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Mediatel Video interview on Ad Fraud

Advertisers should be asking the tougher questions of everyone on their plan and seek out value and not just lower prices. An interesting couple of panels at Mediatel event showed that there is still too much fixation on the wrong topics and mainly those related to agency business models and not the wider marketplace.

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Buy cheap, Buy twice when it comes to Adtech

Disintermediation is a hot topic right now. Since coming to the US I have witnessed and been shocked by the extent of it on this side of the Atlantic, far more so than in Europe. It is a trend affecting the entire media ecosystem and one which if global industry trends are anything to go by, will soon impact European advertisers in the same way.

As an advertiser it is increasingly appealing, especially within programmatic to see the ‘sell’ of a standalone DSP as attractive. Tech costs are high, so minimising service fees is an incentive. The trouble is that when cost is the driving force rather than a particular strategic play, you can be led down the wrong path. The rules have changed with the rise of ad tech. Our whole business is based more and more on data which we need to manage, explore, test and learn with. The data needs to be held by the agency running the wider business, or remain in the hands of the advertiser should they choose to take the process in-house. Either way, the advertiser retains control and has the opportunity to ‘play the field’ without too many costs being incurred.

As a company 100% focused on this space we see all of the pros and cons of the different platforms. We have a whole team, called VivaKi Verified, dedicated to analysing and evaluating the different tech offerings. This gives us an unbiased view of all of their strengths and weaknesses as well as access to every opportunity. If you think about the exclusion of Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM) from Facebook or the fact that no DSP vendor has access to Amazon or AOP, or that Yahoo stopped selling to certain Ad networks and so on, advertisers cannot afford to tie themselves to a single player. Times change and abilities increase and decrease over time. Handcuffing yourself a single provider will therefore be to the detriment of your own ability to innovate. Analytics remains the play of the day with data insights being invaluable to deciding your strategy. Companies such as ours have a view of the whole marketplace and create understanding and analytics to inform which tech to use in which circumstances. Whether you are after pure direct response or greater data understanding, the type of inventory, access to it and historical performance are all crucial ingredients.

A single Ad tech company can only give you their view. An advertiser might be attracted to cheaper options. A siloed, third-party provider might “feel” unbiased. But what happens when the market moves (which is does every day), and that advertiser is tied to a single provider? They can only move at the speed of the provider. Or they pay a significant switching cost. Yes, DSP technology evolves. But their lack of access to the ideal marketplaces may leave an advertiser handicapped. And how will the advertiser know? It is hard to measure performance without any comparison or opportunity to swap (short of making an extensive investment).

The agency relationship should give clients cross-platform, open access to all opportunities — and objectivity. Trading desks should deliver the benefits of relationships, learnings and experience with all of the best DSPs, plus perpetual evaluations of new and evolving partners. They must be able to provide brand safety, starting with the basics like full disclosure on where ads are appearing and how much of advertiser’s budget was spent on media. The advertiser may invest substantial energy into a single provider, giving them data knowledge and insights and indeed some very valuable CRM data access. The problems arise when they decide to change providers. For this reason, it is important to know what happens to campaign performance and of course your data insights. DSPs will not necessarily let clients take all of their campaign set up and data insights with them, claiming that it is not their proprietary insight. This will most certainly affect the advertiser’s ongoing performance.

The VC-fuelled pressure cooker we are in at the moment is creating the potential for disintermediation on a grand scale. Everyone focuses on the agencies and what they lose out on, but few highlight the danger to the advertiser. There is always an opportunity cost but we know that you can often ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. The end goal for an advertiser is to either use multiple parties or at least have the infrastructure in place to make the swap easily and in a controlled fashion. The ‘all your eggs in a single basket’ approach is strewn with risk and I believe that a few of the active advertisers to date who have gone all in with one party will start to realise their mistake and push back. When they do, I believe agencies with a robust programmatic offering or an integrated trading desk will be there to pick up the pieces, and as with search back in the day, weave it back into the overall media mix.

Foursquare / Swarm – a total car crash

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Today was the first day that I was bullied into downloading Swarm.

Foursquare has been an App that I have used for some time, it has been up and down but I decided that it will be a great digital scrap book of all the places I have visited and so use it mostly abroad. In recent months, especially with my time in New York, I have really started to appreciate the fact I can find recommended places to eat and drink. Even better I have started to see my friends and colleagues and whether they have eaten there before. Bottom line, it became so much more useful than just the checking in App.

Then comes the Swarm messages. A few weeks of warnings, every message telling me I should download Swarm because it’s great! I will love it! Well I am now witnessing one of the biggest car crashes of modern App / digital times. In fact I am flabbergasted that anyone thought this dual App approach was good. So basically my user experience today was to be forced to download Swarm. I go back to recommendations on the restaurant we had pulled up at in foursquare and then I wanted to check in, so they throw me back to swarm, I then click on user comments and I am flung back to Foursquare, who then asked me if I wanted a sneak peak at their new Foursquare lay out?! It was the worst planned process I have ever seen from a company that was relatively bedded in to the social marketplace.

The user experience is a disgrace – if you have to flip back and forth between Apps then it’s likely you only need one. Could they really not make that work? Most user backlash has focused on the fact that they search for places, find them and check in. Natural flow of events. I know the sales speak, they need to grow their user base, capitalise on their opportunity and not be hamstrung by checkins but this is not the way to do it. The reason is there are so many ways to get recommendations and by splitting those two elements you have now thrown foursquare back into the pool of competition to search for nearby places to eat. Before they were gathering a loyal base who were becoming more and more active and using both recommendations and checkins together now they just pissed them all off.

I have seen the feedback and I am yet to see anything positive. I keep reading about bravery and big changes for the better but if you have to flick multiple times between two apps, you will lose a lot of followers and Facebook will be there to clean up. I may be wrong but I will not be surprised to see checkin back within foursquare pretty quickly because today I was stung by a Swarm and feel no desire to go back to it, especially if it just fires me back to Foursquare. The only Swarm they will have are users leaving the hive.

My contribution to Wall Street Journal review of Trading Desk Strategies

A review of Agency Trading Desk strategies by Jack Marshall of CMO Today a Wall Street Journal publication, prompted by the recent Omnicom announcement that they have been in the arbitrage game all this time, and quite under the radar saw my view from Audience On Demand / VivaKi.

Click on the image below for the full story. I wanted to focus on our approach being one where we feel the advertiser needs the ATDs to be clear on charges and have their KPIs aligned with those of the advertiser.

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