My Digital Hero with New Digital Age

The ebullient Marco Bertozzi, Vice President, Europe at Spotify, has been one of the driving forces in digital for almost twenty years, with claims to fame including setting up Publicis Groupe’s programmatic operation Audience On Demand in Europe in 2010.

Who is your digital hero?

The late, great Curt Hecht. He was the original CEO of VivaKi Nerve Centre, the digital innovation hub at Publicis Media, and he founded Audience on Demand.

What did he do to win hero status in your eyes?

Curt was the first leader to instil in me the importance of getting out of the office and attending events, talking to companies and learning from the people around you. At a time when CES or Cannes were considered by many to be nothing other than ‘jollies’ he used to argue that if all you did was get your information third hand from a Google rep, then you were not interesting to clients.

A client is going to be far more interested to hear that you just came back from Cupertino yourself, than hearing what someone else told you they heard there. At the time that was hugely refreshing and in a world that is becoming slightly too local, I feel it was an important lesson in looking outwards, not inwards.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

I would argue that Curt was The Godfather of the Trading Desk.

When VivaKi Nerve Center announced in 2008 that we were launching a platform to allow buyers access to all the top inventory partners at the time – Google, AOL etc, he was a mile ahead of the curve.

His work spawned not just the biggest trading desk in the world, it started the whole programmatic ecosystem and all the amazing data and targeting opportunities we now have access to.

On top of that, he never took no for an answer and would routinely come to countries in Europe and berate the CEOs for being so slow in adopting RTB and Audience on Demand. He had no qualms about doing this, even when they were Global CEOs, he just knew where he was heading and wanted to bring others along with him.

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

Digital needs to simplify. It needs to declutter, we need to go back to basics.

Our expectations of digital media are so low. Someone watching an ad for 2 seconds – or worse, a person watching an ad for two seconds and partially in view – is just not acceptable anymore. Advertisers need to demand more and pay more for higher quality.

I would like to see premium publishers banish the clickbait and move to premium solutions with real viewability, significant share of voice and quality parameters in place. That’s why I’m now proud to work at Spotify, where we offer that kind of quality solution for clients, as well as a great deal for fans.

We now need an advertiser or two to stand up and raise the bar so high that it starts a revolution instead of this race to the bottom in terms of quality and price like we’re now seeing.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I started Audience on Demand in Europe in 2010. Back then it was just me and a laptop and it became a multi-million-Euro, multi-market operation at a time when the world was still in love with ad networks.

At the time I had some help and support, but also many detractors, most of whom reversed their opinions over the course of 5-6 years. That was really satisfying to eventually see, but it was frustrating it took so long.

The management team of Audience on Demand during those years, 2010-2014, they know who they are, were a great group and we achieved so much together.

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Programmatic advancement? : Just look to Amsterdam

A few years back, around 2012/13 we discussed how we could grow Audience On Demand more quickly in the region. How could we support all those smaller markets that could not sustain headcount dedicated to programmatic and yet wanted to be part of the picture. Back then we set up the ‘Amsterdam Hub’ for AOD and the very talented Anke Kuik came in to run it for me. We quickly built a buzzy and vibrant business servicing 10+ markets and successfully growing the programmatic footprint of AOD.

As was widely reported, VivaKi eventually decentralised all these teams and so the hub was no more.  Soon after that, I worked on global programmatic strategy across top clients and had the chance to see, hear and contribute to their progress. In almost all cases the advertisers were going back to basics and evaluating their tech, strategies, data plan and more, they wanted to set some common guidelines to many markets. As a result of many of these pieces of work we saw the re-emergence of the hub. Amsterdam is a particular favourite but I think it is fair to say you can find them all over, in London, Paris, US and so on, point being, the Hub is back.

