Tag Archives: digital

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.

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CES : My review of the 2014 show – Just because you can, does not mean you should

 

 

This article was first published on The Drum link here

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The annual pilgramage to CES this year created quite an impression. The big themes were relentless connectivity and tracking, the concept of the Internet of Everything from Cisco, basically the intersection of humans, objects and technology and finally wearable technology.

These themes provided us with huge opportunity and some not inconsiderable challenges as humans, businesses and marketeers. This year felt a little like companies were connecting things just because they could; objects were transmitting data, even though they did not know what to do with it. As a marketeer you were left scratching your head, knowing that somewhere in all this incredible innovation there was opportunity, but just did not know where to start.

Even as a self proclaimed tech enthusiast I was still overwhelmed by the range of companies that want you to invest from both a money and time perspective in their ecosystems. Although the end result could sometimes be fantastic, such as the house you could entirely control from your phone, the lack of cross system interoperability leaves you wondering if we will be able to cope with the plethora of apps needed to manage all this and whether it will be safe, especially as regards the connected home.

So all that said, I wanted to have a look at some of those big themes and try to eek out the challenges and opportunities for us all whether as a connected consumer or a business trying to benefit from it.

Technology designed for simplicity, creating complexity
CES looks to the future, identifies innovation and on that basis we should embrace all it has to offer us. At the same time it leaves the head spinning, trying to understand how to manage the plethora of ecosystems. Even as things stand we are all coping with the battle of the operating systems, more and more we are being encouraged to package our lives into Apple,Android or Microsoft. Just looking at the art of watching TV we are provided endless choice on how and where to watch content. Roku, Netflix, smart TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast and on and on, but after a few days here you realise that there is more to come, a lot more.

The connected home has allowed companies such as LG, Samsung, ADT, DISH and others to offer the ability to hook up your whole house all the devices talking together. The problem is none of these systems are talking to each other, they are building closed systems. Yes it is incredibly clever but this has to work for us and has to have an element of open source wiring so we can consolidate different streams of data and functionality. Interestingly, companies such as Cisco and Intel may hold the key as they create smaller, faster chips that can go in multiple devices they may help us join the dots a little and perhaps find ways of at least consolidating data into a single dashboard. Apart from complexity of devices and systems there is also a cost perspective, how many different 200 pound devices and systems can we sustain?

Just because you can does not always mean you should. It feels at CES that the technology is coming first and the consumer second in some regards. Let’s take the amazing 4K televisions with this year’s big twist – the introduction of curved screens. People were left a little cold by curved sceens, an innovation that lacked a real consumer demand and required a change in our approach to viewing. The suggestion from excitable sales people was that even on an 80-inch TV you need to sit close to it to enjoy it. That fails on a number of levels – not least big TVs go in big rooms and you dont want to be crowded around a TV like you are warming yourself around a fire. Secondly, I don’t want my kids sat on top of a massive screen. The other relatively important area is that none of the broadcasters have any content that is delivered in 4k. Instead of enhancing, sometimes the viewing experience is diminished – even on good old HD we still don’t have all content delivered in this fashion, so pretty as they were, I would not rush out and buy one.

Similarly with features such as iBeacon from Apple – the idea that you can be fired messages from retailers and merchants as you browse stores sounds great but first you have to download an app from that retailer to be able to receive the messages. I for one do not want 50 Apps on my phone dedicated to retailers, as well as one for the Samsung fridge, cooker, the one for my BMW i3 outside and another for my ADT home security set up. Some how we need to link this together and make it user friendly and applicable.

We need guardians of our data
Data is a word that comes with a very wide remit, but one thing is for sure, we are creating it at a horrifying rate. Wearable technology, the smart home, the Internet of Everything, means this is both a positive and a negative for us all to consider. Imagine sensors on your body or clothes sending data to your health provider, your home consumption data being linked directly to retail stores, home utilities controlling themselves based on weather data, traffic data giving you immediate ways to avoid the latest gridlock. The opportunities are endless. Individuals become nodes on the internet transmitting data constantly to the internet. Much as we focus on the devices, let’s not forget we are being tracked. We will be tracked in every way possible and we have to make our peace with that.

