Tag Archives: audience on demand

Exchangewire: The Burden of Ad Fraud falls on all of us

I am passionate about how we cannot let this scycle of ever decreasing cpms continue and I lay the blame at all our doors, agencies, advertisers and auditors. Exchangewire covers this topic with contributions from me. Original article here.

Click fraud has undoubtedly been one of the topics of conversation in the programmatic advertising sector in 2014, with Google’s purchase of UK-based security specialist Spider.io just one of a number of industry moves underlying its growing importance.

Last week Rocket Fuel was fingered in a FT article highlighting its prevalence in the industry (of course it was quick to rebuff the article’s assertions), but the entire advertising – from client-side marketer to third-party ad tech vendor – must accept their role to play in allowing it to continue.

This comes on the back of other articles in mainstream press – for instance a Wall Street Journal article claiming that up to a third of all web traffic is “bogus” – pressing the issue further for the online advertising sector to improve transparency over media buys taking place via automated channels.

Industry-wide measures
Moves to tackle the issue of click fraud (or bot traffic) began to gather pace last year when the IAB’s US chapter established the Traffic of Good Intent (TOGI) Task Force, in a move demonstrating that programmatic ‘media trading’ sector was maturing as braces itself to become a mainstream player, as opposed to an emergent force.

In fact during the last two weeks alone Dstillery announced it was received a patent for its fraud detection technology from the US Patent Office, this follows the news that the similarly named Distil Networks’ bagged $10m in Series A funding just last week.

More recently, the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) announced it was absorbing fellow auditing service ImServices.

So while it is clear that there is a near universal intention to wipe out such practices, but it’s probable that the fraudsters will always be on step ahead of the industry’s security brigade byinventing new ways to game the system (some fraudster techniques are quite comprehensively discussed here).

How can individual parties minimise the impact of click fraud?
But that’s not to say that measures cannot be taken to minimise the impact of online ad fraud, and with this in mind, every tier of the industry has to take their share of the blame in letting this happen.

As discussed in previous articles in ExchangeWire everybody has their part to play in minimising the detrimental effects of elements of the ‘bad internet’, and if parties are proactively taking measures to improve things, then they’re part of the problem.

Speaking previously with ExchangeWire Dr. Thomas Servatius, IPONWEB, head of client services, identified that the rise of the programmatic industry had allowed fraudsters to thrive online, with the scale of web traffic allowing rogue players to put sites which generate traffic by non-human means on ad exchanges.

“The problem is that when an advertiser buys traffic on a fraud site, it usually comes very cheap – much cheaper than human built sites [thus opening the opportunity for arbitrage from third-party players and media agencies] – and it has good click through rates.

“So if you have fraud in your advertising mix, what you see as an advertiser is that for a small amount of money, you get a good number of clicks,” he explained.

Explore what will KPI’s look like in a post-click fraud market?
He went on to further relay anecdotal evidence of the internal dynamics that encourage brand-side marketers (the people who are ultimately being ripped off here), from concealing the issue.

Indeed Cameron Hulett, Undertone, executive director, EMEA, further explains that such is the scale of the problem that most campaign benchmarks after a “post click fraud market correction” would be largely redundant.

For instance, most marketing KPIs, such as reach and traffic are drastically inflated by bogus web traffic as it currently stands, causing problems for parties on both the buy- and sell-side alike, contends Hulett.

Hence, it is in the interests of a lot of parities to let this white elephant in the room to go unaddressed, according to some.

Prioritise quality over cost-cutting
Marco Bertozzi, President Audience On Demand EMEA and North American Client Services at VivaKi, argues that the entire industry is incentivised to prioritise lower CPMs (ergo poorer quality inventory, or even bot traffic through long-tail exchanges and networks) instead of quality content (where prices are higher).

“I think educating marketers on the importance of paying more for quality inventory will need to happen because the buy and the sell side are chasing KPIs determined by said client who may be calling for lower CPMs versus quality interactions,” he says.

“If the only metric focused on by auditors and advertisers is lower cpm, then that’s where everyone will focus – turning a blind eye to the lack of quality and transparency but being happy that a lower CPM was achieved.”

Auditing has not kept up with the pace of change in the Ad Tech space. The industry still clings to CPMs and not the value of the impression and what it can deliver, according to Bertozzi.

“If you look at Search, if standard auditing metrics had been applied to search advertisers would not use it and spend would be non existent as agencies would be told to suppress the CPC. The same now applies to display, it is an auction environment and yet still they want to drive down on cpm,” he adds.

