The least well known, best attended event: Webit 2013

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Probably 6-9 months ago when November seemed a life time away I received my first communication from Webit. Come the day I walk on stage, myself and fellow speakers had received according to the hosts around 36,000 emails in the arranging of this event. Based on my own experiences and those of others, it felt like at least 36,000 as well. As time went by I started to talk to more people who appeared to be attending this mysterious event in Istanbul and so I decided to have a go.

Welcome to Webit, 8000 people from 103 countries all converging on the astounding Istanbul. Link to event here

The 36,000 emails was a precursor to a peculiar event, just as Istanbul sits between Western world and Eastern world so the event seemed to attempt to straddle both but with an emphasis on the Middle East. I think to call it an International event is slightly over stating, I would suggest that 80% of attendees were local or from the Middle Eastern region with a smattering of people from the rest of the globe.  The genius of these conferences is that a smattering of logos gives it the appearance of something that perhaps it will be one day but not yet. Vevo, Yume, VivaKi, Omnicom (Nikki Mendoca flew in for a morning to grace us), Facebook etc all make it look a big deal and yet many presentations were far from International.

As an event I believe it over stretched itself although I am not sure the organiser thought so, there was no hint of embarrassement that they had spammed people with communication in the run up, so much so that basically everyone I met had given up caring and waited until the last minute to work out where to go next. There is less hierarchy in an arilines exec club status than at this event with three or four different tiers of ticket and then corresponding content. As an example the Telco area and presentations was only available to Platinum, consequently there were no people in the sessions! Different rooms, different tiers and thousands of emails led to a pleasantly chaotic environment. 

I think the focus on start ups and innovation is probably very valuable to the area and I think the mentality of networking very strong and so this side of the event was more powerful than other more sedate affairs. The outside areas and exhibition area, actually quite small, was more like a souk atmosphere with human interaction front and centre. I certainly have never had so many spam contacts, apologies, new business opportunities sent to me and continue to be so. A small point but I feel like I have signed up to the biggest direct mail database by attending the conference, as my inbox seems to be now filled with new biz opportunities. My favourite being:

‘We partner with firms to enable you to expedite time-to-market and improve Return-on-investment by providing cost effective solutions’

I think the area that the organiser most needs to focus on is the matching of titles and content, the Big Data session as an example had at least two presentations that niether mentioned the words Big Data or in fact had anything but a tenuous link with it. Some might say that is the norm, but watching a number of the sessions, it felt to me like too much time spent on creating an overcomplicated infrastructure and not enough on the content, both original content and how it is coordinated. The Panels at times had 8 people on them, this format needs some work, too many people not saying enough, less is more definitely springs to mind!

Evening entertainment was very good, especially for the speakers and panelists and the men, a wonderful evening boat ride and dinner followed by cool party on night one and then night two a meal followed by probably the least likely entertainment – a mass naked Hammam..umm. This combined with some liberal belly dancing left a few of the International ladies wondering whether this conference could be a little more balanced in its approach to men and women and indeed I doubt anyone really cared about how many women there were on stage – the answer. very few.

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All that said it was an amazing location, infectious atmosphere led by Plamen and I am sure it will continue to grow and grow. I feel like it needs to take a lead from other large events in how it is set up and run to streamline everything and have less of the workings on show and more of the content. If you want to really ramp up business in the area I also believe it would be a great starting place. For VivaKi expanding and increasing the Audeince On Demand services there it worked well on the back of the AOD Publisher Day we had before it and I am sure many other International teams will see similar opportunity.

The event also created two side lines, the first is that myself and Brian from Digiday have coined the phrase ‘they did a Webit’ and that Brian has big plans for bringing programmatic to the Bazaars of Istanbul, he is particularly worried about the longevity of the exclusive superglue stall man in this new era of RTB!

Advertiser RTB Desks – Not as easy as it looks

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I cant 100% explain the tone or actual words, but it translates along the lines of ‘watch out boys, ALL the advertisers are going to do this RTB thing themselves.’ I hear the message a lot, usually from people in companies that feel they will benefit either way, agency relationship or not. Trouble is there is rarely any proper definition of this phenomena and that leads to falsehoods and scare mongering.

