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

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.

Wall Street Journal blog – In Defence of Trading Desks

This post was first published in the Wall Street Journal – to see it click here

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In Defence of Trading Desks

The World Federation of Advertisers report on programmatic trading, issued last week, has set the online ad industry abuzz. I am pleased to see clients taking a stand on transparency and some of the other issues surfaced in the report, despite being one of the purported programmatic culprits.

When Publicis launched Audience On Demand in 2008, we decided to create it as an alternative to the very murky services that were dominating the marketplace at the time, such as ad networks, that operated in the dark and sometimes pocketed triple digit profit margins in the process.

Six years later we are standing firm on our early decisions, and reports like the one issued last week suggest the market is moving in our favor.

But the fact is not all agency trading desks are created equal. And while the WFA report inaccurately tries to paint us all with one color, I encourage every marketer in the industry to take note of the questions in the report that relate to issues such as arbitrage and data. Don’t just ask these questions of your agency trading desk, however; Ask them of every programmatic provider you might be spending with today.

If a programmatic provider is working in a marketers’ best interest it should not be arbitraging inventory, it should be buying audiences and inventory transparently in real time. It should be protecting marketers’ data (it’s their data, and they should honor it as such, unless given permission to blend it). It should have a rigorous vetting process to evaluate all data and technology partners to be sure that protection extends across the ecosystem.

It should also be tireless in pursuit of viewability and quality, and it should show you how it is trying to protect your ads from fraud. I submit that an in-house option or managed service demand-side platform that buys on a marketer’s behalf will provide less brand safety than an agency trading desk. It simply costs too much to deliver extensive black and white lists, tech vetting and human vetting at a client level.

Finally programmatic providers should make it entirely clear what percentage of marketers’ ad dollars are actually spent on ad space, and it should be far, far greater than 40% as the WFA report suggested. That number is ridiculous. Candidly, a fair amount of the math cited in the WFA report is peculiar.

In general, the WFA report steers marketers toward setting up an in-house solution. It’s a viable, though difficult and limiting proposition to pursue. An in-house operation is not going to resolve all transparency issues. It might give marketers complete control, but it also results in limited visibility once the campaigns go out the door, and you are only as good as the technology you tie yourself to.

Meanwhile, if marketers outsource to an ad network, managed service DSP or non-disclosed trading desk, you have little control, less visibility and no ownership.

I hope I get a chance to meet the WFA. I would love to talk to authors of this report about their findings, where the insights were obtained and how the calculations were done. So much of the report is spot on in terms of what questions to ask, but the bias and inaccuracies need to be corrected.

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.