However the big difference with the new hubs, either at a client or agency level are they are there to support ALL markets, big or small. They are there to support tech, data and media buying across a whole range of markets and with that you see a huge shift in how media is being traded, more so than ever before. The true potential of these hubs is becoming a reality, something that has been promised now for some years but is really taking shape and with that shifting the way we all do business. On my side having been a founder of a hub and now on the other side and working with them, it creates a fascinating dynamic as you have to work on many different levels. You need local expertise talking to local countries. You need local people talking to central hubs, you need International teams talking to the hubs. Wow, thats a lot of talking. It is all work and needs lots of coverage of teams, especially where hubs are at an advertiser level.

The thing is, these all take work to start with, but the benefits very quickly become apparent, as the rhythm settles in and people get used to the system, create a list of key partners, know where to go for certain inventory, on the sell side you start to see the benefits, especially where you have such strong, brand safe inventory as Spotify. Suddenly the much vaunted efficiencies of programmatic become apparent and we all start to benefit. Once the heavy lifting is done on the agency side or clients side and all their markets are adjusted to this new way of working then they can spend less time on execution and more on increasing sophistication of offering. Creating trusted market places of inventory, consolidating inventory decisions, partner selection, data strategy can all become the primary focus areas rather than the previously disjointed, inefficient work that happened five years back.

With every passing year this model is really starting to come together and I thoroughly enjoy seeing it, in some ways, even more from the Spotify side. I think we are going to see rapid acceleration (as if it can get faster) in programmatic. The clients and agencies are doing a great job of organising around this new world and I am excited to see how it progresses in the next five years!

Adblocking -please advertise responsibly

Ad-blocking, is now in its next chapter. The converted network in the form of Three is going to banish ads en masse. We have lived through a number of chapters in this story, we are reading fast because it is such a page-turner and on a panel a week or so ago I was asked a number of good questions.

The first was why had we taken so long to wake up to the issue when ad-blockers had been around for some time. The second was “what are we actually going to do about it?” and finally a question about what advertisers think. The questions raised some good points because right now the whole industry is standing around admiring the problem with little visible action.

Let’s start with the advertisers, why are they not up in arms on this topic? Well the answer is that it has not affected them, as far as they can see. They ask for media and they get media, often at a lower price than last year so everything is rosy. The mobile network Three’s partnership with the ad-blocker Shine might start a trend that means the only feasible answer is restricting inventory and increasing pricing. Advertisers will then find the cost of their digital ads goes up. When you see that six months after bringing in new rules on its exchange Appnexus has reduced traffic by 90 per cent, you start to see the potential impact if you clean up ad fraud and restrict eyeballs.

I believe we did not notice the problem until other businesses started to make money out of the problem. Not unlike the earliest protection racket that started up around the olive groves of Sicily, once it was clear that there was money to be paid the topic was widely distributed by the aforementioned racketeers, sorry ad-blocking companies. Since then, ad-blocking has seeped into the common consciousness appearing in articles, films and more. In fact as Caspar Schlickum of Xaxis said, we basically brought it upon ourselves by talking about it so much.

We are now admiring the problem from every angle like a fine work of art. Yet this is an industry issue like no other we have had before. This is an issue to end the industry and we need to create a collective approach to the problem. We have to do something on the scale of the alcohol industry. “Please drink responsibly” needs to change to “please advertise responsibly”. We need to get behind a body of people capable of creating change.

image: http://offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/DrinkResponsibility.jpg

Advertising needs its own version of the ‘drink responsibly’ industry effort

The question is who is going to put their hand up? The Internet Advertising Bureau, IPA, and Advertising Association have to come together to start the ball rolling. Some of that should be official sounding work and some more basic. The easiest example is to all collectively agree to not build certain ads.

The IAB with its “lean” approach is starting with that, but we should all get behind it. There was a time in 2002/3 when pop-ups were banished to whence they came. They were not cool, the sole preserve of gambling and porn companies. In the last few years they have made a return in a big way, but disguised as something more sophisticated. We have to cut them out. None of this is pretty and we have to get on the front foot.

And as a parting remark, I would say it is not helpful that other parts of the business are rubbing their hands together on this topic. Whether it be people working in other media channels like TV who think that people actually like TV ads, when actually they have no choice really, give them an app to dodge TV ads and they will, or creative agencies blaming programmatic. We all have a part to play and it threatens all of us.