Facts first, an advertiser employing a Mediamath or an Audience Science is not ‘going it alone’ they are merely changing the people they pay to make the work happen, that is going direct, different to going it alone. I would love to write an article about how misguided the rationale is but will save that for another day. Fact is we need to be clear on what we are describing first and foremost because any advertiser who employs a managed service has changed nothing other than the party they are employing, sure, the industry may then be broadening out but thats not a big deal, has happened all through the last couple of decades and big players came and went.

So what does that leave us with? The advertiser who truly does this themselves, I mean employs people who sit in a room? Well first of all, lets look at what needs to happen to deliver a decent offering. At Audience On Demand central to our approach is VivaKi Verified, a team of people who evaluate Tech, Data and Inventory at scale and that is all they do. They are experts, they have expert processes and support the whole operation. When you meet these guys you know they are serious and without them, you have a shaky offering.

But back to the ‘going it alone’ advertisers.

1. The first and most important thing is to hire people to do the work, so you are looking for people interested and experienced in this space. They have to be experienced as your advertiser organisation on the whole would not have people to train them up and mentor them. Those people then need to be inspired, developed, they need to grow as employees, they want to be in an exciting dynamic operation, we know these people, they are demanding. Working in one business, with no peers and little scope for growth will not inspire the best to come and work so you need to find a solution there. If you are lucky enough to hire quality you then have to retain them because if they leave, you wont have a large team to retain knowledge. Final piece in that jigsaw is getting headcount signed off, not easy, what is the rationale exactly as you wont be ‘saving’ money, you will be a cost.

2. OK so let’s say you found the industry RTB expert who wants to come and join, next they need to choose the tech partner, partners. So they do a ‘review’. What does that entail exactly? A few presentations, a load of words on a slide with no way of knowing if they are true or not. Your tech decision is based on a very lightweight approach and has no benchmarks. Even worse you end up choosing lots of different ones and testing and testing. Likelihood is you end up working with one partner. In my day job I am asked a lot about the importance of remaining agnostic, fleet of foot, go where the best tech is. Advertisers want to know we are doing that, but is that practical on a stretched team without expertise? I would challenge it and without scale you cant run different verticals, brands etc to see how DSPs respond so you end up leaning on one partner.

3. OK, so we have a person and some technology. So you start running some campaigns. Feels good to be doing all this in house. One day though you get an email from the boss saying he saw your ad on an unsavoury site. How did that happen, I used all the right tick boxes? Suddenly the pressure descends on how on earth you are going to make sure that does not happen again. Vetting urls needs to occur, ideally upfront, creating white lists and verticals, it has to be ongoing. You need to have that up to date, the tech provider you use cant be trusted to do that. Some DSPs have in their T&Cs that it is simply not their responsibility, so it is now yours. Verification is time consuming, and needs resource to be done well. If you are using multiple partners out their that are not transparent you will have to fix that ASAP because the liability is with you, and you wont be able to demand money back. So best thing to do is do a review of verification providers in the space, there are a lot and they all promise a lot, it is down to you to decide. You could ask a partner for their view perhaps?

4. Now we are in a good place, you have a person, tech x 3, verification process that is ongoing. You now need to develop your inventory outside of standard exchange inventory and into private exchanges, you need to develop partnerships with large players. I would suggest that to be done properly you need a dedicated FTE, you don’t have that to hand so you will need to find some quick wins, otherwise known as average solutions, par with market. As well as inventory we have data that needs verifying – you need to trust the data, source of data, how it is collected etc, that is what we would expect in AOD – beyond that, a strategy around first party data combined with 2nd and 3rd party data to really maximise what you are doing. Ideally would be good to see how a certain data compares based on vertical or business type, KPI type etc, harder for a single advertiser desk. I guess you could ask your partners to fill you in?

5. Campaigns are live. Results are OK, not sure how they compare, but they are OK, you need to optimise though and that takes time, would be good to have some other people to run strategies by though, maybe discuss optimisation strategy, even learn from other countries. Vital to have cross fertilisation in this new space as there are very few experts. Doing a good job takes time. Understanding why something is not working as planned is where things get tougher, you could ask a partner to help?

6. Did you know that DSPs don’t design individual dashboards for you, or cut the data just how you want it to report to the board. They don’t always give you the insights you need so ideally create a solution that you can pull that data into that gives you flexibility – you can licence some software, learn all about it and use that.  Maybe the DSP has something it can sell you – is it the best one though? Perhaps worth a review of the market to come to some conclusions. Ideally would be good to talk to some people who have had experience of multiple solutions and look under the bonnet. You could ask a partner to help on that I guess?

