Buy cheap, Buy twice when it comes to Adtech

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.

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Benefits of the Unified stack, a byline for Google / Think Insights

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As the global leader in digital advertising solutions, VivaKi needs to stay on top of—or ahead of—digital marketing trends. New trends bring new tools, new techniques and new data that VivaKi can use to help its clients. The company’s integrated marketing platform provides it with a unified solution for cross-channel digital marketing, and Executive Managing Director Marco Bertozzi explains why that’s such a big deal for both company and client.

Display advertising has changed dramatically over the years. And with innovation comes complexity. There are more formats, channels and devices than ever before, providing almost countless ways for brands to connect with consumers. This level of opportunity is exciting but also daunting. Fragmentation is a huge issue. Advertisers and agencies need to figure out how to create, launch and manage integrated campaigns efficiently.

At VivaKi, one of the world’s largest media counsel and buying groups, we feel these challenges keenly. To help our clients find effective ways to access and leverage their customer data, we’re turning to technology platforms. But there are many questions we need to ask when evaluating them. Will it make us more efficient? Will it drive a better experience for the consumer? Will it provide more opportunities to reach that targeted customer? Will it deliver better results?

This is where a platform—a unified solution for digital marketing—can be extremely valuable. However, this is not to say that once you’ve committed to a platform, you can set it and forget it. Shifts in the industry will always necessitate adaptation. As your clients’ needs evolve, so does your quest to find the right tools. Recently, for example, this has increasingly involved the practice of retargeting—the idea of driving visitors back to your site with targeted messaging.

As an early adopter of an integrated platform, at scale, we’ve been quite pleased, and the benefits for our clients have been significant. Here I’ve detailed some of the major features we’ve come to value as well as some of the results our clients have experienced because of its implementation. In our case, the solution we’re describing is DoubleClick Digital Marketing.

Multi-channel support. We use the data from search campaigns and from social, display, video and mobile channels to power an extended dialogue with consumers, and this goes beyond using search ad performance to improve results. For example, in any given search campaign, you convert a percentage of leads, but the rest remain visitors who have not bought or done anything. On an integrated platform, reconnecting with these unfulfilled leads is easy because display and search campaigns are on the same platform.

Building brand response. Facebook, YouTube and the like provide a real opportunity for brand building, and we’re now able to seamlessly connect brand activity with lead generation. Consumers are very engaged on YouTube, and an integrated platform makes it possible to reconnect or continue the conversation with this highly engaged audience.

Insights from analytics. Imagine the range of actions people conduct on your site. If you dig into this data and gain understanding from the site analytics, you can then use this information to reconnect consumers. It allows you to turbo-charge the sophistication of your messaging, seamlessly aggregating insights to design creative that’s immediately applicable across the web. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to campaigns, and advertisers now have the ability to adapt their creative strategy easily and quickly, using a single, unified platform.

Real-time response. The term “real time” is often overused, but it has a specific meaning when applied to the bid process and programmatic buying. Here, recency and frequency are key: The ability to deliver a tailored message to a consumer quickly after a site visit is vital to today’s campaigns. Our platform lets us schedule an ad to run within the first two hours after a site visit. We can incorporate an aggressive call to action, and we can set the frequency at high. The research window is often small—the time it takes a consumer to research car insurance plans online, for instance. That consumer might look at only five sites, with a strong intent to purchase, so it’s important to act quickly and efficiently. Using a single stack has allowed us to bring this to life, providing a new opportunity for advertisers to react fast.

Real-time data. “Real time” also has a specific meaning when applied to generating insights. Take conversion data, for instance; our platform removes the pain point of waiting to reconcile and mash up conversion reports to get a full view of our performance across channels. Because everything is happening on the same platform, we can make up-to-the-minute decisions using real-time conversion information.

Better workflow. Workflow is incredibly important, as is knowledge sharing among teams. The platform brings together so many different disciplines—search, display, mobile, analytics—all working together for a single purpose: the client. The process of using paid search signals and applying them to our bidding activity is seamless and immediate. There’s no cumbersome uploading and downloading to deal with or spreadsheets to manipulate. We now have a single user interface for all of our experts to work with and share across agency teams.