One thing we could all do is not allow ad-blocking companies into conferences as the IAB did in the US because the lights that beam on the stage, the food they happily eat in the break, the drinks they consume in the bar afterwards and everything in between is paid for by advertising. For that reason alone they should not be invited.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/ad-blocking-end-industry-why-no-one-stepping-change-that/1384789#7uGwk0Qmp1bklfyh.99

Adblocking – I am going to make you an offer you cant refuse

Italian organised crime started with men ‘offering’ to protect the olive groves of Sicily from the roving gangs of people who ‘might’ burn them down at any point. It was a slightly one sided offer in that they had little choice as to whether accept that or not. As I have been reading and listening to publishers I have started to see some parallels with the Adblocking industry, especially as you delve into the commercial relations behind the scene.

As a publisher, under so many different pressures, probably the last thing you were planning for was a slick salesman roll up and make you an offer you could not refuse. Pay us some money and we can make this ‘adblocking thing’ go away or if you don’t give us a cut, we are going to let the adblock software loose on your site. Of course the publishers are not the only ones being shafted. The customer who signed up to the software may be surprised to find that he or she is seeing Ads again because the publisher paid the protection racket.What you need is a saviour of course and so enter stage left the guys that come and offer the publisher an option to block the blockers. Now of course they are not quite out of the Superman annuals as you have to pay them as well but I guess its better than not getting any ad revenues and they are working to some extent in their interests.

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Overall the whole landscape is very messy, very challenging and right now seems to be a little too much like the Sicilian olive groves of yesteryear.

Youtube ADEX closure – Is the future a closed ecosystem?

Originally written for Digiday – link hereimages.

I have watched with interest the backlash against the Google decision to pull its YouTube inventory back from DoubleClick Ad Exchange. It got me thinking about the past and the present and the fact that there is this view that all companies must make everything equal to everyone. Google has disabled something that represented 5 percent of its total YouTube sales — is that really worth all the fuss?

While it is an issue insofar as many businesses are built on the back of disruption and filling niches and a multitude of other business models, Google has no obligation to make life easy for them. Indeed, Google is not alone. Facebook locked everything up; Amazon would rather shut sales down that let you get hold of its data; AOL, Yahoo and others hold all their best inventory back so you can only buy it through their platforms.

Welcome to the future. These companies have invested billions into their product, and they have no obligation to make other competitive businesses rich on the back of their investments. It is called competitive advantage.

Holding on to the Google debate a little longer, five years ago it had a poor ad server and limited display business. It was seemingly going backwards in terms of innovation outside of search and video. And then a few things happened: Some smart people made some smart decisions. Google bought companies, it invested in their stack, it invested in data, and before you knew it, it was dominating display. It did the same in video, so if it chooses to limit the access to just three entry points from four, then that is Google’s business. If AOL, after investing in content, tech and data, wants to only allow access to the best of what they have via its platform, that is its prerogative.

It was only five or six years ago that we were all forced to work like this. If you wanted inventory from The Telegraph, you rang up The Telegraph, likewise Guardian, ITV and so on. We were forced to deal with hundreds of walled gardens. We have improved the situation with technology, so now we have many fewer entry points to inventory, but when we started down this road no one ever said everyone had to sign up to this new way of working, the deal was that we could buy inventory through platforms and use data — not — be able to access all inventory through any platform.

As an example, AppNexus is the self-proclaimed independent solution outside of Google. It is doing well. But should Google then help AppNexus or worry about whether it can get access to YouTube inventory via AdX? Of course not. The same would go for many other demand-side platforms that would issue complaints on the topic.

Now, as a buyer, we would prefer to see an ecosystem where we can access whatever we want from wherever we want. And we do rally against the approaches of Google, Facebook and Amazon. But at the same time, we have options. We can work around most of this, and we will create solutions that help us navigate and deliver against the utopia we were once searching for. That said, this is business. This is about companies investing and then looking to make returns off the back of it. YouTube is not the BBC, and it can decide how you buy its content.