The best example of this was ‘Mother’, an object that sits at home and comes with many small sensors called cookies. You place these cookies anywhere you want to understand what is happening around your home – how often and long are you brushing your teeth, footfall through the door, how much coffee are you drinking… the list is endless. Those cookies then relay all this data back to Mother for you to analyse it. As with many things at CES, there seems to be a lack of clarity on exactly how this will all help, tracking for tracking sake. But at the end what we are doing is passing incredible amounts of data to third party companies. This data is becoming ever more intimate and needs to be carefully controlled. The most important area is the ability to decide what happens to that data – many of the devices do not allow you the opportunity to influence what is happening with it as it gets passed to the company servers. One commentator at CES also pointed out the fact that even among family members or flatmates there should be the ability to have more ownership of your information and set it apart from that of others in the family or home, again something not possible right now.

As with all Wi-Fi data services the final consideration is the ability of hackers and tech thieves to access sensitive data from your life, or indeed in the case of the connected home, be able to easily hack into your ecosystem. These are all solvable issues and should in no way slow progress but as individuals we need to take control and encourage these companies we are entrusting our lives with to help us do that.

Marketing will become evermore native
As I toured the conference floor and we explored all these opportunities I was with a number of advertisers who were expressing their clear concern about how this was going to impact them. We already talk a lot about story telling and content. The proliferation of personal devices and tracking technologies means that each one of these companies – whether it is LG, BMW, Samsung – are all going to want to create their own ways of allowing advertisers to engage with people.

Native advertising is a hot topic but will become increasingly relevant, bringing complexity to marketing and advertising as they have to work across a multitude of different ecosystems and platforms. We already mentioned the iBeacon technology; how will BMW or Audi want to deliver messaging in car to their passengers? The upside for large advertisers is that the more forward thinking may have an opportunity to work directly with tech partners higher up the food chain and scope how they can be integrated closely into this development. But all that requires time, people, cost and the old methods of advertising will become evermore distant, increasing pressure on wholesale reinvention.

The tight rope they will need to walk will be avoiding too much disruption or even intrusion in the consumer’s experience. Tempting as it will be to use the incredible amounts of data available, people will be wary of that and given the intimacy of some of this data will expect it to be treated with respect.

CES is not about advertising but we are reaching a crossroads where marketing and technology will need to work closely together. It currently resides a firm second to technological advancement from a utilitarian perspective. It does however promise much for marketeers as long as they realise more than ever they will need to deliver value. Value can come in many guises, but if you want me to download your app then I need something for that because there will be significant competition.

Mobility technology reaches the car
The big standout this year was the rise of technology in the car. A flurry of launches at CES shows that this event is becoming very popular for car manufacturuers. There seems to be two directions manufacturers are moving in: the open platform based on Android or Apple where your car and phones are linked or proprietory technologies in the cars such as Audi that will turn your car into an intelligent hub. The car becomes the brain, it is able to make decisions based on commands and external data. As an example you could look up directions in the house and send them to the car, the car automatically plots that route using latest data and finds you an optimum route. Perhaps you are heading to a meeting and the car realises you are going to be late so it emails your meeting organiser with your current telemetry showing where you are and how far to go with an ETA.

Since your journey will now be forever linked to the wider net, showing you relevant ads, perhaps for the next coffee house, petrol station or relevant shops to you based on previous journeys will be common place. Cars will also become social – with linkages between you and your friends as we see with recommendations – if you travel to a new town for example your friends recommendations can be presented to you – or even their route for getting there. The opportunities are endless and we will see the car completing the triangle between you, your home and your car.