Explore alternatives to CPM pricing and last-click attribution
Meanwhile, Julia Smith , a partner at consultancy firm 614 group, and acting MD of Evolve Media, argues that exploring alternative pricing models to selling media on a CPM basis, can make it easier for advertisers and their security partners to detect non-human generated traffic.

“A lot of people are all about the click, and in particular its a problem with the long-tail of sites [meaning non-premium ad networks and exchanges are a particular problem in this regard].

“We can start looking at alternative Using a cost-per-engagement [pricing] model could play an important role in combatting this. While it’s not perfect it can make it harder for click farms to replicate human behaviour.”

However, as mentioned earlier in this piece, fraudsters are just as industrious in their attempts to stay ahead of the security elements of the ad tech industry, with their techniques growing evermore sophisticated.

Sources consulted by ExchangeWire also argued that one fundamental flaw in the ad tech sector that lets poor quality traffic be traded on ad exchanges and networks is the prevalence of the last—click attribution model , which incentivises the entire industry to chase the last click.

Adit Abhyankar, Visual IQ, executive director, says: “Incentives drive behaviour. this is common sense. So if flawed attribution leads to flawed allocation of performance credit, which then leads to incorrect incentives, you can bank on the fact that, it will also lead to bad decisions.”

Meanwhile, Marco Ricci, Adloox CEO of content verification firm Adloox, argues that looking at at specific domains on ad exchanges and networks, for statistics such as CTR per domain and by publisher, is a more sophisticated method of detecting bot traffic.

AOD’s Bertozzi adds: “Attribution, econometrics, understanding business impact will all go a long way to removing an obsession on lowest cpm. It will also focus on the fact that advertisers should be challenging media partners to show where they are advertising line by line. If you have to be transparent about the media placement, you are less likely to buy the long tail.”

Employing sophisticated vetting techniques
Those ad tech players looking to perform blacklists [of sites that are known to have traffic generated by non-human traffic] should perform check such as clickthrough rate (CTR) per domain and by publisher, CTR vs conversions, and CTR vs IP addressees are all useful metrics, according to Ricci.

“We check clicks made in less than one or two seconds we can catch fraud – blink and you’ll miss it. Essentially our clients want a more granular level of transparency than the majority of the market offerings today.”

Bertozzi also argues that those players on the buy-side need to do more to improve the reputation of the sector. He adds: “We provide a rigorous vetting process called VivaKi Verified, which thoroughly evaluates media, data and tech partners to ensure that they meet our standards when it comes to brand safety, consumer privacy and client data protection.

“Rather than buy in the murky pool, we use means to avoid the problems, don’t buy in the murky pool at all.

“We have also a proprietary Quality Index that combines the [safety] signals from partners like comScore, Google, Integral Ad Science and Vindico to all the URLs we have in the AOD marketplace creating our own score.

“Metrics and standards aren’t there yet and adoption needs to happen on a larger scale, but the cost of viewable ad impressions will go up and we need to be prepared to pay them to ensure that better brand-to-consumer interactions are happening. If the only metric is cpm, we are opening up the business to gaming the system.”

So the fact is, regardless of which statistics parties in the ad tech industry subscribe to, as to the extent of the problems of bot traffic, it remains clear that more can be done to address the issues of click fraud.

Those that choose to ignore the problem (for whatever means), are helping to propagate it.

 
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Digiday Post : The Ad Tech threat agencies need to take seriously

My piece on Digiday outlining the threat of Ad tech disintermediation. First posted here.

I remember sitting with a founder of a well-known demand-side platform a few years back (feels like a lifetime), and he was warning me how the evil Google would disintermediate us all and destroy the agency trading desk business if we were not careful.

The irony now is that the worst culprits of all are the new, up-and-coming tech vendors who are chasing the direct-to-advertiser relationship at any cost.

As an agency, allowing a DSP or real-time bidding ad network to control all the programmatic spend may seem the same as giving an insertion order to an ad network, but it is far from that. The rules have changed with the rise of ad tech. Our whole business is based more and more on data. We need to manage, explore, test and learn with data, and the data needs to be held at the hands of the agency running the wider business, or remain in the advertiser’s hands should they choose to take the process in-house.

To release tens of millions of dollars to a managed service DSP is to release all of your intellectual capital to an external company where the same rules expected of an agency may or may not apply. We see clear benefits when we are able to apply the agency learnings to all the programmatic opportunities. Whether we are looking at cross-channel attribution, econometric modeling or online and offline synchronization of media spend, we can make activity work so much harder in that context — and tie it back to the advertiser’s own data whether on or offline. A third party, or siloed business, simply cannot do the same.

