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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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A week at The VivaKi Nerve Center

A week at The Vivaki Nerve Center

Monday

An early meeting with the WW CEO of ZenithOptimedia to discuss how the market is shaping up and what can be expected of 2012. As the conference season starts I am being pulled in a number of directions to make sure everyone who needs the latest info has it!

Later that morning a call with the boss, Curt Hecht, it’s a about planning stage and we discuss what we need to get done for 2012 and how we will work with the agencies. A lot of progress in 2011 for VivaKi and The VivaKi Nerve Center and so it makes for some great conversations for next year. More than ever we will be a very European organisation which is achievement in itself. a series of meetings with the major EMEA markets all to be planned.

A session on contracts, which seems to take up a lot of time at the moment, but we are making real progress with a number of contracts signed that will help power The Pool, Partnerships and AOD.

End the day back at the WW CEO’s office to finalise some notes for the conference and its my turn to start to prepare for the Exchangewire ATS event where I am on a panel with Nigel Gilbert from Orange, Gurman from MediaIQ, Breadon from AOL, Martin from infectious and hosted by Zuzanna at Microsoft. Will be a good day I am sure.

In the evening, I went to the Appnexus / Microsoft drinks and met with the founder of Appnexus, the new head of Microsoft, Andy Hart and a number of others. Bumped into Jakob of GroupM, always a pleasure and we had a little catch up and then I had to leave for dinner with Quantcast and Exchangewire down at BerryBros.

As usual you learn something on these nights and having spoken to a number of people from other groups, its clear to me that VivaKi are the most integrated and aligned group in this space, working hand and glove with the agencies. I hope over time this pays dividends for us all.

Tuesday – ATS Day

Arriving at the event really makes you see how far things have moved on in the last year. Ciaran’s first one was a big event but this really surpassed itself with 400+ guests. Unfortunately as the day went on it became clear that again it lacked publishers and advertisers. The more I think about this though, the more I think, why should they be there?

Morning sessions were OK but lacked direction, more moderation, different questioners and less keynotes would have improved the morning session. Keynotes fund these events but I feel having Mediamath and Rubicon and Appnexus all doing a turn is perhaps excessive.

Microsoft did a great session, slick presentation and I think surprised everyone, he even presented an Apple Ad, which was the talk of the Twittersphere..

The afternoon panel I was on was billed to be controversial, I knew it would not be, for two reasons. The first is we have said this before and the second is that people in the audience don’t want to stand out and make issues. The bigger these events become the more polite they will become. I had a couple of key themes I wanted to get across around the whole Ad Trading Desks.

1. We are not an Ad Network
2. We will cut back on Ad Network spend
3. We will be aiming to centralise all retargeting and we think it’s the right thing to do
4. We work with a number of DSPs just not in the UK and we know what is what

I made all of these statements as well as suggesting Ad Nets use client data across their campaigns and received no resistance so, if it was not controversial, it was not because of me! Feedback has been that it was too about positioning of each others company etc but you go where the questions take you.

All in all though, a good day, got to catch up with some great people from around the business and generally enjoyed it all.

Wednesday

We march on with an exciting morning meeting with a large European company that is soon to become Vivak’s first VNC Partner in EMEA. We have of course high profile relations with Microsoft and Google as well as other US companies, but this is the first at scale. We worked through the opportunities, what we need to do together and how we can help each other, a great start to Wednesday and we look forward to releasing that news soon.

Later that day, I 100% focused on The Pool. We have been delayed on this but we are ready to go again, very exciting, there is other info on The Pool elsewhere on my blog Later this year I am presenting at the IAB conference on Spain the results of the Spanish Lane and some of the work that’s been going on in the US, I am really excited about the results that have come from this work.

We have three great publisher partners and already two major clients so things are looking great in that regard, there will be more to come on that subject shortly.

The day ends meeting a team of senior Google Product managers who are trying to work with us to provide insight to power Audience On Demand. It’s these meetings that the Google partnership is founded on, not media spend and discounts. It was a really interesting session and we learned alot about what is coming up. Invite will be a very powerful proposition.

Thursday

A quieter day on the meetings and valuable time to catch up. I did meet up with the CEO of Vindico and team who have big ambitions in the UK. We work with them on The Pool and they are a great outfit. Its time we need to get over the control issue around video adserving, we have been through this once with display and its time we moved on when it comes to video. We are used to substandard, early 2000 type tracking and reporting which is not acceptable.