The final frontier is of course the self-driving car. All we have seen in this space has been the Google work but then up pops Audi and explains they have a self driving car up to 40mph, legal in Nevada. When did that happen? Well it has and even more than that it can find you a parking space, park it for you and if you want you can programme it to avoid red lights by adjusting its speed based on the traffic light data base that it has connected. As we mentioned earlier though that comes with limitations, not least you may find yourself driving very slowly as it seeks to avoid the next red light. I would suggest this is not for driving fans.

Some of this connectivity will be useful though as you can start your car from the comfort of your own home and in winter make sure the windows are defrosted and the seats nice and warm as well as wider beenfits, I can see that being a winner for sure and with some clear upsides for advertisers.

An incredible array of innovation, fantastic product explosion, and an inevitable and unstoppable march towards the Internet of Everything. As marketeers we will have to develop an incredibly open mind to reaching consumers. We will look to these companies to be guardians of our data using the highest level of integrity. As humans we are going to be linked inexoribly to the cloud and as Cisco say ‘be nodes’ of the Internet through our connected homes, cars and objects. There is so much to work out, but the future is exciting and we should embrace it.

Time to reinvent the Global Chief Digital Officer

A head hunter sent me a job spec recently for this role. The thing that struck me about it was that it was designed from the same script I would have read when I was assessing the UK Head of Digital role at Zenith many moons ago. It had the same ring to it. Basically it asked the applicant to be a God of all things digital, drive digital strategy, pitch and win business, develop a content role, run teams and be a social guru amongst other things.
The fact is even since 2008 life is a lot more complicated. The demands are greater all around. Since then the word strategy actually means something, we have added a real need to develop a social and content strategy, search has become evermore complicated, advertisers want a Youtube approach, there is RTB more recently and the top of the pops – Partnerships. We only have partners now, with that however comes work on both sides. All of which our heroic Global chief digital officer is meant to keep and eye on.
The reality is something very different, running from one global pitch to the next, spending less and less time on strategic direction, becoming more and more removed from each of the specialist topics and ultimately not having any control of anything as your scope is too wide to even know what one country is doing from the next, and when it comes to the US one city to the next.
The one thing that digital promised and never delivered was efficiency through technology, in fact the opposite happened, it created carnage amongst organisations. Multiple adservers, platforms, bid technologies, tag solutions, DSPs and so on. The organisation and consolidation of tech has not been achieved by any of the media groups. This is not just a problem of technical and data driven turmoil but also wasted man hours. There are analyses of technology solutions going on all over the world, evaluating tools country by country at any one time. How many adserving reviews across EMEA across any given group. This all takes time and stifles the opportunity to create efficiencies and economies of scale. Why is this happening? It happens because no one has the true authority or bandwidth to control it. I use tech as an example but could be a number of other areas.
I am reminded of a meeting I was in with Carolyn Everson as she joined Microsoft, OK may not be the best example but I wondered how you join an organisation like that and succeed with so much going on. As it turned out that was too much for her too but I liked her first stab as she made it clear the three things she was going to focus on. And that was it. Three things. I believe the Global Chief Digital Officer needs the same. There is too much for one person to be all things to all subjects. You become generalist to the point of irrelevance, better to focus. And more than ever be commercial.
There should be less KPIs and more focused on bringing about business benefit to the organisation through a commercial approach and that means driving a few parts of the business in directions they might not like but will benefit the whole. Strategy needs strategists not CDOs, let them be part of the team. People clamour and claim that digital is at the heart of the business, and you know to some extent it is, at least compared to ten years ago, but what is not is a global, commercial and focused digital business plan, that needs work and a lot of it. I would argue that teams of specialists need to grow in this mould with a CEO of digital, A team focused on achieving less, but better, running a business that delivers to the bottom line through creating a commercial framework focused on scaling and consistencies.
Last and focused on one individual point in the title, the role should be global. That works in both directions, if it is a US role then don’t forget the rest of the world, and no that is not a cliché, and if it is a European lead, you better spend a lot of time in US, ASIA as well as EMEA. If you focus on global and a few things, you can achieve a lot.
I look forward to seeing the first Global Digital CEO, that comes with the same weighty KPIs as any other CEO role.