Increased performance. There is now a smarter, easier and faster way to make media-buying decisions. Results are what matters, and our integrated platform has provided us with many new ways to generate insights that drive results. For example, we’ve seen a better than 60% improvement in CPA across our travel and auto advertisers when they have incorporated their paid search signals into their display activity, using display remarketing from search ads. And when we used our stack for the U.K.’s first video retargeting campaign, we smashed all of our KPIs.

In this forever-changing landscape, a common mistake is assuming that merely implementing technology is the answer to everything. In reality, it’s the questions you ask of the technology that make the real difference. Asking the right questions—those that can make you more efficient and provide nuanced messaging for consumers and better results for clients—is a step in the right direction. For us, and many others, choosing an integrated platform that brings together all advertising activity was a good first step.

 

The importance of centralised re-targeting – An AOD view.

Centralising Retargeting
BY: Paul Silver, Head of Product AOD UK and Geoff Smith, Head of Activation AOD UK
Featured in Exchangewire also here

Retargeting is the core foundation of any performance display campaign. It’s something we all know now, but it’s not something we all knew when we outsourced our display buying to ad networks all those years ago. That’s ultimately because ad networks never disclosed the importance of retargeting whilst they were able to ride the gravy train. However those days are over, and there are several compelling reasons as to why we should all bring retargeting in house today.

Transparency:
Arguably, the greatest output of RTB is that it has created a new marketplace that allows it to be centred on transparency (not 100% complete transparency on every bid request but considerably better than it was previously).

Being in control and accountable of every penny a client spends means we know exactly how much contribution there is from every element of their retargeting programme, and what’s more, so now do our clients. There is no more allowing ad networks to hide behind blended CPA metrics, offsetting the poorer performance of their run of network activity with quick win retargeting conversions. Clients now understand the exact worth of retargeting and precisely how/what needs to be done to a) increase that volume but also b) drive incremental growth.

Lets not forget, in most cases, we also now have insight and transparency into where our ads are being served. Not only is this paramount from a brand safety perspective but also incredibly valuable when we can provide insight to clients that demonstrates which environments convert their target audience more efficiently, how that informs their other cross media planning strategies, and how it disrupts their traditional media planning with fresh ideas.

Price Inflation:
The impact of price inflation from multiple retargeters running on a single media plan is real, it is not just a theory. We know the effect of having to bid for a single user against other bidders. We’ve seen the data, it becomes less efficient. The message we convey to clients is that the situation is akin to brand bidding in the affiliate space a few years ago. Why would you let affiliates obtain standard levels of commission for piggybacking on your marketing investment, by bidding on your brand, whilst also inflating your own CPC costs to access that brand term inventory? It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.

Strategy versus tactic:
By centralising retargeting in house, you immediately remove any element of having to play ‘the ad network game’ which is designed to obtain last click or view attribution. You are actually able to start developing more bespoke, controlled strategies around first party data, integrating it into the wider marketing/comms mix and introducing separate eCRM or cross channel strategies. It becomes an extension to an integrated marketing plan, rather than simply a cheap display acquisition tactic.

User experience:
If there’s one thing that gives retargeting a bad name, it’s when advertisers do it poorly. Retargeting should be used as a reminder of the brand/product/service that a potential customer is considering, rather than giving advertisers the ability to stalk users across the Internet with the same message, no cap on frequency, and potentially showing them the same product that they bought 3 weeks ago. It sounds basic, but we’ve all seen it in action. By taking the retargeting program in house, agencies can help clients ensure that their customer’s user experience remains engaging, consistent and above all else, controlled, increasing brand advocacy rather than damaging it.

Data security:
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, being in control of client’s first party data is not a simple game of efficiency improvements. There is also the much more serious consideration of client data protection. With publishers being able to place tracking pixels within tracking pixels within tracking pixels, can you honestly say that you know every 3rd party server call being made from your client’s site?