This is the tip of the iceberg, running and creating a genuinely Grade A trade desk is not about logging in and pressing go, it is about scale, it is about cross pollination, you need to have support and strength in depth. We have an incredible team in AOD that is able to provide a fantastic proposition to advertisers that is technology agnostic, founded on deep expertise and importantly a team of people focused on results not their VC pressure to extent the number of partners and revenues before sell date or IPO. I am a passionate advocate for what we do and to be honest the wider groups as well, as long as they are showing transparency and not flogging their own tech.

Advertisers may well do this themselves and some do, but what I have seen so far are advertisers who say they do it themselves but really then lean on third parties, no different to using a Trade desk. Perhaps that is the future, that’s not my debate today, its about those who are saying they do it themselves. In my opinion they will end up creating a less good proposition for their business, with less experienced people who even if they stay, fall behind the market place because they are too siloed and lack inspiration from different people. I am proud of what we do and how we do it, I hope that advertisers continue to realise the benefits of that, but watch with interest the ‘DIY’ strategies play out of course. Either way, I reckon there is space in the business for everyone to play in.

The article today from Adage here is talking about how tech companies are going direct to advertisers and agencies need to shape up if they are going to stop that trend. For all the reasons above, I dont see this as a genuine trend. Its a just another chapter, we dont know how it will end, I can tell you though that most of these tech companies are not geared for this and niether are the advertisers. All the benefits above should soon reveal themselves to any advertiser trying to go it alone pretty quickly.  Anyway does anyone care – isn’t Google going to take over the world? No probably not, they don’t want the terrible business models we have to endure and niether will all the others.

Putting the RTB in B2B

Since 2000 when I started to work in digital there has been a constant learning curve for agencies, advertisers and publishers alike. The fantastic part of working in digital but also the greatest challenge is that it rarely sits still for long, leaving people constantly chasing the next level of knowledge. If I look back over the last thirteen years there have been some key milestones. First we got this whole thing off the ground around 2000 in a real manner. We then saw the rise of Search as a real revolution of the digital business. The dot com crash and overall stagnation saw little innovation until Youtube, social media start up around the middle of the decade. Just as everyone was comfortable along came Real time bidding and exchanges.

Each sector of our business has responded differently to each of the challenges and seen different challenges and opportunities. In the last 12 months I have been asked to talk at a couple of B2B events on the subject of RTB, it is a business that was traditional in nature and could understand digital from a search and targeting perspective, mainly because they could replicate the very industry specific offline approach online. Many websites, content specific and so on. The trouble is RTB is not about the content. It can be part of the equation, but it is not the driving force. The driving force is Audience and reaching that audience.

At first that felt wrong to people but actually I have had many conversations over the years where we wanted to target small business owners or IT professionals and the conclusion was that these professionals ‘were just people’ and we should target them not just in work specific environments but also in their spare time, catching them where you would expect them to be. How many campaigns run on Golf sites in the hope of attracting C-level execs?

At the heart of the issue is that, how do you target very specific audiences without being in very specific content. Reaching the investment community, IT hardware budget holders, small businesses, you name it. Well RTB has some answers and the marketeers of B2B and Publishers alike need to start testing and creating their own very bespoke audiences. The data is there, as an advertiser you have visitor data, registered user data, you have data from your social presence and more. Publishers collect information all the time and there is even more they can do as sophistication increases. Planning is not what it used to be, planning starts by creating profiles and target segments using your data, publisher data and third party data. Start to create and test, RTB allows you to switch on and off in an instant and so the opportunity to learn is immense.

I sometimes have this impression that people still see RTB as the remnant of the industry on long tail sites. This is a misconception so I advise a marketeer to go an investigate. The world’s leading content is now in the exchange ecosystem, whether through private marketplaces or public. If the FT, Guardian, Telegraph most IT sites all see opportunity then the marketeer should also. The technology and the data can now be applied intelligently to all this premium inventory and combine that with intelligent use of dynamic creative and you have a powerful opportunity. And after all of those benefits you can apply the macro benefits of RTB – you dont buy upfront, you buy what you need to buy, one impression at a time. You can frequency cap, single reporting and achieve transparency of what you are buying. These are vital in the new digital ecosystem marketeers should be demanding this as standard.