Friday

A chance to discuss everything we have been doing and seeing this week. A morning appointment with a client with a brief to talk them through all the things The Vivaki Nerve Center are working on, went brilliantly and we will be doing some great work I hope. They showed the kind of interest in innovation that makes it all worth while.

A run for the train from glamorous Slough with just enough time to read the placard under the stuffed dog at the station and down to Microsoft to present to their regional scale display teams and talk about the importance of agency trading desks. Quite a turn out and some great questions from the group, I hope we can act on some of the discussions and continue to grow our global partnership.

I end the week with some time to keep up momentum with The Pool, discuss with thepaulsilver the final touches of an exciting launch next week and what I am going to do when he is on holiday!

The Trouble with Trading Desks is that..

They threaten a nice and cosy Ad network world where the networks manage to co exist by all buying the same inventory in exchanges, using client data and passing it back to agencies at a nice margin. Let me ask a few questions:

1. Does the average client / buyer realise the Ad networks that all have nice individual sounding names are all down shopping at the same auction, forcing up the prices for our clients and making delectable margins.
2. Why is it so bad that the agencies are bringing transparency back out of the black boxes of the performance networks, so we all learn?
3.. When did an Ad network last tell you how they achieved their results? They wont as they have to expose their exchange buying techniques. Agencies can now show the workings not just the answer.
4. Why would a client be happy to spray their data around like its going out of fashion – it’s a valuable commodity that is being used by networks to power the individual client results as well as who knows what else?
5. Is the client absolutely sure that their data is not being used by an ad network to power one of the clients competitors?
6. Why are the publishers fighting tooth and nail to protect their data whilst advertisers are giving it away?

Lets balance off this debate a little and ask who the main protagonists are in the debate, perhaps there are people out to protect their business models. I will say that our clients are getting better results, more transparency and better control of their data. Does not sound too bad to me.

Finally can we stop building cases on the back of a couple of media buyers who we don’t know the identity of, who have probably not got a pay rise this year. If this was a court of law it would all be thrown out. If I were a client, I would trust the agency as we have a lot more to lose, the networks win some lose some.

In case this annoys anyone, these are my views, not the views of my organisation.

Exchangewire Data Trading Summit

Yesterday saw Ciaran of Exchangewire fame organise his second major event. The focus of the event was the wonderful world of data trading, particularly within the exchange space. As is the way with Ciaran’s events they are less stuffy and formal and I always find the social and networking element to them very productive, as with the last trading summit the great and the good were there and it’s the quickest way to catch up with all your contacts.

The event was opened with a suitably non data introduction from Collective’s Steven Filler. Might have just been me but it felt like he realised that he had a room full of so called experts and the usual presentation would not quite wash and so swapped to more of an opening introduction to the whole event. Interestingly his opening chart was one of the most revealing of the day. Attendance was 45% ad networks, 10% agency and NO clients. A strange set of numbers when you think most people in the room were colluding on how to get rid of the ad networks. The agency figure looked low but actually there are a relatively few people in agencies fueling the exchange machines so that does not surprise, although you could argue that more people beyond that should show interest.

The Data panel was a demonstration on theory. We have one huge White elephant in the room, true attribution. Most sophisticated strategies seem to fail without this analysis and yet it was generally acknowledged that we don’t do it well enough.  So we end up asking whether data works in a performance world, again the answer was more a no than a yes. The panel worked hard to try and give some texture and real examples but let’s face it, if you have the answer you ain’t telling, if you don’t you will pretend and in fact most people are doing something more simple than they are discussing.

Andy Mitchell from AN&Y then gave a far more realistic view on how publishers could use the exchange space and a little data understanding. It was a refreshingly open presentation and was quite a juxtaposition to the slightly vapour driven data panel. It’s clear from Andy’s presentation though that if you have large inventory you can get in quicker and test more. I have some sympathy with the Tim Gentry’s of this world with a smaller more precious audience to protect.

I really enjoyed talking with a number of people at lunch, especially around European expansion, with Audience on Demand live in France and Spain with other countries close behind establishing the right data, tech and inventory partnerships is important, it’s clear everyone is marching into Europe which is great as far as I am concerned. That was the best bit about lunch, the sandwiches that Ciaran’s mum made were average.