Trading Desks – the latest darling of the Pitch consultant

I will let you into a secret, this whole RTB thing is a real hot topic..I know, I know I hear you say but it is not with the people you would imagine, no it is with the auditors and intermediaries. They have seen an opportunity to turn a buck and are starting to get really interested in the subject.

‘Advertisers think this is a murky world’ is what I hear time and time again, but then I often wonder how they have come to that conclusion. Experience suggests that very few advertisers are engaging to any great degree, that is a shame in my view as we do all our best work with those advertisers who co-build the solution. My hunch is the plethora of intermediaries and auditors who don’t understand this subject and cant see how to make it work in their one size fits all race to the bottom approach to dismantling our industry step at a time. I also think that there maybe some advertisers who have had a bad experience and then try to spread that and tar everyone with the same brush without having a close grasp of the facts and of course, the competition in all its forms.

It is a diverse market place with many different offerings available and everyone approaches commercials and operations differently, so there is no simple way to do this, it is incumbent on communication between us and our advertisers and an ability to talk openly about how and why we do what we do. Audience On Demand for instance in display is 100% RTB, 100% transparent on inventory, buys only VivaKi Verified inventory, takes no position and does not arbitrage so we have a pretty simple approach to life that if an advertiser wants to discuss, we are more than happy to do so. I would say though that we also need to make sure we evaluate all companies in the same way, not just look at Agency Desks but all exchange trading operations.

We want a constructive dialogue in this space as opposed to a series of companies all trying to build their own businesses on the back of the latest hot potato of RTB and through scare mongering. There are so many fantastic opportunities in RTB, Google Search re-marketing, Youtube retargeting, mobile innovation, data design and execution, the best of that work comes through a very close collaboration, if we can do that, we will deliver some great, great work. 

 

 

Have Publishers learnt from the past?

I was recently prompted to think about the sales policies of publishers when Criteo approached us to buy their inventory through a Criteo network. On the face of it one could argue it would be a good buy for us, potentially unique inventory, sourced through publisher deals that by many peoples opinion is good quality and high up the adserving priorities of the publisher. Obviously after about 1.5 secs I decided I was unlikely to contribute to the clever business model of Criteo by filling their coffers so they can then go pitch direct to our clients and move the business. That is not what this post is about but it set in motion some ideas that I think publishers should consider.

Companies like Criteo, have created a good business and are doing well in their niche but they got there through persuading publishers that they should sell to them quality impressions, in some instances first look, even above direct and brand channels at a low cpm vs those direct channels but high vs the RTB market. They deliver good business for them and everyone is happy.

Problem is that they buy a lot of it and need to get rid of it and so they want other people to buy it from them ie trading desks and potentially Ad networks / Managed DSPs. The demand in the exchanges has increased significantly since many of those deals were done and so cpms for quality inventory like this will likely create a higher cpm than they bought from the publishers. So that means then that trading desks are buying good inventory from Criteo rather than direct from the publisher? Is that what the publisher had in mind when they sold or agreed to the positioning of the sale?

I think it raises questions that publishers yet again have to face, is it better to sell at a flat cpm or find other channels to monetise. A lot of big names are doing this and for me makes no sense, if you want your inventory to be monetised, come see us rather than put us, your direct buyers second to someone who is re selling it to us? It is time to ditch the flat cpm and embrace the auctions and private market places.

We can also offer transparency to the publishers as to how well their inventory is performing and we can partner to create improvements for them and us. The alternative is sell and see no insights. In my view that era has ended. Publishers, come talk to us we can help you with that.

