This post was originally posted on http://www.spotifyforbrands.com
I recently delivered a session at The Festival of Media, called ‘an insiders guide to programmatic’ the design of which was to have a straight forward and open discussion with a room full of advertisers on the topic. It was not meant to be educational in the sense of ‘whats a DSP’ but more a discussion on topics of transparency, operating models, the changing landscape and how the advertiser may need to think differently to how they have been to date.
It was a credit to the Festival organisers that we had nearly 40 advertisers in the room and no other adtech or agency people. Thank God because I was not kind to some of the other players in the ecosystem, although I believe fair. Since the event I have received some feedback that they enjoyed the discussion, at least some of them! The common theme throughout was that they enjoyed the open dialogue and straight talking. Anyone who reads this blog knows thats what I have always tried to do.
In fact I try and do that when I am face to face with clients as well, some make it easier to be straight talking than others. One unnamed advertiser started the meeting with ‘before we start, can I just tell you that I don’t believe a word that comes out of a trading desk!’ Well that sets a tone for sure, one I like because it basically says that the gloves are off and we can talk clearly and simply. It may not come as a surprise to know that I have had a few of those kind of meetings and on the whole I feel like the end result is often better. First of all you get to actually state your case rather than be in the shadows. Secondly it is an opportunity to pick apart the headlines and give the straight answers to straight questions and thats a good thing.
The gloves are off between the advertisers and the agencies right now with all the headlines of FBI and ‘prison time’ and I think that in the end this process that is being led in the US and supported heavily in the UK with the likes of ISBA and their new contracts will allow the right people to talk to the right people and hopefully ask some difficult questions on both sides. The net result being an opportunity for both sides to challenge the current situation.
But I still have not got to the point! As I look around offices all over the world and I see that more and more the work force is retreating behind emails and headphones I fear that the straight talk will also diminish. My first boss Tracey Stern always told me that if I had bad news, I had to ring the client and tell them myself. It taught me to have difficult discussions and hopefully made me think harder about what I was doing. Now everything is transmitted by email. Mistakes, demands, apologies are all carried along the pipes and not delivered through the dog and bone, an experience that is not easy but nevertheless worthy. I think we are all complicit in this, both the sender and receiver has come to prefer it that way and for me that is where the disconnect creeps in and starts to unravel relationships.
I appreciate the world has changed and we are all working in a different way but I firmly believe that if we did the following things, relationships would be better on both sides:
- Always call your client and talk to them about life and work
- If there is a problem or a mistake, deliver it in person or on the phone
- If there is good news, pick up the phone and tell them
- If you are unhappy then say so – on the phone
- If the client is unhappy then say so – on the phone
The rest can go on email! As in all things there are personalities that prefer some things over others, but I firmly believe that some of that is habit rather than preference. So yes it is over simplistic and we are all guilty but we need to do more talking and less emailing and encourage our teams to build relationships through dialogue as well as delivery.
Originally written for Digiday – link here.
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.
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.
Originally posted on The Drum click here.
Exciting news from the new consortium called Pangaea. It has been a long time coming and represents another big step forward for the programmatic industry. Another step towards the word ‘programmatic’ being a thing of the past as the whole industry normalises as regards the use of tech for the targeting and delivery of ads.
I am still having conversations with advertisers who ask if we are dealing in long tail, unsold inventory. Initiatives like Pangaea add further evidence that the concept of not being able to buy premium, or build brands through programmatically traded media is a thing of the past.
This list of publishers sounds like a starting point and I am sure it will grow. It is exactly the collaboration that all publishers should be looking at.
Important to note however that although many advertisers do not want the long tail and want to avoid fraud we are still faced with a side by side comparison on lowest CPM wins driven by auditors. Pangaea will undoubtedly be at the more expensive end of the pricing spectrum in exchanges. Advertisers can’t have it both ways. We now need to make sure they are not priced out of the market by all the things the advertisers fear most but end up accepting for the sake of lower pricing.
The other plus point for Pangaea is that the advent of technology and data management platforms has changed the dynamics for advertisers. They can now play a more central role by controlling their audiences at the centre and then execute either globally or allow local markets to plug in. Either way, having the ability to partner with a single alliance to work with allows them to act at scale in premium inventory and access strong data to enhance their own.
Being global is essential. It is vital that publishers adapt to a marketplace where advertisers are doing deals with the Facebooks, Googles etc globally as a starting point in their media planning. Scale is becoming paramount.
The alliance will also allay fears from advertisers around brand safety and fraud, a critical issue right now. This group of companies can offer advertisers a vehicle to avoid many of those issues. The combined investment in tech from Rubicon, the publishers themselves and the nature of the sites means this should be a staple part of any global advertisers plans and safe in the knowledge it will bring quality, brand safe inventory.
My piece in CampaignLive publication in the US – to see click here
How did it come to this? You can’t mention programmatic without talk about transparency, trading desks and advertisers taking it “in-house.” A part of me that would likely get fired says “Go on, then” because it will mean that advertisers spend considerable time understanding the space, in order to appreciate what is required to do this well. They will also be doing the right thing with their media — I don’t mean taking it in-house, but rather the likely improvement in execution and management of their media using the latest technology.
While in-house has been a hot topic this year, all we have right now is a lot of noise. Companies stirring up the ecosystem trying to make hay while the sun shines and consultants with minimal experience in this complex space suddenly getting the light of day. It is a real shame. I spend so much time talking fees and transparency with advertisers and so little on strategy that I truly believe they are missing the chance to make the most of this incredible opportunity.
Advertisers setting up their own programmatic operations is as sensible as Google deciding to set up an agency business and go direct to clients. “They do that,” I hear you cry! Not really. They chase revenue, and if they see that being taken by competitors they step in. Google also has tens of thousands of free sales people — they are called agencies. Clever businesses stick to what they do best. Even brands that have been working away at this for some years are still struggling to keep up.
