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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Interview with M&M on Global trends pre Festival of Media

What are the key trends and insights driving global media in 2018?
The key insight is that not everything is as it seems. We have come to question so many things around digital media and we are seeing erosion of trust across the board. No one can ignore this as a trend. The positive trend though is a thorough reevaluation of
where advertisers place media. This is encouraging for those who love this industry versus those who just want to make high margin revenue. It means that premium advertising environments are becoming far more sought after and the belief that context and environment are not important is slowing fading and becoming a distant memory. I hope we see this trend continue and the blind, low CPM retargeting networks fade away.

What is the toughest challenge the industry faces?
We have to get ourselves out of the vicious cycle of pitches begetting lower and lower CPM campaigns. This type of behaviour means agencies squeeze publishers, only looking for low cost inventory, and then find themselves at a higher risk of fraud, which then creates mistrust. We need agencies to charge properly for their services, clients to pay for quality service from whomever is best placed to provide it and then we will see a move away from opacity. We are still confronted by too much of a ‘we have to pay less than last year’ attitude. It is a path that leads nowhere for all involved.

What does success look like for you in 2018?
Spotify is on a very exciting journey. My role was to re-look at the European business and accelerate positive momentum and a strong proposition in market. We are well on our way to doing that, and it has been a lot of fun. 2018 is a year in which the topics of audioand programmatic are converging, so we look forward to working with key advertisers and partners on bringing this innovation into the mainstream. Success stories leveraging data and dynamic audio creative suggest this is just the start of a fabulous year.

The second area I will be focusing on is showing the industry that we have some of the best video advertising inventory in town. We only sell completed video impressions, with 100% viewability. Audio has traditionally been our bread and butter but video is a large part of our business and we want more brands to enjoy its benefits. Our current customers all report strong results so we hope the education we are doing across the industry will be music to people’s ears.

What is the key to winning new business?
I  don’t think that has ever changed, whether on the agency or publisher side. All you need to ask yourself is whether you are helping the advertiser grow their business. New business needs to be built on insights that unlock something fundamental (and often
very simple) that will create a reaction in consumers. Too often in new business one gets carried away with internal structures and technology. Keep it simple and customer-focused and you can win.

What do you find clients want more than ever?

There is still an eternal hunt for the new thing, the first thing etc, but actually if you just come up with great ideas those usually win out. As I mentioned there is a trend for better environments and contexts taking us back to the basics of advertising. Note
that 2017 was a very strong year for traditional channels like radio, outdoor etc. At Spotify we continue to innovate, which is what makes the company an exciting place to be. And where we develop innovations our partners get to be the first to try things
out, which makes selling a whole lot easier.

How does the industry develop measurement standards for digital that are universal?
Sucha big question.. The only possible answer is relentless collaboration involving both the biggest and smallest players and this is going to be even more true with the GDPR implementation. My view is to worry less about common measurement and keep focused on common standards. Some of the basic requirements are very low in terms of viewability etc. I believe we should raise the bar significantly as a starting point. ‘Three seconds partially-in-view’ inventory should not be the benchmark.

How important is inclusivity to your business?
Inclusivity is enormously important to Spotify. As you might expect from a Swedish business, inclusion is at the core of the Spotify culture and values, and we are putting a great deal of focus on D&I initiatives. Indeed, just this week we held our annual, global, Diversity and Inclusion Summit at Spotify’s Stockholm headquarters, which was an opportunity for members of staff from all over the world to discuss ideas and opportunities to drive change and innovation where needed at Spotify and to make us even more of a leader in this space.

How do media owners and tech companies capitalize on the changing media landscape?
Combine good environment, trustworthy inventory and clever use of technology and data. Technology has a bad rep at the moment, but it is not technology that is the problem, rather how it is used. Used correctly you can achieve great things.

Audio is seeing a resurgence and we are very happy about that, but that’s not about traditional ‘radio’. Across connected cars, homes, voice assistants, speakers, TVs, fridges, you need an audio strategy that is future proof. However, we believe the real opportunity is in combining audio formats with video to generate the greatest impact. The media landscape is definitely changing and Spotify is in a great place to be at the heart of it.

Marco will be speaking at Festival of Media Global next month and Spotify is one of the key partners of the event.

