First published in Campaignlive US – click here for article.
In a year dominated by headlines of transparency, fraud, agency trading desks and advertisers “taking it in house,” we should not lose sight of the incredible pace of acquisitions, IPOs and investments. In all these seemingly endless and haphazard investments, we have seen a few patterns form — some just starting out while others completing the circle.
Completion of the ad stack
Probably the largest amount of ground was covered here. After the first big move last year by AOL buying Adap.tv, we saw a flurry of activity. Yahoo bought BrightRoll and Flurry; Facebook bought LiveRail and relaunched Atlas. AOL, Yahoo and Facebook are all live or creating their DSPs so if you want to buy their inventory you need to use their DSP. All these moves are designed to allow the big players to compete with Google and offer a full stack to the market place. More importance is being attached to being able to demonstrate targeting abilities across channel and platform, and this is where the battlegrounds will form.
One view to rule them all
As well as the platform and infrastructure play, we have seen massive moves afoot to deliver user identification both in terms of interests and where they are consuming media. The cookie is dying, slowly, everyone can see that and the realization that owned, logged in, registered data is the new cookie. Much hand-wringing occurred when Facebook bought WhatsApp. No revenue, no ad model, what are they doing? Well one, they needed to buy up the competition as they did with Instagram, but two, it massively expands Facebook’s pool of registered, logged-in user data. Everyone now wants to create a unique set of data insights around consumers, and I am afraid that is setting us back a little: Advertisers have a right to get a single view of their customer and not be forced to work with multiple siloes.
2014 — year of video
I know, it was meant to be the year of mobile (maybe it was really), but it turned out that video stole the show. A strong IPO from TubeMogul, Videology partnering with Mediaocean and Turn launching a TV offering, BrightRoll being bought by Yahoo, LiveRail by Facebook showed just how important video has become to advertisers and media-owners alike.
If it is not the media side of it, it is the structural side: Comcast bought up Freewheel in a move sure to take it toward programmatic, and the U.K.’s Channel 4 opened up VOD to selected video DSPs. Whether it is connected, on demand or in stream, video has well and truly taken center stage. Next year is the year of mobile. Definitely. Really.
Enterprise marketing solutions look to ad tech
The likes of Oracle, IBM, Salesforce and Adobe have for years looked in the other direction when it came to media and ad tech, but 2013 and 14 have seen that change considerably. There have been some major plays this year: most notably Oracle buying BlueKai, but Adobe and Oracle have also signed major agency deals and continue to feature heavily in the discussion of merging marketing tech with ad tech.
The ups and downs of IPOs
What a year for IPOs! I think everyone was taken aback by the volume and pace of the IPOs this year. Rubicon began strongly and gave the market some confidence. TubeMogul followed, and there was talk from DataXu as well, although that has not materialized. RocketFuel and Millennial IPO’d but to less success, and they followed Tremor and others in falling dramatically from their first-day float. Some of the business models are being questioned on the basis of market position, their real added value or even whether their businesses are built on the hard and never-ending work of the bots.
Internet of things as bought by Google
From left field comes a raft of purchases that prove the tech giants are looking well beyond the banner. (That’s dead, right?) Facebook bought Oculus Rift; slow on the social-gaming ride, Facebook simply jumped one step ahead. Google has bought into Nest, the household wireless heating/ home control system. Samsung bought Smart Things, another platform for controlling the home, and finally Google bought a drone company. There were more, but you get the idea. I recommend you read the book The Circle by Dave Eggers about a social-media company that becomes part of everything in our lives and slowly erodes privacy … Then look at some of these purchases.
Marco Bertozzi is President of AOD, EMEA and North American Client Services with VivaKi.
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.
I wrote my first blog. I had no idea what I was getting into and where it would lead. It appears that four years later I have written 196 posts, most of them home grown content, I could never have imagined that four years ago I would start writing an average of one a week for four years, but I have loved it. Anyone who blogs regularly knows that it is slightly addictive and becomes a vehicle for venting. The Ad tech space has been a perfect muse and there are so many baddies to talk about!
I think I am perhaps best known for venting although I try and keep it constructive. I have had at least three CEOs complain to my bosses, I have had my bosses complain to me a few times too with an exasperated Head of Comms Europe in Claire Ballard and Global Cheri Carpenter asking me politely to ‘let them know when I intend to publish something contraversial.’ I have had good supporters in Adexchanger, Digiday, Mediatel, Mediaweek, The Drum and others in republishing content. I have also had guest posts from Simon Birkenhead (now famous script writer for Hollywood), Paul SIlver, Danny Hopwood, our new recruits and others.
I have had people in 121 countries read my blogs, every continent and even places I did not know existed, amazing the power of digital and the web to be able to have that kind of reach. After four years, my top charting blog remains – ‘Trading Desks are in for the long haul, not just the sale’ if you want to read it click here. A time when the Ad tech space seemed so much simpler but there was a lot of tension created by the shift in balance of power between Ad Nets, agencies and new tech companies. It was an exciting time.
Anyway, thanks for the readers and support and comments and sharing etc it has been a lot of fun and I hope to continue for many more years.