In defence of Jargon

It annoys me when people say that our industry uses too much Jargon. Do we? Or do we use shorthand? Do we not all use shorthand in life? Anyone for a BLT? No wrong time of day I would rather a G&T or maybe a JD and coke. I make the point, we all use short hand in our discussions and conversations, I would not describe it as jargon.

I listen to advertisers talking about their business all the time, more jargon than you can shake a stick at! RTB – you want me to say Real time bidding every time? CTR? CPA? Life is too short to say that every time. No where we all go wrong is using them at the wrong time. Conferences, advertiser presentations, these mixed audience scenarios we need to all tread more carefully and explain what we mean.

The ability to explain a complex notion to a crowd that has less experience of your topic is where the art comes into its own. The programmatic buying business is technology obsessed and too focused upon it. It is this that we need to cut out, less the jargon. We should have learned from the past that technology is not the subject, it is what it can create for our advertisers. I met with an advertiser recently outside of our group and he seemed positively relieved as I focused on a more simplified approach to the business and a less techie pitch. As he put his algorithm back to basics manual away he seemed positively lifted.

And this is where Trading Desks can add value, the value of cutting through the jargon and the bullshit. As an advertiser with limited resources focused on this complex marketplace, they are pitched by everyone, each with their own shiny optimisation and algo (shorthand for algorithm) and it is daunting. Our job is to help navigate this world and design strategies that link up all of these marketplaces and technologies. We should focus on the outcomes of jargon, not the jargon itself and slowly for many the jargon will turn into normal day to day shorthand.

Well it is EOD so maybe a G&T?

We have reached a new level of self harm in digital measurement

ImageAh the Ads are on – cup of tea anyone?

Digital media will eat itself then be sick all down us. Viewability is the latest craze to hit those who must have historically worked offline with frustrated metrics and now want to take it out on digital. When I moved to digital in 2000 we beat our chest with just how much we could measure. We could measure every time an Ad was shown! Every time someone clicked on it! Every time someone bought something! On and on it went, glory times. Until we realised that just because we could measure it, it was not necessarily a good thing.

Digital tracking issues started with no reach and frequency metrics! Everyone has been scrabbling to replicate the TV world. I am often asked how we measure brand metrics – well we can look at certain key numbers like engagement etc but ultimately if you want to track brand engagement then measure it with a survey, just like you do on every TV campaign. As we have evolved so have our measurement approaches but we are entering a new era of self harm. Viewability.

I am not even going to get into the fact that the tech is ill tested and nascent and needs some really thorough analysis. Or that the measurement can be carried out by any number of different companies each with a different way of tracking, so no consistency whatsoever. No lets look at what we are doing to the industry vs the offline world.

Could someone explain to me how marketeers (and / or agencies) are starting to nail digital on something like viewability and yet TV and Press are sat laughing at our complete stupidity. The TV market has it sorted. They came up with a plan 40 years ago, they got everyone to buy into it. Ratings, indexes, context, reach, frequency and a brand survey. Nuff said everyone liked it, pretty simple – lets not dig too much further or upset the nice little market place we have going. Otherwise how can you explain that in digital there are people clamouring to only pay for viewable impressions when a multi billion pound TV marketplace trades off people leaving the room, making tea, talking, texting on Twitter when the Ads come on. Press? Lets not go there.

If we are not careful in this digital business of ours we are going to measure ourselves into the ground. In TV the metrics are broad and deliver against some key criteria that they plan against, the industry has made it simple for advertisers to spend money and not question the fact that a 20,000 person panel in the US powers $65b TV market . Viewability is a classic example where we are setting a bar so high vs the other the channels because we can. For those who are challenging the industry from an advertiser perspective – should then turn the spot light on their other media expenditures. I would ask that we take some time to establish some very clear guidelines and transitions and not go in like a bull in a china shop just so we can show off at the next pitch. Lets do things right, for the good of the industry, not just the next sell.