Agencies take heed: This is no longer just a question of outsourcing some digital buying but rather the outsourcing of your agency role and intellect to a third party. You may not recognize the danger, given the modest level of programmatic spend relative to massive TV budgets. But when this spend drifts away, a little bit of control goes with it. Not a good situation given the projected growth of programmatic.

Take a lesson from search. Two things happened in search that made it one of the biggest battle grounds of the agency world through the mid-2000s. The first was that the agencies ignored it when it launched, and the second was they fought tooth and nail to get it pulled back into the agency when it had grown into the mammoth beast that it is today. Today’s DSPs are yesterdays search villains.

An agency digital lead should fight to keep the programmatic business close. Yes, I am biased toward a relationship with an agency trading desk — not just because data-driven, programmatic buying will be the lifeblood of the future media agencies but also because the right agency/trading desk relationship is better for clients.

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 marketer is tied to a single provider. They move at the the speed of the provider. Or they pay the 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 marketer know? It’s 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 the brand safety, starting with basics like full disclosure on where ads are appearing and how much of your budget was spent on media. It is fascinating to me that Rocketfuel discloses 60 percent margins and there are no concerned glances from advertisers. Really? 60 percent?

I have been warned all my life that Google is the bad guy, but it is becoming clear that as the story unfolds, we are seeing a very different picture. The VC-fueled pressure cooker we are in at the moment is creating disintermediation on a grand scale or at least the potential of it. And agencies and advertisers should both see that there is a major role for their partners in helping them steer through this time so that we don’t walk blindly into a repeat of 2001-2008, an era that both agencies and advertisers regretted longer term.

 

Beet.TV interview talking video retargeting, Ad fraud, value vs price

Beet.TV interview talking video retargeting, Ad fraud, value vs price

Discussion of some big issues of the day around video. The role of auditors, advertisers and agencies in Ad fraud / quality issues, how programmatic video can now be a creative way to continue dialogue through re-marketing and publishers ultimately will benefit from the fact tech is starting to reveal how poor many Ad network sells are to clients.

This time it is a one way ticket

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As anyone who is crazy enough to regularly read this blog will know, every so often I intersperse the world of digital media with some of my own personal experiences. Well today personal and professional collide as I contemplate for the first time in my career getting a one way ticket to the US and taking my family with me. Many people have done it before and many will do again but to me this is a big deal and one that brings equal quantities of nerves and excitement. 
 
I am moving to the US, the Big Apple no less to help shape a new chapter for Audience On Demand with a focus on client relationships and delivery. The crucial relationships we hold with our large agency partners and their customers as well as our direct customers. I am retaining my management of EMEA at the same time. I leave that business in incredibly safe hands and the management team of Geoff, Danny, Jean Baptiste, Anke, Sara, Lothar and Cesar who I know will continue to work as always in a collaborative and market leading fashion.
 
The US market is a behemoth that I think us Europeans take some time to understand and just as Europe is often over simplified by Americans,  I believe we have the same capacity in return. I stand in awe of the scale and complexity but the complexity I can handle, Europe with its multiple markets, currencies, characteristics, politics and all is hard to rival, you just need to spend time and effort getting to understand it all, and above all listen.
 
I join a great team in the US, my colleagues are a group of experts second to none and I know that we have a winning formula, I am excited to learn from all of them and I hope in return I will add value to the people who I will work alongside.  I have read headlines recently about consistency of leadership and a teams that have been in it from the early days as regards other agency groups well we have that in spades. The people I am working with have in the main been together for 5 years and more with leaders such as Frank from the very start of VivaKi so we have a strong bench. We live in times where mobility and global capabilities and sensibilities are central. When I started my career we were all living and working in our own domains now we are a single connected globe with advertisers looking for global insights and a joined up approach. I am excited that my amazing European adventure has now expanded into a US one, it makes sense and to any global advertiser I hope will be additive having someone who can discuss their business across the globe and for that reason I am grateful to VivaKi for giving me this opportunity.
 
Interestingly, when you look at different organisations I am proud of what VivaKi has allowed me to do and I have to also comment on my wife’s company Unilever who have allowed her to move to the US with me, with out missing a beat, it was truly impressive to see how empowering an organisation can be when it makes these moves possible. Just in a few short months we have moved people from US to UK, UK to US (not including me), US to Singapore, and many more before that, this is the new world we inhabit, and it is exciting to be part of it.
 