It is not unfair to say that practices from *some* ad networks in the past have included leveraging one client’s dataset to improve performance for another client competing in the same vertical. Why should client A help fuel the performance of client B? It reduces their competitive advantage for the benefit of their competitor’s. It’s clearly efficient for ad networks to do this, and certain agency groups are also now taking this data sharing approach, but who really gains when everyone has the same cookie pool available to them?

Data leakage became a serious issue for the industry last year, and with the e-privacy cloud looming, agencies have a responsibility as much as their clients to ensure consumers are well informed of how cookie data is being used. How confident can you be in your client’s privacy policy if numerous disparate suppliers are still managing elements of your retargeting?

At VivaKi we take this very seriously and ensure that no client data is EVER co-mingled. We also work with clients to give them transparency over which pixels are on placed on each of their sites and what they are used for. When you outsource retargeting, you loose your ability to have a holistic view on how your client’s data is being used and ultimately, you outsource control. In today’s ever-stringent e-privacy environment, that is a dangerous place to be.

Dataxu buys Mexad – Mathmen just went back to Madmen

I quietly smiled to myself when I saw the announcement that Dataxu had bought Mexad and the press release that went with it. Dataxu buys Mexad. What an interesting start to the year in terms of consolidation.  I have had relations with both companies and in both situations I / we were criticised by the companies involved for our strategy. In both cases it boiled down to driving business growth through good old fashion means rather than selling the algorithm dream.

Dataxu first of all was very down on the VivaKi partnership with Google and Invite, first was the usual Google paranoia stuff which I am used to and bored of but the second was whether or not we could succeed by using Invite, considered the lesser DSP apparently by Dataxu compared to their high tech operation.  At the time I explained that to grow the marketplace and to grow my business and make a success of Audience On Demand first and foremost was to have the support of a strong partner (and a good one) with resources and scale not just in EMEA but globally. Secondly I needed consistency of offer, the finer points of the algorithm would not be the defining factor. Audience On Demand a year later is the largest Exchange Trading proposition in the world and we are delivering fantastic results and have some very smart people working for us so I feel pretty vindicated in my approach. It is therefore enlightening to now see Dataxu resort to buying Mexad to be able to deliver service and people.

Mike quotes ‘“feet-on-the-street” is becoming a key differentiator for the DSP business, because it’s not just about having the best software, algorithms and access to RTB inventory that determines success in local markets, but understanding local cultures, ways of doing business in specific markets, and the ability to advise and service local marketers and agencies in those markets.

This is exactly what I was explaining all those months ago and it seems Dataxu have also seen some truth in that approach.  The other telling thing for me is around the fact that the individual DSPs are finding it hard to get into the agency groups, they have been knocking on the door for some time and the way is blocked for many of them with Invite taking the lion’s share and each of the others taking the smaller share, at least in EMEA.  I have said all along that I still see this a very difficult market place for the independent DSPs, not impossible of course and I look forward to working with a number of them as we continue to test and learn, but difficult. Perhaps by buying Mexad they see a quicker way of getting through the doors, although Mexad as far as an agency trading desk is concerned is like outsourcing your TV buying so I suspect those doors, at least in developed markets, will also start to close.

Finally Mexad. I assume that even though they have been bought by Dataxu they will continue to work with multiple DSPs? I have been repeatedly heckled at industry events that working with just one is wrong and is not the way forward, that it is a flawed approach!  Anyone who knows how agency land works knows that it is a large education piece and consistency of message is crucial. Audience On Demand is working well because the agency teams understand it, the publishers know we are transparent and consistent and the clients have a team of people who are aligned and focused only on delivering the best results. Perhaps Mexad will find some of the same benefits now it can concentrate on one DSP only.

This world will evolve of course and Audience On Demand will test a number of different DSPs over time, that is what any desk would expect to do, even if we retain a major partner, I hope now that Mexad is tied down to just one they wont find it too strategically difficult to handle after claiming for months that it was the wrong approach!

Aside from that Good luck to all parties and well done!