Next up Audience Science. Stuart set out to stir debate, always an admirable approach but I think in places misguided. It was the first time in the day I was glad no clients were there, too many of his inconvenient truths were in fact convenient non-truths for Audience Science new business machine. Stuart has told me this was not his intention but I am not so sure. Worse than that was on a couple of the points I believe that he did believe what he was saying, especially around our debate on RTB but he was just not right as myself and Andy Cocker could not resist telling him. I am all for debate but you have to be careful not to leave people with the wrong impression.

The buyside panel was handled quietly but eloquently by Paul Silver. Some big revelations were that data was one big bubble and that Alain from Excelate was a regular buyer of women 18-34, both created quite stir. Ciaran got into his stride and managed to pull out some quality Specific Media gags, for them it feels like gallows humour, still all good fun of course!

I have to apologise to Nick from the IAB I had to leave but I know this is a serious topic and one VivaKi are taking very seriously and being as proactive as possible. In the US we have started to work with Evidon on using user initiated icons that allow consumers to opt in or out and to change their data footprint with the data collectors. It’s one of those areas where you can keep talking or start doing. As Andy says better to be at the game than watch on telly.

Overall it was a good day, as someone commented it is a state of the nation that there were no clients and that no case studies or examples could be demonstrated. I think for the next event Ciaran should create an incentive pricing scheme for clients, let’s get them involved. I would like to see less paid for performances ( we have been guilty in the past) and more genuine speakers which may end up being one in the same but I guess that’s what we will find out.

A big thanks Ciaran for making us all feel like we have friends and getting us in one room, I look forward to the Autumn summit and what I am sure will be an even bigger turn out.

Why Ad networks can’t become agencies but the reverse is not true.

The latest debate in the display space is whether or not ad networks are going to have to become agencies and go direct to clients to sustain their business. It’s a fair assumption, the likes of Specific and others will hire agency people, create better strategies and approach clients. The latest article can be found here on exchangewire.

It’s a believable concept but one that is out of sync with the way the industry is heading. Although there is a lot of hype around ad exchanges and targeting / data opportunities, within an agency, exchange trading remains a line on a schedule, albeit a complicated one. The exchange space asks many questions of agencies but that is around change and adapting, once its all settled down, it will revert to being an important channel like search and crucially will be integrated into all the other channels.

Over the last few years clients have been on a journey where in the main they have consolidated channels, first digital overall and then they have dragged search in where specialists have held on for some time. It’s not only channels but they are integrating their media agencies both within countries and between countries with more and more international pitches. Anyone in a major agency will have lived that in the last few years. So after all of this integration I think it is unlikely they will want to start farming individual channels out again, especially when it may be big news in the exchange world but within agencies, it’s just another new channel. Time and time again through research, better coordination and integration has shown better results for the advertiser so there is no reason to split out exchange trading.

There is also some realistic areas to take into account. Clients spend 80% of their budgets on offline, 60% of their digital budgets on search, the rest is split all over. So its fine for an adnetwork to go direct but they will never fill the roll of an agency. The agency roll is more than buying and is across all media channels, its events, experiential, etc etc, it’s also highly people heavy and Ad networks have been used to high margins, low headcount.

So direct is fine but will struggle in the UK marketplace, however I think with time the agencies could start to deliver an ad network experience and product within the context of their huge global corporations. Of course there is middle ground, some chameleon organisations that act as an agency or a network, but their offer only goes so far to be a real threat.

I dont think we need to start a war between agency groups and ad networks, I am sure we will all find a way, but I know what side I would want to be on.

My 2010 review for Exchangewire on Exchange trading, an agency perspective

End Of Year Review: Marco Bertozzi, Managing Director EMEA at Vivaki, Gives The Agency Perspective On 2010

Posted: December 9th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Online Advertising | Comments

Exchangewire story here

I first talked about ad exchanges in a pitch in 2008. The DoubleClick ad exchange was either recently launched or due to be. Either way it seemed like the answer everyone in the industry had been looking for: namely, the chance to only buy audience you wanted and move away from buying in the thousands. That principle stands true today and overall the ad exchange trading approach is a successful formula.

The market place has remained pretty static since the late nineties. The industry traded in the same way as every other media channel and it worked quite nicely. When ad exchange trading emerged and became a serious proposition it asked many questions of the roles of agencies, ad networks and brought to life the data practices that had become so prevalent in recent years. 2010 has been an amazing year. The companies and technology on the lips of the media industry now – Invite Media, Turn, BlueKai, DSPs – were not even on the radar here in Europe twelve months ago. It’s incredible how quickly our industry can adapt and I have enjoyed being in thick of it in 2010.