Now perhaps the hardest part will be navigating New York streets on my motorbike, or getting used to a new culture but I can’t wait, from memory there are very few motorbikes in NY so you will spot me around Hudson street! This is not just a work move but an adventure, our four year old son does not get it yet, but he will and he will love it, I need to keep my eyes focused keenly on him to try and soak up his wide eyed wonder and not get blinded by work stress and strain, it is vital for us all to enjoy our time here. I fully intend to do that, and can’t wait to get my feet under the desk and get stuck in, so New York, here we come.

Rubicon 2nd Annual Agency Trading Desk / Adweek questionaire

The latest Adweek Europe – Rubicon 2nd Annual Trading Desk panel was preceded by a questionaire covering growth, strategy and the odd personal question! The panel showed again that there is no slowing in the programmatic business although everyone is approaching it slightly differently. The most extreme being Xaxis who have moved away from being an ATD and becoming more an Ad Network.Image

 

SEARS: What flavor ice cream best describes your management style?

BERTOZZI: Cookies and cream – you have to take the crunchy and the smooth.

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

BERTOZZI: $0.04. Definitions of programmatic vary wildly so making comparisons between organizations can be difficult.

SEARS: What will this number be in 2015?

BERTOZZI: $0.08

SEARS: Describe how most media (all media, digital + non-digital, non-programmatic media) is bought and sold today.

BERTOZZI: Planning and buying is still largely a non-automated business in the context of digital exchange trading. All channels use technology to facilitate processes — DDS in TV as an example. The true interaction of buyer and seller through a tech platform is limited to Search, API work across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, etc. and exchange trading.

Planning is still being driven by offline systems that set the picture to be interpreted online. The shift to programmatic means advertisers are creating portraits in real data that we can immediately execute across the digital ecosystem. The Data advertisers own online and CRM data, combined with publisher data and the tech to join them up will drive the next stage of data planning.

SEARS: Tell us the about the EMEA operations of VivaKi:

BERTOZZI: VivaKi is the global leader in digital advertising solutions working with Publicis Groupe agencies to help them and their clients navigate the evolving and chaotic media landscape. We focus on the three areas of Addressability, Dynamic Interaction and Data. Our EMEA operations span 17 markets and are delivered through a combination of people on the ground locally, supported by a central Activation Centre based in Amsterdam and regional leaders of our Platform and channels.

SEARS: Please tell us:

SEARS: Percentage increase, managed budget (media spend) 2013 vs. expected 2014 for EMEA:
o BERTOZZI: 70%

SEARS: How many employees are there in EMEA?
o BERTOZZI: We have a total of 90 people working across 17 markets in EMEA

SEARS: What countries are you entering in 2014?
o BERTOZZI: We realized very aggressive growth plans for 2013 launching two regional Activation Centers — firstly in Amsterdam to scale AOD across EMEA with the launch of an Activation Center in Singapore towards the end of 2013 to drive growth of AOD across Asia Pacific.

We have seen significant growth through the Activation Centers and have a number of further market launches lined up this year. In addition we are also planning to expand the number of markets across UAE through our Activation Center in Dubai.

SEARS: What are VivaKi AOD’s three biggest initiatives in EMEA for 2014?

BERTOZZI:

1. 2013 saw us implement aggressive global growth plans with rapid expansion across a number of markets and 2014 will see continued investment in developing these markets into programmatic leaders. Every market from London to Moscow is on a curve of programmatic sophistication and so we are running at different speeds across each of them. Education of agencies, publishers and shared knowledge through the AOD Platform helps everyone accelerate.

2. We are launching a major development of VivaKi Verified, our proprietary process that rigorously reviews all media, data and technology partners across client critical needs to ensure the highest level of brand safety, consumer privacy and client data protection. We will create our own Quality index across every one of our URLs and as an example will combine leading data suppliers in the area of viewability. This will continue to provide reassurance for advertisers as well as a whole new way of targeting campaigns day-to- day.

3. SkyScraper is our Groupe data warehousing proposition — a single data store with 95% of Publicis Groupe spend data, adserving data, DSP data and third party data. This is an infrastructure we have been working on for a number of years and will become very much front and centre of operations in 2014 as we continue to grow out data sophistication.

SEARS: By 2015, what percentage of total media spend in the EMEA region across your holding company will be programmatic?

BERTOZZI: We estimated at around $0.08.

SEARS: To reach a higher adoption of direct order automation and use of the programmatic channel, what are the major impediments to overcome?