I often spend time explaining to advertisers that we have changed our agency model, the publishers have adapted or are in the process of adapting to this revolution in digital, but many times we dont challenge the advertiser to change. That would be my core message here, dont do what you have always done, you should change and if you agency partner is not challenging you to do that then you have the wrong agency.

Trading Desks – the latest darling of the Pitch consultant

I will let you into a secret, this whole RTB thing is a real hot topic..I know, I know I hear you say but it is not with the people you would imagine, no it is with the auditors and intermediaries. They have seen an opportunity to turn a buck and are starting to get really interested in the subject.

‘Advertisers think this is a murky world’ is what I hear time and time again, but then I often wonder how they have come to that conclusion. Experience suggests that very few advertisers are engaging to any great degree, that is a shame in my view as we do all our best work with those advertisers who co-build the solution. My hunch is the plethora of intermediaries and auditors who don’t understand this subject and cant see how to make it work in their one size fits all race to the bottom approach to dismantling our industry step at a time. I also think that there maybe some advertisers who have had a bad experience and then try to spread that and tar everyone with the same brush without having a close grasp of the facts and of course, the competition in all its forms.

It is a diverse market place with many different offerings available and everyone approaches commercials and operations differently, so there is no simple way to do this, it is incumbent on communication between us and our advertisers and an ability to talk openly about how and why we do what we do. Audience On Demand for instance in display is 100% RTB, 100% transparent on inventory, buys only VivaKi Verified inventory, takes no position and does not arbitrage so we have a pretty simple approach to life that if an advertiser wants to discuss, we are more than happy to do so. I would say though that we also need to make sure we evaluate all companies in the same way, not just look at Agency Desks but all exchange trading operations.

We want a constructive dialogue in this space as opposed to a series of companies all trying to build their own businesses on the back of the latest hot potato of RTB and through scare mongering. There are so many fantastic opportunities in RTB, Google Search re-marketing, Youtube retargeting, mobile innovation, data design and execution, the best of that work comes through a very close collaboration, if we can do that, we will deliver some great, great work. 

 

 

Our latest recruits – Their views, one month in at Audience On Demand

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I thought I would ask our three latest recruits, all graduates to give me their view of our industry just one month in. The message is clear, we are big and complex and we love TLAs but that is what makes it fascinating. Backgrounds of economics, maths and marketing show that regardless of diverse backgrounds, all roads lead to RTB! Sorry Real Time Bidding! I am always excited when we have new people joining and so let’s hear from them..

Trisha Halai @trisha_halai

Having done a maths degree I never thought I would see myself taking on a career in the digital advertising industry. After being approached by a recruitment agency and being told about the role and company – I can say I will never look back. My first month has been very much a learning curve and a very interesting one. Understanding the technical aspect of the role in terms of getting to grips with the platform and the systems has been one thing and understanding the hundreds of jargon used in advertising is another. Initially, I was completely thrown back in my first week when I heard acronyms such as DSP, SSP, DFA, DFP, DBM, MPU and PMP to name a few. However, as time has gone on and the more I have heard these terms, they have become second nature to me and now not using them would be slightly absurd.

Coming from a maths background, I developed many transferable skills and I can say I am proud to have the opportunity to apply these analytical, problem solving and logical thinking skills into my current role.   Working in a dynamic and creative industry, one that is so measureable and trackable in every aspect is exciting. It is great to be exposed to the industry at a point where it is constantly changing and advancing. Communicating and building relationships with highly respected technology and data providers and some of the big publishing names as well as agencies is what makes the day-to-day role so varied.

Being part of the AOD team at Vivaki has been an insight in many ways. It is very exciting working in a team that helps brands to deliver strong, highly targeted messages to very niche audiences across many channels such as display, video, mobile and social media. Working in a team that takes great pride in what it does and is passionate about its day-to-day management of campaigns is inspirational.

I look forward to learning new skills and developing a deeper understanding of my current role and I look forward to any challenges I may be faced with in AOD.

Claire Hobson @claireHobs

My first month as a member of the AOD team at VivaKi has been both exciting and eventful. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many new people and have learnt a great deal about the dynamic industry of digital media in such a short time.