A year in developing an ad exchange proposition

One of the hardest parts of a role such as the development of a new way of trading is gaining trust and buy-in from agency teams. It is actually harder to get traction with a proprietary approach than introducing a third party – see how Group M has struggled with the purchase of 24/7. There has to be proof that something like Audience on Demand can work and beat the competition. Client teams are rightly very defensive of their clients.

In every group you also have of course different agencies with their own approaches and ethos to digital. My challenge with Audience on Demand was to create an offering that worked for each agency and one they felt they could make their own. You have to work with many different opinions but in the case of Vivaki we did that and through that due diligence has come a unified view on how Audience on Demand could look and one of the reasons we have made so much progress. It is great that we have Starcom Mediavest, Zenthoptimedia and Razorfish all involved through consensual means rather than command.

Unique in this arena is the level of attention that needs to be given to data ownership and making sure that we are not buying unsuitable inventory. It’s important that contracts reflect the new world we are living and trading in. Outside of that we need to manage some people’s concerns that ad trading will be the death of the buyer and lead to an automated buying environment. Those concerns are mainly unfounded. Of course as more media is traded in this way it will make agencies more efficient – but take a look at search where we still have teams of people bringing the strategies to life.

The challenges we face in an agency

In considering the challenges we face I have chosen to break up the ad exchange trading proposition into four core areas, people, technology, marketplace and data. Each area has had its own areas of positives and negatives.

People

The challenge with ad trading is that it sits in the display camp. But the execution needs to be with those who are more direct response or search focused – namely those people who enjoy numbers and optimisation. This is not a ‘display’ buy. At the end of the day someone needs to have the skills to make this work and finding those people will be the next battle ground in this market. I fear a repeat of the search market where we competed for talent to the extent that search planners were getting large pay rises after 6 months in the job. We need to avoid a repeat of that by spreading the skill set as much as we can rather than concentrate on a select group of people.

I think there will be a new breed of buyers in this space but they could work across different elements of the same principle – biddable media. Some agencies claim to be employing NASA trained graduates, who could unpick the meaning of life in an instant. I don’t believe this is not a viable strategy for all. Some middle ground is needed here. What skills will be required by agencies? There should be heavy data knowledge, and more analytical than perhaps in the past – but this new breed of buyer shouldn’t be a complete departure. After all, the ad networks have been doing this for years without recruiting from MIT.

Technology

That’s easy! Why do I say it’s easy, well because it is all the same. I can already hear the howls from the baying crowds of technology companies, but fundamentally it’s true. Let’s not hide behind technology. It’s hugely important and exceptionally scientific but unless you have the people to make it work, it’s effectively useless. We work with Invite in the main and they are the leading player in the space now with the backing of Google – and hopefully they will continue to drive innovation. That said we have not won a single piece of business on the back of our technology sell. It’s all about the people and strategy. The most important thing any agency can do is work on the overall integration of the data provided by these systems into the agency’s data warehousing infrastructure. That’s where the value is created not in the individual system itself – and that’s where NASA knowhow comes in!

Ciaran asked me about developments in this space. I think we have been seeing the morphing of companies with a technical core into DSP offerings. That for me is the biggest shift. Real-time-bidding capabilities have also driven this development. As we have seen from results, it really makes a difference to performance and the margins publishers are able to take.

As I mentioned earlier its fascinating watching all the new players come to market. Dataxu, Turn, Mediamath, Appnexus and many others all staking their claims in this space and that battle with continue unabated. On the back of that I hope we will see product improvements to benefit our clients, especially around video and mobile.

Marketplace

Is there inventory or not? There is a lot of exchange inventory that needs to be supplemented with more mainstream inventory, Yahoo already do this. Microsoft has just signed up with Appnexus and there is a ground swell of larger publishers that are starting to hear the whispers that they can make more revenue through exchanges than going to ad networks. Critical mass is key and it is coming fast.

If you were to ask me what has changed in this area I would say that publishers are now considering putting more inventory through exchanges and dipping their toe in the water. Many people talk about the threat to ad networks from agencies – in terms of replicating their model. I am more inclined to believe that publishers are less willing to forsake their remnant and unsold to ad networks, preferring to move inventory into open exchanges.