BERTOZZI: I believe that there are many companies who are pushing for direct deals / programmatic premium or whatever the latest buzz word is. I actually don’t think things have moved forward much in 12 months. The idea of private market places has moved forward very fast and is a large part of what we do in AOD, but the idea of a single IO line item being delivered to a single media owner at a set CPM is less prevalent.

There still needs to be tech development and alignment. For example there have been a couple of occasions where AOD wanted to push a large block of spend across some premium publishers and we could not get the money away as the publishers were not ready to accept it. Part tech issues, part inventory.

SEARS: How are RFPs used between your operating agency clients and your trading desk? What does a “Programmatic IO” or a “Programmatic RFP” look like?

BERTOZZI: I think we are in danger of building this unique process and infrastructure around programmatic. We need to remember this is still planning and buying and ultimately starts with an advertiser and a brief. Initially briefs are focused on our clients’ challenge and it is our job to build out a strategy that answers that. The tools and techniques we use vary, real-time data instead of offline static data etc. but the goal is the same.

As we work with advertisers we work on deeper and deeper strategies that move away from a line item to a platform for their digital advertising. The sooner we do that, the better the results.

SEARS: What should top comScore publisher CROs do to build their direct order automation and programmatic selling with your trading desk and operating agencies?

BERTOZZI: First of all every publisher needs to break down their own siloes. It is vital that they set up their internal adservers to manage the sale of inventory to the best bidder, not carve off inventory to direct sales and then pump the rest out. We as buyers in programmatic should compete with their internal teams for the best of the best.

Publishers need to align inventory and creative product development with the programmatic space from the outset. Start to shape the business around it early in the planning cycle so the company slowly evolves over time.

Publishers need to know their data intimately; they need to value it so they can have discussions with a real stance on how they think they stack up versus the market and where possible have evidence to back it up.

Employ the right talent to be able to do all of this. There are still too many companies with the wrong balance of people calling the shots. Agency trading desks, independent trading desks and others are all tooling up in this space so if publishers don’t they will be at a disadvantage.

SEARS: Why is direct order automation so important? Is it important?

BERTOZZI: Being able to combine a Publisher’s first party data, with advertiser data across premium inventory is going to be very important for this business to evolve. Managing where and how spend is delivered has always been important to advertisers but I believe there is still a lot of hype in this space and mainly generated by those with the most to gain.

SEARS: What countries in the EMEA region are the leaders and laggards in programmatic?

BERTOZZI: There are no laggards; there are countries that live with different pressures to others and those that have a particular client base. We have seen the UK and France expand rapidly. This time last year we were all bemoaning Germany but we have seen considerable expansion there as well now.

We are expanding with new markets, all hungry to be part of the revolution which is very exciting, but in every market we have to take our time and move as fast as market conditions allow, all the time educating and demonstrating benefits.

Tell us a bit more about you:

SEARS: If you could choose a movie star to be the global head of your trading desk, who would you choose and why?

BERTOZZI: That’s easy. It would need to be a superhero. Let’s keep it simple and call it Superman. They have to fly around a lot, be able to resist the slings and arrows of the industry but never tire and want to change the world for the better! The X-ray vision would come in useful to see through the bullshit.

SEARS: If you could travel for pleasure anywhere in the world, to a place you have never been, where would you go?

BERTOZZI: There are too many places, but somewhere remote, with sea and mountains, and ideally somewhere without a connection so I can for once switch off from the emails!

SEARS: If you were trapped alone on a desert island and needed to choose one ad holding company CEO to accompany you ( other than your own holding company CEO), which CEO would you pick and why?

BERTOZZI: That would have to be John Wren, for rather obvious reasons!

SEARS: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

BERTOZZI: It has to be the crazy, authentic restaurant in my home town of Cesena that I have been eating at all my life.

- See more at: http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/rubicon-project/Marco-Bertozzi-of-Publicis-VivaKi—-The-Jay-Sears-Interview.html#sthash.SeUTbeJa.dpuf

 

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2013 – A year in review – BertozziBytesize

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2013 passed in a blur, the way the industry was evolving and our own business here at VivaKi meant we saw a frenetic pace from start to finish.  It seems a world away that VivaKi restructured to be more out facing to the wider Groupe, the question marks on how we would survive and adapt answered by the end of 2013 and the future opportunity laying itself out ahead of us into 2014 is a positive one.