Have we reached ‘Peak Technology’

Original article in Campaign HERE

Cannes is fast approaching, so it makes sense about now for us discuss creativity and technology and how it works together to power our advertising future.

I wonder, though, whether the changes in advertising we have experienced over the past 12 months are going to have as much impact upon the event as the new need to register to walk into a hotel or get on a yacht.

This past year has been quite traumatic for the advertising community; the ongoing onslaught against programmatic, the questions about digital vs offline, and circular debates about which media channel is most influential.

These would all be the standard issues for an average year, until ANA-gate, which kicked off a huge surge of self analysis across the industry.

Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard weighed in more recently and delivered the biggest mic drop – basically calling out the whole digital industry. And of course it did not end there.

Too many unfulfilled promises and uncovered secrets in terms of the micro-targeting, data offerings, media properties that are unsuitable, and not enough human eyeballs.

Enter stage left – The Times – and so the we hit rock bottom. Technology, data, programmatic, privacy, fraud, all in the spotlight.

It has felt like an endless stream of negativity, but what has it changed and how can we expect Cannes to reflect it?

The initial outcomes of all this introspection have been a drift towards a rejuvenation of interest in more traditional channels. TV, premium publishers and “safe” environments are having a renaissance, as advertisers worry about where their ads are appearing.

It feels to me that we have reached “peak technology” within advertising. Too many unfulfilled promises and uncovered secrets in terms of the micro-targeting, data offerings, media properties that are unsuitable, and not enough human eyeballs.

Now we see the need to have a reset – a fresh approach to how we connect with consumers.

It has felt like an endless stream of negativity, but what has it changed and how can we expect Cannes to reflect it?

Now, I’m not suggesting we are going to see an “anti-tech brigade” per se, but we will see a surge of realism… a step back.

In advertising we adore the creation of a powerpoint presentation. Yet we are all familiar with the feeling you get when you get lost in the weeds and eventually you have to say, “what are we trying to communicate?”

I feel that’s the same with our whole industry. I have worked in digital from the start, and we have done exactly that – we started to tell a story, a good one, but it got more and more convoluted.

We allowed other people to insert slides that were “really important” – adserving, retargeting, audiences, data, programmatic – until we are all staring at a mess of charts on the inside of a meeting room glass wall.

We are now looking to go back to basics. What are we trying to communicate?

Well, I suspect Cannes is going to be the echo chamber. Woe betide anyone who starts wanging on about data without substance, to my mind, I believe the industry is getting to the point where, if you don’t own that data, if it does not come from a reputable registration, you should keep quiet.

Stop paying for videos the moment they start playing. Take down the spend going to programmatic Adnets that won’t tell you where your ads appear. And let’s show our ads to humans.

Geo data, segments, match rates and most recently viewability numbers that only talk about desktop and not mobile, your time is up.

We are about to take a step back and look at that wall and rip up all those superfluous slides, get back to basics and start again.

Here is how it will look:

  • Everything begins with a great campaign idea. It begins with a strong hook, a smart idea, a utility that people want, a price people need.
  • It will be followed by some easy questions – did they see my ad? Did they see all of my ad?
  • Did they see my ad for the whole ad or majority of it?
  • Was my ad seen by a human?
  • Was my ad on a property that I would be comfortable with in terms of content?
  • Do I know where my ads were served?
  • Did my ads deliver some ROI?

Anyone remember taking this for granted 15 years ago? Well those properties exist today and there is lots of room for them.

What Cannes I hope will show is that advertisers need to pull down those slides that don’t fit that narrative.

Advertisers have to cut that budget that is being wasted and reinvest into premium publishers. Spend to your heart’s content with digital but make it quality – so stop persuading yourself that scrolling video is viewable and three seconds is good enough.

Stop paying for videos the moment they start playing. Take down the spend going to programmatic Adnets that won’t tell you where your ads appear. And let’s show our ads to humans.

I believe that advertisers could slash half their digital budget and reinvest in the publishers that deserve it – those that deliver audience, quality environments and humans. Our industry has been planning and buying based on muscle memory, and that has to end.

I have worked for 20 years in agency and a few months at Spotify. I am proud of what we are doing as a business and I want to challenge the industry to hit these standards. It is possible. And yes, Spotify does hit those standards, but so do others.