Scale to compete is another topic of intense debate. Anyone who has run an attribution model on one of their campaigns will see that a number of sites can feature heavily across a number of exposures on a campaign but the last click will often fall to a small list of companies that effectively buy up the web. These networks buy at huge scale and therefore often win the last click battle. That’s not strategy or skill – it is sheer bulk. But it works in our current basic last-click-wins approach to digital. It’s no surprise to find that the ad networks are the largest buyers off the exchanges!

Data

Come back to me next year. There’s been so much talk but little action over the past twelve months. The area of most interest is of course retargeted inventory – first party data rather than third. For the last few years agencies and advertisers have been giving it away to ad networks to make their own campaigns work better. Ad networks were thus able to create greater insights on competing brands. The battle is now on to retrieve that data usage from third parties and keep it between agency and client. One thing that is blatantly clear is the need for a huge shift in data contracts. Client contracts and media owner contracts are going to change as everyone wakes up to the reality of how data is being used.

As for third party data, we are not there yet in Europe. There is little to no decent data on the market. A couple of companies are starting to shape their offerings. Obviously there are those who will sell data but on the back of their media networks. I think we will see some developments in 2011 as US companies come to town but we have some way to go. The greatest challenge is managing the price and value. Up to this point data has been too expensive and has invariably underperformed – so we should see some big improvements next year.

European ad exchange trading

I think that the idea of a group offering across Europe is more than possible, but it remains very complex. I spend much of my time investigating the developments in European markets and trying to understand their individual nuances. Each country has different marketplaces – with some more ready than others. Germany is a particularly entrenched market with some very established publisher relationships and a low use of ad networks. There are big companies in the space such as Weborama, Adjug, Adscale all looking at establishing opportunities. The importance of working with local partners cannot be underestimated if you are to make a success in these different markets – a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

Conclusions

It’s been a fascinating and exciting year. I have met with some extremely bright companies and people – and I believe that this ad exchange trading tide will change our business more than any other single development. As we move into 2011 – and we see the addition of video and mobile to the automated ad trading mix – the ad exchange space will become even more complete.

As I discussed it will ask questions of many company structures and approaches, people skills and data capabilities but that is the interesting area for me. It will make us all re-evaluate how we work and what our structures and people skill sets should be. I work with great teams in the VivaKi agencies and am fortunate to be able to push on an open door. This innovation requires some elements of trial and error, and we all need to learn together. I would also say we should encourage each other in this space. The more we work together, the better the traction from publishers and data companies, the more we will grow as an industry.

Exchangewire Ad summit 2010

So how do I feel after the largest gathering of Ad exchange professionals ever collated? I feel like we collected the largest group of ad exchange professionals all together and generally made ourselves feel better that we are part of something big and we made some great contacts. What I don’t feel is that we extended our reach beyond that room, and actually that would have been the best outcome of today. it’s a small thing but there were virtually no tweets, no coverage, nothing that seemed to extend beyond the room which is a shame, lets hope the attendees talk about the day.

Today was the inner sanctum, you could use all the phrases and acronyms that you liked today – DSP / SSP / Adexchange / Adnetwork / data etc without feeling like someone would not understand, and I think that’s fine, but what we need is amplification and understanding. I would have liked to have seen some more clients there, where were they? The agency folk were slim on the ground a smattering from Vivaki, Carat, Infectious, Mediacom but not many and none brought clients. It was a technology / supplyside gathering in the main.

What I wanted to see was a few clients and more mainstream agency folk to come and see what it was all about, see what it all meant and how it would affect them. I was asked to come up and co present with the Global CEO of Vivaki Nerve Center and I talked about my disappointment that the NMA had hardly bothered to talk about exchange trading in a recent issue and thats how I feel the industry is in general. It’s interesting because it appears no one has learned anything from the birth of search, ie we should have all embraced it quicker and we should have wanted to know more sooner, it feels like it’s happening again.

Of the content Admeld, Quantcast, Vivaki, Infectious, Google, Rubicon all contributed amongst others to an interesting session, the discussions around data and the demand side seemed to raise the most passions as people grapple with who owns what, who does what and who is going lose the most in the new world. Overall it was strong content, perhaps needed more direction and linkage but strong nevertheless, as I say, it was like preaching Catholicism to the Vatican, I would rather be in front of a crowd of non believers!

Credit to Ciaran for organising this, it takes some balls to get these things going and he did a great job, I hope for the next one there is a push to bring people from outside of the Lodge and bring in non believers, clients, broader agency people so we can spread the word. Today we established a real crop of experts in one room and that is a great start, on to the next..well done Ciaran.