VivaKi now works with more agencies than ever in the Groupe and we have pulled together representatives from all media and creative agencies to work on our Ventures team, our focus as a product, data and services team in Publicis is really bearing fruit now with the incredible data warehousing solution of SkySkraper and the AOD platform now working with all the VivaKi Verified DSPs being accessible to all. The VivaKi data story has evolved at an incredible pace and having road tested on some of the world’s largest advertisers I know we are on to a good thing.

On a personal note the combination of new business, new markets, AOD growth generally and VivaKi representation at some of the major events from Istanbul to Google’s CAB in San Francisco meant that the days remained full to the brim. Just how I like it. The range of events this year has been more varied,  I somehow ended up missing the main programmatic season in September but it was great presenting at both Client Advisory Board events for Google, OMMA RTB event, more recently the Future of TV event and a really enjoyable session at Marketing Society in Ireland amongst others. The programmatic bug reached Istanbul at Webit where we talked RTB at their big event as well as a few London sessions and a turn at Festival of Media.  As well as industry events we held publisher days in Amsterdam, Milan, Istanbul, Madrid. The pace of change amongst publishers in RTB is significant across the region and these events are important to keep up good dialogue.

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As the year progressed I think the most enjoyable trend was one of growth into more creative ways of using programmatic. Audience On Demand spend has leapt forward on the back of brand advertisers moving into the space and seeing the opportunity. Larger formats, the ability to combine data, viewability and fantastic inventory across all channels has opened up a massive opportunity for everyone. Brand advertisers can now see the benefits and are getting behind it, it is so great to see.

VivaKi and Audience On Demand launched three global Activation Centers in Amsterdam, Singapore and Dubai, creating a new way of providing first class product and service to our major advertisers. The Activation Center in Amsterdam now carries campaigns from 10 markets, that is from something we set up in May! The world is adjusting and I am proud of this particular development because we have not just done what we always do, we rewrote the rules and it’s working.

The press has been in overdrive with stories of clients doing everything themselves, taking it in house etc. It has been the busiest I have ever known it. I am sure those themes will continue on into 2014 and we will see some companies either try and do something themselves or use there parties like DSPs to support. People will experiment, as far as I am concerned Audience On a Demand need to have an offering we believe in, we want to work closely with publisher partners and agency partners and then the rest will play out. The scope of what we are building gives me a lot of confidence that we can show advertisers all the reasons they need to work with us. Part of that is transparency and again I am sure there will be more on that. My understanding is that ISBA will be doing more in this space which is great. 

The incredible pace of IPOs and sales in 2013 has been mind boggling, lots of the big names have taken the plunge and so I imagine we will continue to see a lot of press and growth from them as they justify their business models, the 60+% margins now all on show in accounts helps to demonstrate how they are running versus our own offerings when talking with advertisers,
Especially those who continue to offer blind, flat cpc, cpm offerings. Finally I think more advertisers are understanding the market now so I hope to see some rules often applied to trading desks, at least AOD anyway, being applied to these companies. That can only be a good thing.

Apparently 2014 is going to be the year that advertisers only pay for Ads that are watched or seen. This is a great step forward, I hope this applies to newspapers and TV and outdoor? I assume it will be since that would be unfair advantage! Perhaps that explains the total imbalance of pounds spent on newspapers vs their share of consumption?  I am all for viewability, let’s just agree how and what because we have the answer to why. Many different providers, tech companies, more pivoting than the Royal Ballet makes life complicated for everyone, we need to see a concerted effort to try and create some standards.  Talking of standards the Digital Trading Standards Group sprang back to life at the latter end of 2013 which I hope is a good thing. I have been involved for many months and it all appeared to be getting a little out of hand, some common sense and reason has returned to make it something palatable for most so I expect to be seeing and hearing more in 2014.  In the same vain ISBA wants to work with some parties to evaluate the whole trading desk area. If they lead then we are happy with that, one thing that will be questioned strongly will be the involvement of an auditor and a main competitor to the trade desks as advisors, that’s not an ideal scenario and should really not involve anyone with skin in the game. That’s for 2014 I guess, it will go on the list of challenges!

All in all though 2013 was a fantastic year, the VivaKi, AOD teams have grown in size and strength and we are working with more advertisers than ever and seen 100%+ growth. I am personally excited to be working closely with markets like Turkey and Eastern European markets that are on a steep trajectory. The leaders of VivaKi across EMEA are shaping the market and doing a fantastic job which gives us great strength and depth. 

