First published in Campaignlive US – click here for article.
In a year dominated by headlines of transparency, fraud, agency trading desks and advertisers “taking it in house,” we should not lose sight of the incredible pace of acquisitions, IPOs and investments. In all these seemingly endless and haphazard investments, we have seen a few patterns form — some just starting out while others completing the circle.
Completion of the ad stack
Probably the largest amount of ground was covered here. After the first big move last year by AOL buying Adap.tv, we saw a flurry of activity. Yahoo bought BrightRoll and Flurry; Facebook bought LiveRail and relaunched Atlas. AOL, Yahoo and Facebook are all live or creating their DSPs so if you want to buy their inventory you need to use their DSP. All these moves are designed to allow the big players to compete with Google and offer a full stack to the market place. More importance is being attached to being able to demonstrate targeting abilities across channel and platform, and this is where the battlegrounds will form.
One view to rule them all
As well as the platform and infrastructure play, we have seen massive moves afoot to deliver user identification both in terms of interests and where they are consuming media. The cookie is dying, slowly, everyone can see that and the realization that owned, logged in, registered data is the new cookie. Much hand-wringing occurred when Facebook bought WhatsApp. No revenue, no ad model, what are they doing? Well one, they needed to buy up the competition as they did with Instagram, but two, it massively expands Facebook’s pool of registered, logged-in user data. Everyone now wants to create a unique set of data insights around consumers, and I am afraid that is setting us back a little: Advertisers have a right to get a single view of their customer and not be forced to work with multiple siloes.
2014 — year of video
I know, it was meant to be the year of mobile (maybe it was really), but it turned out that video stole the show. A strong IPO from TubeMogul, Videology partnering with Mediaocean and Turn launching a TV offering, BrightRoll being bought by Yahoo, LiveRail by Facebook showed just how important video has become to advertisers and media-owners alike.
If it is not the media side of it, it is the structural side: Comcast bought up Freewheel in a move sure to take it toward programmatic, and the U.K.’s Channel 4 opened up VOD to selected video DSPs. Whether it is connected, on demand or in stream, video has well and truly taken center stage. Next year is the year of mobile. Definitely. Really.
Enterprise marketing solutions look to ad tech
The likes of Oracle, IBM, Salesforce and Adobe have for years looked in the other direction when it came to media and ad tech, but 2013 and 14 have seen that change considerably. There have been some major plays this year: most notably Oracle buying BlueKai, but Adobe and Oracle have also signed major agency deals and continue to feature heavily in the discussion of merging marketing tech with ad tech.
The ups and downs of IPOs
What a year for IPOs! I think everyone was taken aback by the volume and pace of the IPOs this year. Rubicon began strongly and gave the market some confidence. TubeMogul followed, and there was talk from DataXu as well, although that has not materialized. RocketFuel and Millennial IPO’d but to less success, and they followed Tremor and others in falling dramatically from their first-day float. Some of the business models are being questioned on the basis of market position, their real added value or even whether their businesses are built on the hard and never-ending work of the bots.
Internet of things as bought by Google
From left field comes a raft of purchases that prove the tech giants are looking well beyond the banner. (That’s dead, right?) Facebook bought Oculus Rift; slow on the social-gaming ride, Facebook simply jumped one step ahead. Google has bought into Nest, the household wireless heating/ home control system. Samsung bought Smart Things, another platform for controlling the home, and finally Google bought a drone company. There were more, but you get the idea. I recommend you read the book The Circle by Dave Eggers about a social-media company that becomes part of everything in our lives and slowly erodes privacy … Then look at some of these purchases.
Marco Bertozzi is President of AOD, EMEA and North American Client Services with VivaKi.
My piece in CampaignLive publication in the US – to see click here
How did it come to this? You can’t mention programmatic without talk about transparency, trading desks and advertisers taking it “in-house.” A part of me that would likely get fired says “Go on, then” because it will mean that advertisers spend considerable time understanding the space, in order to appreciate what is required to do this well. They will also be doing the right thing with their media — I don’t mean taking it in-house, but rather the likely improvement in execution and management of their media using the latest technology.
While in-house has been a hot topic this year, all we have right now is a lot of noise. Companies stirring up the ecosystem trying to make hay while the sun shines and consultants with minimal experience in this complex space suddenly getting the light of day. It is a real shame. I spend so much time talking fees and transparency with advertisers and so little on strategy that I truly believe they are missing the chance to make the most of this incredible opportunity.
Advertisers setting up their own programmatic operations is as sensible as Google deciding to set up an agency business and go direct to clients. “They do that,” I hear you cry! Not really. They chase revenue, and if they see that being taken by competitors they step in. Google also has tens of thousands of free sales people — they are called agencies. Clever businesses stick to what they do best. Even brands that have been working away at this for some years are still struggling to keep up.
I recently read that taking it in house was expensive upfront but you get payback over years. I have never read such incredibly ill-informed, ill-thought rhetoric in all my life. It infers that programmatic expertise in agencies after the first couple of years runs on nothing. The reality is people need paying; tech companies need paying; innovation needs to evolve. Nothing goes away after initial set up; it only grows. It is this kind of crazy talk that is distracting advertisers.
Let’s start with talent. Programmatic now commands some of the highest salaries and brightest brains. This creates multiple challenges for employers — motivation, retention and a lack of insights from outside the immediate business. Technology evaluation skill sets, data analytics and audience insights knowledge, data warehousing, contract negotiations, legal, creative, partner management – these all are essential for a successful programmatic business. Spare a thought for the team doing it in-house — two, perhaps three people. They will not be immune from the same standards agencies have. Brand safety is still brand safety. The CEO will be no less unhappy when the Wall Street Journal reports a fraud blow up and an in-house team has been managing it. The same effort needs to be applied in or out of the house and that costs money.
Why would an advertiser want to take that on? Because they are unhappy with transparency? Because tech fees are high and they want to find ways of saving? It is a false economy. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is a phrase I am a firm believer in.
The companies who have managed to do this well are few and often pure-play digital, online businesses with very specific KPIs that are easily tracked and measured and with a culture of digital innovation. Netflix is one example. Moneysupermarket in the U.K., another. Almost all, including the most famously quoted however, are relying on third parties to do the work. That is not taking it in-house, it’s just not using an agency. And they are right not to, but if a little less time was spent on the angst of transparency and fees (easily solved by talking with your agency operation) and more time on the strategy, then the fees will make sense. More time also needs to be spent talking about the amazing case studies of clients that have embraced this space and are turning their media investment around – there are many.
Advertisers who empower their agencies in the programmatic space and invest the time to really partner with them will dramatically change how they do business and the results they achieve.
As a final note on this, While hundreds of millions of advertiser dollars are spent on blind, low-CPM, long-tail ad networks that are taking 60 percent margin, I find it very difficult to believe that an advertiser is achieving the most they can from programmatic or indeed asking the right questions about their media investment, whether that is taking it in-house or not.
Marco Bertozzi is VivaKi’s President, North America Client Services and Audience on Demand EMEA.
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?
SEARS: What will this number be in 2016?
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]?
Total across USA: 261
New York: 80
San Francisco: 2
Los Angeles: N/A
Other: 25 employees in Seattle
SEARS: What are VivaKi AOD’s three biggest U.S. initiatives in 2014?
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
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
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)
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!
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.