boston: 8
Chicago: 123
Detroit: 23
San Francisco: 2
Los Angeles: N/A
Dallas: N/A
Other: 25 employees in Seattle

SEARS: What are VivaKi AOD’s three biggest U.S. initiatives in 2014?

BERTOZZI:

Quality and viewability. We launched Quality Index — a proprietary evaluation process that vets all ad placements through AOD. Built on performance metrics and data provided by comScore, Integral Ad Science (IAS), Proximic and various DSPs, as well as ad server performance data, Quality Index also sources inventory according to various metrics that assess viewability, page content quality and historical performance.

This year, we also invested in the building out of the VivaKi OS, combining the AOD Platform and DMP, supported by our established channel solutions (display, mobile, video and social) and our VivaKi Verified teams.

We introduced AOD Brand into the US market. Focused on large-scale formats, it gives advertisers impactful creative in the right locations. It’s the best of RTB with premium inventory, utilizing private marketplaces and giving brand advertisers a vehicle to deliver programmatically against brand objectives. It’s an approach already heavily used in Europe but now formulated for the US.

SEARS: By 2016, what percentage of your holding company’s U.S. media spend will be automated or programmatic?

BERTOZZI: As above

SEARS: Can linear TV be automated, yes or no?

BERTOZZI: Yes! The real question, however, is whether large broadcasters are willing to invest in adapting to new and efficient ways of trading or do they prefer to hold on to “how it has always been done.” Media automation is an inevitability and those that move fastest will benefit the most.

SEARS: Does VivaKi AOD plan to automate linear TV in 2014? 2015?

BERTOZZI: No, but we intend to work with all available and accessible inventory and that includes connected TV inventory which will increase substantially over the coming months and years. The shift from TV to multiple screens will power the increase in inventory and as audiences across devices move away from just traditional TV the opportunities will only increase.

SEARS: Once linear TV is automated, will it be bought by TV buyers or digital buyers?

BERTOZZI: As we are already witnessing, there is a massive blurring of roles within agencies. By the time linear TV is automated I would suggest that roles and in fact most agencies including those in our group will be well under way with planning and buying being very much across screens and channels.

SEARS: On the subject of business models, the best way to describe your company is:

a) Product organization – i.e. you curate a media product for your agencies and advertisers
b) Service organization – i.e. you recommend and manage best practices and best of breed products for your agencies and advertisers
c) Combination of both
d) Other

BERTOZZI: Other. We see our role as threefold. First, we build technology that powers AOD in order to join up the complex programmatic ecosystem. Second, we evaluate and consult with advertisers on technology and data providers that best address their particular campaign needs and goals. Third, we provide marketing expertise and services for agencies and advertisers on campaigns including human oversight, strategic direction, context and advice that a machine simply cannot [offer].

SEARS: On the subject of advertiser clients and transparent vs. non-transparent models:

a) We have a transparent model — clients know media and other costs (i.e. costs are unbundled)
b) We have a non-transparent model — clients do not know media and other costs (i.e. costs are bundled)
c) Combination of both
d) Other

BERTOZZI: A. We make sure that our clients know how much spend is going against working media. I strongly believe this should be an absolute given for any business that aligns its objectives with its clients’ objectives. We also do not arbitrage media, as we believe this is counter to the principles and efficiencies offered by programmatic media-buying and takes us further away from the spirit of collaboration and true partnership with our clients.

SEARS: What percentage of your agency or advertiser’s site direct budget (direct orders) has been automated?

a) Less than 10% (of site direct dollars)
b) 11-20%
c) 21-50%
d) Over 50%

BERTOZZI: A. All of our buys are auction-based and therefore we do not allocate budget for direct-buys.

SEARS: Which of the following will accelerate the automation of site direct (direct orders) budget? Pick all that apply:

a) Dynamic access to all publisher inventory [vs. just “remnant” or “auction”]
b) Ability to leverage publisher first party data
c) Ability to leverage advertiser first party data [against all publisher inventory, especially premium]
d) Availability of rich media, expandable units and larger IAB Rising Star formats
e) Ability to more easily curate audiences for specific advertisers across the premium content of multiple publishers
f) All of the above

BERTOZZI: While all of the above are valid considerations, I believe the biggest factors that will help accelerate the automation of direct orders are actually tech development and greater alignment on inventory. As I’ve previously mentioned, there have been occasions where we wanted to push significant spend across premium publishers but the publishers were not ready to accept it.

SEARS: Tell us a bit more about you.

SEARS: Who was one of your first mentors as a child?

BERTOZZI: My brother. Five years older than I, he was (and is) someone I looked up to and not just because he defended me when I got into scrapes. It was his sound advice that ultimately led me into media agency life — so I should thank him for that!

SEARS: Money is not a concern. You no longer work in advertising or technology. What would you choose to do for work?

BERTOZZI: Having always loved animals, I would choose to work on an African game reserve. The solitude and connection to nature attracts me as does working with the most incredible animals on the planet. I would however probably still look for a connection to data, no matter how slow!

– See more at: http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/rubicon-project/276847701.html#.VCVuSnKwSgI.twitter