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We enter 2014 with an early flight to CES, the largest most diverse and tech driven conference of the year. VivaKi as ever will be leading their VivaKi Bright Lights agenda, and all of our partners will descend for a 24/7 packed few days.  As we move through the year I am sure the POG agenda will accelerate and I think that will be incredibly exciting and I am so pleased to be working through such a mammoth event, a landmark in advertising and media history. It will create opportunity, buzz and of course the world’s largest advertising and media business!  I am looking forward to VivaKi involvement throughout.

What else will the year hold for us all?

Less buzz more substance
Transparency debate affecting Independant RTB networks more strictly
Mobile growth on the back of equalisation of all the point solution offerings
RTB becoming all media not just performance with most brand opportunities such as homepage takeovers etcetera becoming the norm

It’s been another amazing year in digital. Thanks to all the VivaKi teams, thanks to all our partners, and basically all the great people we work with across the business. Our agency brands have been incredible as ever at ZenithOptimedia, SMG, LBi, Razorfish and we are really looking forward to 2014.

Four years ago today…

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I wrote my first blog. I had no idea what I was getting into and where it would lead. It appears that four years later I have written 196 posts, most of them home grown content, I could never have imagined that four years ago I would start writing an average of one a week for four years, but I have loved it. Anyone who blogs regularly knows that it is slightly addictive and becomes a vehicle for venting. The Ad tech space has been a perfect muse and there are so many baddies to talk about!

I think I am perhaps best known for venting although I try and keep it constructive. I have had at least three CEOs complain to my bosses, I have had my bosses complain to me a few times too with an exasperated Head of Comms Europe in Claire Ballard and Global Cheri Carpenter asking me politely to ‘let them know when I intend to publish something contraversial.’ I have had good supporters in Adexchanger, Digiday, Mediatel, Mediaweek, The Drum and others in republishing content. I have also had guest posts from Simon Birkenhead (now famous script writer for Hollywood), Paul SIlver, Danny Hopwood, our new recruits and others.

I have had people in 121 countries read my blogs, every continent and even places I did not know existed, amazing the power of digital and the web to be able to have that kind of reach. After four years, my top charting blog remains – ‘Trading Desks are in for the long haul, not just the sale’ if you want to read it click here. A time when the Ad tech space seemed so much simpler but there was a lot of tension created by the shift in balance of power between Ad Nets, agencies and new tech companies. It was an exciting time.

Anyway, thanks for the readers and support and comments and sharing etc it has been a lot of fun and I hope to continue for many more years.

Advertiser RTB Desks – Not as easy as it looks

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I cant 100% explain the tone or actual words, but it translates along the lines of ‘watch out boys, ALL the advertisers are going to do this RTB thing themselves.’ I hear the message a lot, usually from people in companies that feel they will benefit either way, agency relationship or not. Trouble is there is rarely any proper definition of this phenomena and that leads to falsehoods and scare mongering.

Facts first, an advertiser employing a Mediamath or an Audience Science is not ‘going it alone’ they are merely changing the people they pay to make the work happen, that is going direct, different to going it alone. I would love to write an article about how misguided the rationale is but will save that for another day. Fact is we need to be clear on what we are describing first and foremost because any advertiser who employs a managed service has changed nothing other than the party they are employing, sure, the industry may then be broadening out but thats not a big deal, has happened all through the last couple of decades and big players came and went.

So what does that leave us with? The advertiser who truly does this themselves, I mean employs people who sit in a room? Well first of all, lets look at what needs to happen to deliver a decent offering. At Audience On Demand central to our approach is VivaKi Verified, a team of people who evaluate Tech, Data and Inventory at scale and that is all they do. They are experts, they have expert processes and support the whole operation. When you meet these guys you know they are serious and without them, you have a shaky offering.

But back to the ‘going it alone’ advertisers.

1. The first and most important thing is to hire people to do the work, so you are looking for people interested and experienced in this space. They have to be experienced as your advertiser organisation on the whole would not have people to train them up and mentor them. Those people then need to be inspired, developed, they need to grow as employees, they want to be in an exciting dynamic operation, we know these people, they are demanding. Working in one business, with no peers and little scope for growth will not inspire the best to come and work so you need to find a solution there. If you are lucky enough to hire quality you then have to retain them because if they leave, you wont have a large team to retain knowledge. Final piece in that jigsaw is getting headcount signed off, not easy, what is the rationale exactly as you wont be ‘saving’ money, you will be a cost.

