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.
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My video interview with @Google ‘Think with innovators’ series

My interview with the Google series ‘Think with innovators’ looking back over my career and laying out some of the learnings. It brought back some great memories!

Original article here

For Marco, innovators often tend to be lone, disruptive voices, whose biggest challenge is persuading the majority that change is a good thing, and that the outcome of that change will be positive for both agency and clients alike. In his many years of advancing the digital agenda, he says there has been no bigger challenge than the introduction of Programmatic, starting in 2009. “If you look back, there were whole businesses that did not believe this was the future,” he remembers, “but at every organisation now there are big advocates for Programmatic who all have a common thread of trying to change how the business has always worked.” In driving that change, Marco recalls that there were no short-cuts, as he spent years “literally going door to door” in an effort to educate colleagues and clients about the power of the new technology.


Innovation is in your DNA. I think you can learn some of the skills that are required, but it goes back to ‘what motivates you?’ The motivation to innovate comes from within.

Marco Bertozzi, Global Chief Revenue Officer, Performics


“My definition of innovation in the context of a large media group is really this concept of the ‘intrepeneur’,” says Marco. “Really this means trying to drive change, trying to change what people have always been doing, trying to invent new things within the structure of a big organisation.” Having earned his stripes as an ‘intrApreneur’ at VivaKi and at Performics, Marco now takes time out to share his experiences with the next generation of innovators. “I do mentoring at university, I do talks at schools and there’s a few other things in the pipeline. And at the same time I like sitting down with some of the biggest digital companies in the world and talking about how we’re going to continue to evolve this new space.”

Looking forward, Marco can see new technologies already starting to change the landscape, even though the fundamental challenge for businesses remains unchanged. “First Programmatic came along, and with it all the different channels, and now everyone’s talking about virtual reality. It just never stops, so the challenge for agencies is how you keep on top of that change and really embrace it.”

Reflecting on his undiminished appetite for the next wave of innovation, Marco knows exactly where his enthusiasm springs from. “I think for me, what gets me out of bed in the morning has always been that ability to work with lots of other companies and people who are more future facing. My satisfaction comes from believing that there’s a right way forward that’s different to how we’ve been doing it before, and having the self belief to see it through.”

2016 will be the year of breakups in programmatic

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First published in Campaign – link here

In the programmatic space, 2014 can be summed up as a year of snap decisions and bad relationships. There was a considerable amount of hot air and publishers, agencies and advertisers, to varying degrees, reacted to it in the heat of the moment. But 18 months later, I believe we will see a number of these relationships start to unravel.

Today I am so pleased to see that almost all major clients are embracing programmatic with a cool hand, understanding the pros and cons and planning for a future where data and tech are front and centre. The heat has come out of the programmatic kitchen and been replaced with good old fashioned brain power.

But that is not what I am writing about today — although related — I want to return to 2014. At an ANA event in New York last year, I joined a panel on the programmatic revolution, which followed the usual headline-grabbing presentation of whoever had run a survey that day. The air was full of fear and suspicion over transparency and media agencies were in the dock as usual. At that conference I called 2014 “the lost year” of programmatic in regard to advertisers and how they approached it. This was because the entire year had been a series of meetings, conferences and emails concerned with transparency and agency trading desks and all the good stuff we have come to know and love. Very few of those meetings were about the strategic direction advertisers should be taking in the programmatic space.

What happened last year was not just the headlines and the deafening ring of the cash till, as the myriad of consultants counted their earnings on the back of the fear and suspicion. It was worse: some big decisions were taken under those conditions. Major partnerships were signed, deals done and monies committed with an eye on outsmarting whatever the danger was — and that varied. Perhaps it was an advertiser that wanted its own tech deal to go around the agency or publishers wanting to out gun Google and Facebook. Perhaps it was procurement or the CEO asking questions of the brand manager and making them act. Whatever the catalyst was, decisions were made that are already starting to become irrelevant or just plain bad.

Next year will see the unraveling of these relationships; It will be the year that those deals and partnerships formed under intense strain will come apart. Publishers, advertisers and agencies all made decisions — some more than others — but with a new calm descending on the programmatic landscape, and the strong wind of transparency, clarity and understanding blowing through, we will see some of these deals undone. This will likely cause serious financial difficulties for some ad tech companies who sold the dream only to discover that waking up next to a partner who has already checked out of the relationship is a lot harder than they thought.

Anyone who tried to sell a service built around the notion that this topic was simple and easily solved will get called out this year. The market has moved so much in the past 12 months. Whether you are a publisher, agency or client, making a big decision last year was brave because the landscape today looks very different. We can only wonder who the jaded lovers are and who is thinking about how to break up the rather heat of the moment relationship.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.com/article/why-2016-will-year-breakups-programmatic/1373982#z2CbdEY2Q3jC5yxj.99

Should advertisers care about Alphabet?

This was first posted on Campaign – link here.

In the dead of night (UK time) one of the biggest news stories in advertising slipped out into the blogosphere.

‘G is for Google’ announced some pretty significant changes down at Google HQ. The creation of a new corporate structure called Aphabet, that now houses Google as just one of a number of businesses, has taken with it the founders of the behemoth that is Google as well as some other luminaries.

When you consider the heat that went with the appointment of a new Microsoft chief executive, and all the column inches associated with the departure of Steve Ballmer and the promotion of Satya Nadella, it is remarkable that Google just appointed a new chief executive for Google, a $450+ billion company, and announced it through a blog post.

This approach, and the very fact they have created this structure, shows that Google is desperate not to become Microsoft. There was already some commentary floating that Google was becoming a little too like Microsoft as it grew and grew and was slowing in terms of innovation and ability to make smart bets.

So, in part, the opening comment on Larry Page’s blog that says we “wrote in the original founders letter 11 years ago, Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one” is a warning shot to announce their intention to continue evolving.

I would suggest that most of this is about corporate and financial motivations and has little impact on the advertising community. I do think however, that we can look forward to a more simplified mission with regards to Google.

When we talk about working with Google, it now clearly means search, video, maps and all things connected to their advertising business. The new chief executive, Sundar Pichai, can be singular in his ambitions to grow and innovate without distractions and this can only be a good thing for the business and for their largest advertisers. It is also reassuring that things will not go the way of Microsoft albeit it from a different angle; they gave up advertising for software.

With these changes it is clear that Google is not going to be distracted on its advertising offerings by saving the world or allowing us to email and drive simultaneously.

YouTube could have spun off into the Alphabet organisation such is its size, but I think they did well to keep that under Google. Video is now an integral part of the media landscape and needs to be intrinsically linked to all the other Google offerings.

The announcement earlier this week, that YouTube inventory will no longer be available on the open exchanges, re-enforces Google’s commitment to dominate the video space as it did with Search. It sent a strong message to all third party video companies that the doors are now closed for direct business only, a trend we are only going to see get stronger.

Both Sergey Brin and Larry Page are engineers. They like to build things and the creation of Alphabet is an affirmation of their desire to continue to do so. The new pared-down Google will come out of it stronger and more powerful. Watch this space.
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/googles-alphabet-restructure-shows-its-desperate-not-become-microsoft/1359549#pcoO7ZdQJikIljKt.99

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.

The BIG 6 learnings from 2014 Adtech

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.