Let’s take the blinkers off, rip off those slides that add nothing to the narrative, and ask the biggest players in town to shape up, and to leave room for them and the other premium publishers.

Let’s cut the dross, and I hope Cannes will shine a light on quality and cast a shadow over the kind of behaviours that will finish our industry and ruin the presentation
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/reached-peak-technology-its-time-reset-digital-media/1436267#XA4X1cD4BcGXQ3jx.99

The re-birth of digital advertising

So I thought for a change from talking about Spotify, I would give my humble views on the latest digital furore.
It is a well trodden path – Scandal first, debate and finger pointing and finally actions and solutions often leading to a better future state. We see it in everyday life with so many different topics.  It is always a shame that it gets to that point but at the same time we should grab the opportunity that it presents us.
I know I sound like an old git and have said it before but I have seen so many stages of digital, starting with the concept of selling hits. Ironically we never knew less about what we were selling in 2000 but it was probably in front of humans back then, Ad fraud was not on the radar. We have seen the social media wave, video, programmatic,  and on it goes.
However this latest scandal is not about impressions appearing against unfavourable content, and by all accounts a tiny amount,  it’s about the fact that everyone just got a cold bucket of water thrown over them and screamed at to wake up. The bucket was thrown by The Times as it happens but this topic has been on every stage in programmatic for two plus years. It has been the sell of many companies talking about brand safety for years but the truth is, no one listened. In 2014 I was at a ANA conference with hundreds of buyers and I asked them if they cared about brand safety and unanimously they said they did. I then I asked them if they bought blind performance or blind inventory through any number of RTB networks and most did. I ended with the phrase. ‘Then you don’t care about brand safety’ this is not to have a dig at those companies, by the way, many still operating, but to make the point that the issue has been out there for some time.
My blog is littered with articles I have written on this topic and I was not the only one of course. Trouble was no one listened.  Ask any agency that wanted to deliver more brand safe impressions, the toughest thing was applying quality inventory, whitelists, vetting etc and still hitting cpms demanded by auditors and pitches.
So now the scandal is passing and we have had much debate, now on to the solutions. Here is my take out on the topic. Here are the likely developments for the industry:
  1. Advertisers are going to continue to take more ownership of their programmatic work in some way, hopefully finding a happy balance with agencies, combining best of both worlds
  2. Quality media will see a resurgence – it will at least be given air to breathe. Quality sites will be seen for what they are, brand safe with quality audiences
  3. Verification will be standard for Facebook and Google – at last advertisers will be able to see what their viewability scores are on puking rainbows
  4. Standards are about to shoot up. At Spotify we sell all video with Moat HAVOC standards – Human, Audio, Video, on complete. Our ads deliver 100% SOV, 95+% viewability. See these as becoming standard.
We are entering a new dawn for digital advertising, the question is whether everyone goes back to sleep or decides to get up and out. Take the opportunity to make our industry a better place.

Annual interview with Beet.tv in Cannes – entering good times in programmatic

Every year at Cannes before the Rubicon Panel we discuss with Andy at Beet.tv where things stand in the programmatic industry and this year we discussed a brighter future. 2014 was the lost year to the topic of transparency but I sense we are over that now and have moved on to programmatic strategy and all the possibilities.

This year also marks a big step for us as we see the completion of the move of campaign planners and buyers into the agencies out of VivaKi and I hope will be the start of a new age in the agencies.

Programmatic in Cannes

My press round up from last couple of months.

Rather than copy and paste individual sections of my commentary in the press, here are the links to the latest hot topics, starting most recently with the Google buying Inmobi news. Basic summary was a necessary if not perfect acquisition target.

Published in Business Insider – click here for article.

A couple of weeks back, Marketing published a post on programmatic TV and how things were developing by Charlotte McEleny. Overview was we needed to unlock the data if things were going to progress.

Published in Marketing Magazine, please click here for the article.

Campaign published my article in the magazine on the joining of creative and programmatic and how both creative industry and media industry need to up their game.

Published in Campaign – please click here for the article.

Digiday story on the evolving story of trading desks, where VivaKi are leading the way in transformation in this space. Written by Emily Siegel.

Published in Digiday, click here for the article.

Drum coverage of VivaKi announcing restructure where programmatic buying skills move into the agencies. Written by Jessica Davies

Published in The Drum, for the article click here.