2. OK so let’s say you found the industry RTB expert who wants to come and join, next they need to choose the tech partner, partners. So they do a ‘review’. What does that entail exactly? A few presentations, a load of words on a slide with no way of knowing if they are true or not. Your tech decision is based on a very lightweight approach and has no benchmarks. Even worse you end up choosing lots of different ones and testing and testing. Likelihood is you end up working with one partner. In my day job I am asked a lot about the importance of remaining agnostic, fleet of foot, go where the best tech is. Advertisers want to know we are doing that, but is that practical on a stretched team without expertise? I would challenge it and without scale you cant run different verticals, brands etc to see how DSPs respond so you end up leaning on one partner.

3. OK, so we have a person and some technology. So you start running some campaigns. Feels good to be doing all this in house. One day though you get an email from the boss saying he saw your ad on an unsavoury site. How did that happen, I used all the right tick boxes? Suddenly the pressure descends on how on earth you are going to make sure that does not happen again. Vetting urls needs to occur, ideally upfront, creating white lists and verticals, it has to be ongoing. You need to have that up to date, the tech provider you use cant be trusted to do that. Some DSPs have in their T&Cs that it is simply not their responsibility, so it is now yours. Verification is time consuming, and needs resource to be done well. If you are using multiple partners out their that are not transparent you will have to fix that ASAP because the liability is with you, and you wont be able to demand money back. So best thing to do is do a review of verification providers in the space, there are a lot and they all promise a lot, it is down to you to decide. You could ask a partner for their view perhaps?

4. Now we are in a good place, you have a person, tech x 3, verification process that is ongoing. You now need to develop your inventory outside of standard exchange inventory and into private exchanges, you need to develop partnerships with large players. I would suggest that to be done properly you need a dedicated FTE, you don’t have that to hand so you will need to find some quick wins, otherwise known as average solutions, par with market. As well as inventory we have data that needs verifying – you need to trust the data, source of data, how it is collected etc, that is what we would expect in AOD – beyond that, a strategy around first party data combined with 2nd and 3rd party data to really maximise what you are doing. Ideally would be good to see how a certain data compares based on vertical or business type, KPI type etc, harder for a single advertiser desk. I guess you could ask your partners to fill you in?

5. Campaigns are live. Results are OK, not sure how they compare, but they are OK, you need to optimise though and that takes time, would be good to have some other people to run strategies by though, maybe discuss optimisation strategy, even learn from other countries. Vital to have cross fertilisation in this new space as there are very few experts. Doing a good job takes time. Understanding why something is not working as planned is where things get tougher, you could ask a partner to help?

6. Did you know that DSPs don’t design individual dashboards for you, or cut the data just how you want it to report to the board. They don’t always give you the insights you need so ideally create a solution that you can pull that data into that gives you flexibility – you can licence some software, learn all about it and use that.  Maybe the DSP has something it can sell you – is it the best one though? Perhaps worth a review of the market to come to some conclusions. Ideally would be good to talk to some people who have had experience of multiple solutions and look under the bonnet. You could ask a partner to help on that I guess?

This is the tip of the iceberg, running and creating a genuinely Grade A trade desk is not about logging in and pressing go, it is about scale, it is about cross pollination, you need to have support and strength in depth. We have an incredible team in AOD that is able to provide a fantastic proposition to advertisers that is technology agnostic, founded on deep expertise and importantly a team of people focused on results not their VC pressure to extent the number of partners and revenues before sell date or IPO. I am a passionate advocate for what we do and to be honest the wider groups as well, as long as they are showing transparency and not flogging their own tech.

Advertisers may well do this themselves and some do, but what I have seen so far are advertisers who say they do it themselves but really then lean on third parties, no different to using a Trade desk. Perhaps that is the future, that’s not my debate today, its about those who are saying they do it themselves. In my opinion they will end up creating a less good proposition for their business, with less experienced people who even if they stay, fall behind the market place because they are too siloed and lack inspiration from different people. I am proud of what we do and how we do it, I hope that advertisers continue to realise the benefits of that, but watch with interest the ‘DIY’ strategies play out of course. Either way, I reckon there is space in the business for everyone to play in.

The article today from Adage here is talking about how tech companies are going direct to advertisers and agencies need to shape up if they are going to stop that trend. For all the reasons above, I dont see this as a genuine trend. Its a just another chapter, we dont know how it will end, I can tell you though that most of these tech companies are not geared for this and niether are the advertisers. All the benefits above should soon reveal themselves to any advertiser trying to go it alone pretty quickly.  Anyway does anyone care – isn’t Google going to take over the world? No probably not, they don’t want the terrible business models we have to endure and niether will all the others.