Programmatic advancement? : Just look to Amsterdam

A few years back, around 2012/13 we discussed how we could grow Audience On Demand more quickly in the region. How could we support all those smaller markets that could not sustain headcount dedicated to programmatic and yet wanted to be part of the picture. Back then we set up the ‘Amsterdam Hub’ for AOD and the very talented Anke Kuik came in to run it for me. We quickly built a buzzy and vibrant business servicing 10+ markets and successfully growing the programmatic footprint of AOD.

As was widely reported, VivaKi eventually decentralised all these teams and so the hub was no more.  Soon after that, I worked on global programmatic strategy across top clients and had the chance to see, hear and contribute to their progress. In almost all cases the advertisers were going back to basics and evaluating their tech, strategies, data plan and more, they wanted to set some common guidelines to many markets. As a result of many of these pieces of work we saw the re-emergence of the hub. Amsterdam is a particular favourite but I think it is fair to say you can find them all over, in London, Paris, US and so on, point being, the Hub is back.

However the big difference with the new hubs, either at a client or agency level are they are there to support ALL markets, big or small. They are there to support tech, data and media buying across a whole range of markets and with that you see a huge shift in how media is being traded, more so than ever before. The true potential of these hubs is becoming a reality, something that has been promised now for some years but is really taking shape and with that shifting the way we all do business. On my side having been a founder of a hub and now on the other side and working with them, it creates a fascinating dynamic as you have to work on many different levels. You need local expertise talking to local countries. You need local people talking to central hubs, you need International teams talking to the hubs. Wow, thats a lot of talking. It is all work and needs lots of coverage of teams, especially where hubs are at an advertiser level.

The thing is, these all take work to start with, but the benefits very quickly become apparent, as the rhythm settles in and people get used to the system, create a list of key partners, know where to go for certain inventory, on the sell side you start to see the benefits, especially where you have such strong, brand safe inventory as Spotify. Suddenly the much vaunted efficiencies of programmatic become apparent and we all start to benefit. Once the heavy lifting is done on the agency side or clients side and all their markets are adjusted to this new way of working then they can spend less time on execution and more on increasing sophistication of offering. Creating trusted market places of inventory, consolidating inventory decisions, partner selection, data strategy can all become the primary focus areas rather than the previously disjointed, inefficient work that happened five years back.

With every passing year this model is really starting to come together and I thoroughly enjoy seeing it, in some ways, even more from the Spotify side. I think we are going to see rapid acceleration (as if it can get faster) in programmatic. The clients and agencies are doing a great job of organising around this new world and I am excited to see how it progresses in the next five years!

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Have we reached ‘Peak Technology’

Original article in Campaign HERE

Cannes is fast approaching, so it makes sense about now for us discuss creativity and technology and how it works together to power our advertising future.

I wonder, though, whether the changes in advertising we have experienced over the past 12 months are going to have as much impact upon the event as the new need to register to walk into a hotel or get on a yacht.

This past year has been quite traumatic for the advertising community; the ongoing onslaught against programmatic, the questions about digital vs offline, and circular debates about which media channel is most influential.

These would all be the standard issues for an average year, until ANA-gate, which kicked off a huge surge of self analysis across the industry.

Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard weighed in more recently and delivered the biggest mic drop – basically calling out the whole digital industry. And of course it did not end there.

Too many unfulfilled promises and uncovered secrets in terms of the micro-targeting, data offerings, media properties that are unsuitable, and not enough human eyeballs.

Enter stage left – The Times – and so the we hit rock bottom. Technology, data, programmatic, privacy, fraud, all in the spotlight.

It has felt like an endless stream of negativity, but what has it changed and how can we expect Cannes to reflect it?

The initial outcomes of all this introspection have been a drift towards a rejuvenation of interest in more traditional channels. TV, premium publishers and “safe” environments are having a renaissance, as advertisers worry about where their ads are appearing.

It feels to me that we have reached “peak technology” within advertising. Too many unfulfilled promises and uncovered secrets in terms of the micro-targeting, data offerings, media properties that are unsuitable, and not enough human eyeballs.

Now we see the need to have a reset – a fresh approach to how we connect with consumers.

It has felt like an endless stream of negativity, but what has it changed and how can we expect Cannes to reflect it?

Now, I’m not suggesting we are going to see an “anti-tech brigade” per se, but we will see a surge of realism… a step back.

In advertising we adore the creation of a powerpoint presentation. Yet we are all familiar with the feeling you get when you get lost in the weeds and eventually you have to say, “what are we trying to communicate?”