I recently read that taking it in house was expensive upfront but you get payback over years. I have never read such incredibly ill-informed, ill-thought rhetoric in all my life. It infers that programmatic expertise in agencies after the first couple of years runs on nothing. The reality is people need paying; tech companies need paying; innovation needs to evolve. Nothing goes away after initial set up; it only grows. It is this kind of crazy talk that is distracting advertisers.
Let’s start with talent. Programmatic now commands some of the highest salaries and brightest brains. This creates multiple challenges for employers — motivation, retention and a lack of insights from outside the immediate business. Technology evaluation skill sets, data analytics and audience insights knowledge, data warehousing, contract negotiations, legal, creative, partner management – these all are essential for a successful programmatic business. Spare a thought for the team doing it in-house — two, perhaps three people. They will not be immune from the same standards agencies have. Brand safety is still brand safety. The CEO will be no less unhappy when the Wall Street Journal reports a fraud blow up and an in-house team has been managing it. The same effort needs to be applied in or out of the house and that costs money.
Why would an advertiser want to take that on? Because they are unhappy with transparency? Because tech fees are high and they want to find ways of saving? It is a false economy. “Buy cheap, buy twice” is a phrase I am a firm believer in.
The companies who have managed to do this well are few and often pure-play digital, online businesses with very specific KPIs that are easily tracked and measured and with a culture of digital innovation. Netflix is one example. Moneysupermarket in the U.K., another. Almost all, including the most famously quoted however, are relying on third parties to do the work. That is not taking it in-house, it’s just not using an agency. And they are right not to, but if a little less time was spent on the angst of transparency and fees (easily solved by talking with your agency operation) and more time on the strategy, then the fees will make sense. More time also needs to be spent talking about the amazing case studies of clients that have embraced this space and are turning their media investment around – there are many.
Advertisers who empower their agencies in the programmatic space and invest the time to really partner with them will dramatically change how they do business and the results they achieve.
As a final note on this, While hundreds of millions of advertiser dollars are spent on blind, low-CPM, long-tail ad networks that are taking 60 percent margin, I find it very difficult to believe that an advertiser is achieving the most they can from programmatic or indeed asking the right questions about their media investment, whether that is taking it in-house or not.
Marco Bertozzi is VivaKi’s President, North America Client Services and Audience on Demand EMEA.
Its Official! There is fraud in the Ad network business and it is big. The New York Times has written about it, see article here and so now at last it must be real. Why has it taken so long for people to take notice on the subject? VivaKi have been pushing this agenda for so long now and it is not being grasped or maybe more importantly valued by many. I will come back to what we are doing in this space, but lets get back to the ad fraud.
The media industry has always been pressured by constantly reducing pricing, every contract, every agency, every buy cheaper than the next. The advertiser is looking to reduce the costs and the ‘pitch consultants’ or rather auditors have done nothing to help that situation by creating a vicious circle of ever decreasing cpms, one agency bidding against the next. On and on it has gone, with those consultants taking their nice fees while the agencies get squeezed and squeezed. So where does this all take us? Well lets put aside agency fees and just focus on buying cpms and hope the agency gets to charge for it’s value in other ways.
The buying cpm is being reduced year on year on year and so agencies are turning to networks and other avenues to be able to hit the cpms that advertisers want. To be able to do that the only option at a certain point is to buy low cpm network inventory that is blind and very very long tail, all wrapped up in a glossy $35m marketing budget by the Ad network. And with a nudge and wink everyone rolls over, the agency, the advertiser turn a blind eye. Years later, surprise surprise when the relevant technology becomes available and we discover that there is a lot of unsavoury, poor quality inventory being bought, there is uproar. Well come on – how did you think these companies made money?
I have no sympathy with the wailing and thrashing of bare backs about the state of the inventory because those same advertisers and auditors are the same that would not accept that if you take appropriate brand safety metrics including proper verification of inventory, whitelists, viewability tech and tracking to make sure the buy is quality and safe that there came a cost and a higher cpm. VivaKi Verified, the protection part of the Audience On Demand offering have been focused on all of these areas working with Adtricity and many others as well as having our own in house team that determine the best, safest inventory, but often times the cpm is deemed too high. Well there is a reason for that, because we are not buying click fraud, long tail, non viewed ads.
So part of me wants to throw my arms up when an advertiser questions the well worn path of Agency Trading Desk transparency – we have the safest most robust approaches to brand safety and ability to show where every one of our ads appears – for that we have to invest. So for all the wailers out there currently, here are my final thoughts.
- When considering the media purchase, when the glossy Ad Net is offering you a rock bottom price – you might want to ask how they get it?
- If you care about brand safety and every advertiser says they do – you cant accept a blind buy, I say it again – if they don’t tell you where every ad appears – you are fuelling the business that NY Times has picked up on.
- A challenge to auditors; seek value not price, it is in all your brochures, live it out and have the strength to tell a client they should pay more for better inventory, change your own business model away from ‘savings’
These headlines will become louder and let us see what happens, I will tell you, CPMs are going to rise, they have to because all those that have not been playing fair, who have been playing fast and lose with your brand, will have to improve because technology is going to find them out. When they are found out and they have to act more appropriately, their cpm will rise and then advertisers and auditors will have a dilemma – accept higher cpms for quality or continue to bury their heads in the sand and hope all this goes away.
Either way this is a good omen for those who have been banging this drum for some time and of course for genuinely premium inventory providers and for the rest I hope they suffer a lingering demise.
My argument that advertisers need to ask the same questions of Independent trading desks and RTB Networks as they do of Agency Trading Desks if they want transparency and brand safety.