As a Marketing MA graduate, I had developed an interest in digital marketing and was keen to get into this area as a first step in my career. However, I had never come across agency trading desks or real-time bidding and as a result I found the complexity of the real-time bidding ecosystem quite overwhelming when I first started. RTB, DSPs, Ad exchanges, ad networks, ad servers, SSPs, PMPs… it was all like a foreign language to me, particularly with the frequent use of (appropriately named) TLAs.

Four weeks on, what seemed complex to me back then is now much clearer, having benefitted from being amongst the hugely knowledgeable AOD team and from meeting the various external teams that represent the other vital pieces of the RTB puzzle. I have noticed the difference in levels of understanding and views of RTB across these different teams, whether it be media planner/ buyers, publishers, data providers or technology platforms. This has been useful for me to gain a more holistic understanding of how RTB is viewed in the wider media industry and has helped me in developing my own opinions.

Part of the reason why I wanted to work in digital after graduating is that it is an industry that is growing and constantly changing, making for an exciting and fast-paced environment to work in – my first month at VivaKi has definitely confirmed this. However, it has also highlighted that there are often challenges, difficulties and problems to solve around these changes, something that I did not previously fully appreciate but have come to see how this is key to the development of such a dynamic industry.

A good way to sum up my first month is perhaps not to reflect but to look at how it has given me both an eagerness to learn more and a strong desire to be a part of the future of RTB, whether it be in display, mobile, video or even connected TVs. I look forward to my second month at VivaKi in the exciting world of digital media and RTB.

Nick Brown @NickPhBrown

PMP, IO, SSP, DSP, KCT, vCPM, KPI, ABC1, GRP, MPU, RTB are just a bunch of letters… However, I have come in to contact with them such remarkable regularity that I find myself thinking what a laborious task it would be to have a conversation using full, un-acronym-ed words. Since, I started work at VivaKi, the AOD team has performed massive brand blasts, won over some great clients, tested cutting edge industry inventory, even achieved a world first! The list goes on… We work closely with companies like Doubleclick, VisualDNA and large pubs like eBay and Amazon, all to our own varied ends.

Point being, there’s so much to Real Time Bidding; too much to ever come close to having a shrink wrap solution to it. On top of that, it is constantly morphing and progressing. Not only are Mobile and Video making leaps and bounds forwards, but the platforms we work with on a daily basis bring in a whole host of new features almost weekly. It’s a crazy trade to be in and my first month has overwhelmed me with a phenomenal amount of information. I would love to write all about the diverse, highly affable team I’m working in, and on how much fun I’ve had in the many social events that have already taken place but if I tried to it would fill pages and pages. Suffice to say that my first month has been a whirlwind tour of the immense and fascinating world that AOD is right in the centre of: RTB.

 

Have Publishers learnt from the past?

I was recently prompted to think about the sales policies of publishers when Criteo approached us to buy their inventory through a Criteo network. On the face of it one could argue it would be a good buy for us, potentially unique inventory, sourced through publisher deals that by many peoples opinion is good quality and high up the adserving priorities of the publisher. Obviously after about 1.5 secs I decided I was unlikely to contribute to the clever business model of Criteo by filling their coffers so they can then go pitch direct to our clients and move the business. That is not what this post is about but it set in motion some ideas that I think publishers should consider.

Companies like Criteo, have created a good business and are doing well in their niche but they got there through persuading publishers that they should sell to them quality impressions, in some instances first look, even above direct and brand channels at a low cpm vs those direct channels but high vs the RTB market. They deliver good business for them and everyone is happy.

Problem is that they buy a lot of it and need to get rid of it and so they want other people to buy it from them ie trading desks and potentially Ad networks / Managed DSPs. The demand in the exchanges has increased significantly since many of those deals were done and so cpms for quality inventory like this will likely create a higher cpm than they bought from the publishers. So that means then that trading desks are buying good inventory from Criteo rather than direct from the publisher? Is that what the publisher had in mind when they sold or agreed to the positioning of the sale?

I think it raises questions that publishers yet again have to face, is it better to sell at a flat cpm or find other channels to monetise. A lot of big names are doing this and for me makes no sense, if you want your inventory to be monetised, come see us rather than put us, your direct buyers second to someone who is re selling it to us? It is time to ditch the flat cpm and embrace the auctions and private market places.

We can also offer transparency to the publishers as to how well their inventory is performing and we can partner to create improvements for them and us. The alternative is sell and see no insights. In my view that era has ended. Publishers, come talk to us we can help you with that.