I feel that’s the same with our whole industry. I have worked in digital from the start, and we have done exactly that – we started to tell a story, a good one, but it got more and more convoluted.

We allowed other people to insert slides that were “really important” – adserving, retargeting, audiences, data, programmatic – until we are all staring at a mess of charts on the inside of a meeting room glass wall.

We are now looking to go back to basics. What are we trying to communicate?

Well, I suspect Cannes is going to be the echo chamber. Woe betide anyone who starts wanging on about data without substance, to my mind, I believe the industry is getting to the point where, if you don’t own that data, if it does not come from a reputable registration, you should keep quiet.

Stop paying for videos the moment they start playing. Take down the spend going to programmatic Adnets that won’t tell you where your ads appear. And let’s show our ads to humans.

Geo data, segments, match rates and most recently viewability numbers that only talk about desktop and not mobile, your time is up.

We are about to take a step back and look at that wall and rip up all those superfluous slides, get back to basics and start again.

Here is how it will look:

  • Everything begins with a great campaign idea. It begins with a strong hook, a smart idea, a utility that people want, a price people need.
  • It will be followed by some easy questions – did they see my ad? Did they see all of my ad?
  • Did they see my ad for the whole ad or majority of it?
  • Was my ad seen by a human?
  • Was my ad on a property that I would be comfortable with in terms of content?
  • Do I know where my ads were served?
  • Did my ads deliver some ROI?

Anyone remember taking this for granted 15 years ago? Well those properties exist today and there is lots of room for them.

What Cannes I hope will show is that advertisers need to pull down those slides that don’t fit that narrative.

Advertisers have to cut that budget that is being wasted and reinvest into premium publishers. Spend to your heart’s content with digital but make it quality – so stop persuading yourself that scrolling video is viewable and three seconds is good enough.

Stop paying for videos the moment they start playing. Take down the spend going to programmatic Adnets that won’t tell you where your ads appear. And let’s show our ads to humans.

I believe that advertisers could slash half their digital budget and reinvest in the publishers that deserve it – those that deliver audience, quality environments and humans. Our industry has been planning and buying based on muscle memory, and that has to end.

I have worked for 20 years in agency and a few months at Spotify. I am proud of what we are doing as a business and I want to challenge the industry to hit these standards. It is possible. And yes, Spotify does hit those standards, but so do others.

Let’s take the blinkers off, rip off those slides that add nothing to the narrative, and ask the biggest players in town to shape up, and to leave room for them and the other premium publishers.

Let’s cut the dross, and I hope Cannes will shine a light on quality and cast a shadow over the kind of behaviours that will finish our industry and ruin the presentation
Read more at http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/reached-peak-technology-its-time-reset-digital-media/1436267#XA4X1cD4BcGXQ3jx.99

Cut the jargon? Cut the crap!

I am sorry Bloomberg I don’t agree with your cut the jargon campaign. Cut the crap, you just cant be bothered to learn something new. I know I will get pelted with rotten tomatoes and urine but I am sorry, this is just a shield that lazy or ‘elder statesman’ of media like to hide behind because then they are not going to have to admit they either can’t or won’t learn something new.

The phrase that I like the best is ‘lets just talk plain english.’ I could translate that into ‘if I say lets talk plain english then perhaps they will some how find a way to make this new programmatic stuff sound something like press and TV that I have grown up with all my life.’ No. I wont. You know why? Because every industry has a language, in our industry every sector or media channel has a language. If you go around saying GRP or DPS or DDS no one chains you up at the stocks, but by God if you say DSP or DMP, the heavens open and thunder and lightening crackle down from above.

I do agree that we talk too much about the technology and not enough about what it can do, and I do agree that some people do like the over use of tech words, but that’s not the context I hear it in. What I hear is ‘all that DSP, DMP, three letter acroynm stuff’ yes, it is called SHORT HAND, abbreviation. You want me to say Demand side platform every time? Or would you rather like me to say ‘a buying platform that allows us to access inventory in real time and combining it with first, second and third party data’ oh you don’t understand data? Well here goes…actually no, since this tech is powering most digital media nowadays and since you work in an agency and may even run it or our a senior industry body leader of a media owner, how about giving it ago and learning about it.

Lets focus on marketing what programmatic can do, even the definition of programmatic, but lets not pretend we use too much jargon when really we just cant be bothered to learn a new trick. Right I am off down the Public House to read a Double Page Spread and perhaps later will log into Donovan Data Systems and check out my Television rating points for my last television advertisements.

 

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.

Four years ago today…

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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.