Advertiser RTB Desks – Not as easy as it looks
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.
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.
Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) – heard of it?
I attended a seminar this morning called something like ‘Is your brand safe online’ A number of parties were there, all worried about their brands, namely trade bodies, Ad nets, Agencies and global digital media companies. The one group severely lacking was the advertisers! It is notoriously difficult to get clients to turn up to events and this was obviously not an event that they thought important. Why would they? Don’t they have their agencies to do this stuff?
It is a similar story with ePrivacy, although almost all the onus falls on the advertiser to make sure their site is compliant and that their advertising is as compliant as one can be in this area, there has been limited discussion on the topics since ‘the date’ came and went. How come? Maybe everyone thought that someone else was worrying about it?
The group is focused on getting self regulation principles about where Ads appear to be taken up by media vendors. They want to suffocate the advertising revenue streams for unsavoury or illegal sites by making sure that all the major suppliers of inventory agree not to use them.
So today’s agenda showed that again we have a topic that appears an important one and yet again we have the merry go round of whose responsibility it is to make sure we are compliant. Well today we heard it loud and clear, The Police and Fact think that it is the advertiser who has to take responsibility for making sure that their Ads do not appear on illegal or inappropriate content. We were given an example of the client EasyJet that the guy from Fact kept repeating has not been able to be reached. He was very annoyed by that..I asked if he had contacted their agency to be told that it was not his job to spend time looking for who Easyjet agency was – umm maybe ask your IPA friends? No it was better to keep sending letters to Easyjet when the agency would have had those Ads down in about 15secs.
So bearing in mind that the Police think the advertiser should take responsibility, the advertiser thinks the agency should, the agency thinks the Trading Desk should and the Trading Desk things the suppliers of inventory should we have a beautiful example of sequential liability (without all the legal jumbo jumbo!) – I took a decision. I decided that the suppliers of inventory should be taking responsibility for where my agencies, advertisers’ adverts are being placed and I wrote them all a nice letter asking them to abide by the Principles of the DTSG.
I just did it. It was easy to do to be honest. I wrote to them and said ‘ please can you confirm that you won’t put Ads on porn sites, children sites, illegal sites (the special police list), Torrent sites and basically anything else unsavoury because our agency’s advertisers will not want it.’ And why was it easy? Because it is so bloody basic and common sense that I am trying to work out why everyone has not done it, apparently some are reticent at this stage to do it. Well for me I am all for it because it is straight forward and I don’t want another ePrivacy debacle involving 10 different bodies and loads of political bull. I just want to buy ads in nice places.
Our whole VivaKi Verified approach means we are already vetting, categorising, white listing inventory so this is a no brainer for me, I appeal to everyone else to get on with it as well. It will be one less committee meeting to go to and will mean everyone can get back to dealing with the nightmare that is ePrivacy, I would hate for another topic to come along and hijack every media conference panel debate!
After this cause is put to bed I am starting out on Ads appearing alongside prostitute cards in phone boxes – now who is responsible for making sure that does not happen?
I only recruit from NASA – you?
Well I say that, in actual fact I have recruited two people into the Head of Product roles from within our agency group, NASA did not really come into it, although I am sure some people would claim it! It is something I am asked all the time – where do you recruit from? What type of people should we hire? Will my Head of adserving do?
One thing I am sure about is that I fear the return to the days of when search took off and they became a hugely overpaid, under experienced, high churn group of individuals, around 2005 it was a merry-go-round of people in the search teams with each agency ignoring their best search strategies and allowing us all to bid up the price endlessly. It was partly this factor that led to search teams not being as efficient as they could have been since staff costs got out of hand. There is a danger of us returning to those days within the exchange space, but at the same time I believe we have more choice, on the basis you are a little more open minded.
As I said at the top a common question is what type of people do you employ, I struggle to answer that. Looking round the team we have people from adserving, mobile DSPs, agency, Data, and so on, so yes of course they all have some common DNA but that is not the key. Curiosity is the key, the desire to want to learn, to want to look under the bonnet and see what is happening and to do it all the time not once a month. Everyone in the team has that, and in my opinion that makes them different from the majority. Too many digital planner buyers have become a little too process driven and not inquisitive enough. They are not questioning the numbers, they are not trying to work out a different way, or challenge a target, too much is paper pushing and and that is why the new generation of people, as much tech as media are different BUT because you work with tech does not make you an immediate candidate.
When I interview I want to see passion and interest, I want to see a history of someone who likes the ecosystem and has been reading about it before they even got the job, I want them to know all about the space, without really knowing all about it because the one thing they lack is working experience. Come in and challenge us, come in and want to understand more. We don’t mind what your background is, just show us that you don’t just want a job in this new space because you think you should.
I have seen some really good candidates, often those who are actually working in competing trading desks, we have never employed one. Too many of them looked like they fell into it rather than wanted it. So for those starting to recruit the interview recipe to grow a team is curiosity plus desire sprinkled with a big dollop of instinct (perhaps the key ingredient at the end of it all).
Audience One Demand is always happy to receive CVs and always on the look out if you want to fire them over.
Vivaki Nerve Center Partnerships with Evidon and Weborama
I thought I would add in the releases around Evidon and Weborama in case some people are not subscribed to the various news sources. They are exciting partnerships, Evidon in the area of privacy and Weborama around data, tech and inventory used to power Audience On Demand in EMEA. So many data and tech partners are US, this partnerships adds to our approach of partnering with people rather than demanding or bullying them into working together.
Vivaki Nerve Center partners with Weborama in European deal
Mark Banham, 25 October 2011, 10:56am
Vivaki’s research and development arm Nerve Centre has formed a Europe-wide strategic partnership with emarketing and behavioural targeting company Weborama.
Weborama will provide local media, data and technology across Europe for VivaKi Nerve Center’s Audience On Demand (AOD) trading desk, which focuses on the digital display media exchange space.
The company currently has partnerships with Vivaki agencies in France and Spain and the extended strategic partnership will cover all key European countries where including the UK, Netherlands and Germany.
Vivaki Nerve Center currently has existing global partnerships with Google and Microsoft.
Marco Bertozzi, EMEA managing director for Vivaki Nerve Center, said: “Our strategy has always been to deliver a consistent global approach to AOD, partnering with the strongest local companies to deliver the most advanced data solutions for our clients.
“In the exchange environment too many companies offer data and inventory either locally on a country specific basis, or globally.
“Weborama has a unique offer providing advanced technologies and the very best data, as demonstrated by their recent partnership with hi-media, across Europe. This ensures we really are delivering the best solutions for our clients.”
Alain Levy, chief executive of Weborama, said: “This partnership with the Vivaki Nerve Center will allow us to leverage the success stories we’ve had with the agencies in France and Spain and to extend the relationship to other European countries where we operate.
“Vivaki has been at the forefront of the ad trading game with the Audience On Demand platform, they’ve pushed us forward to deliver the best possible technology, data and media solutions to their clients, so we look forward to expanding this successful relationship with them.”
Earlier this month, Vivaki Nerve Center turned to Evidon to offer its clients the ability to ensure their online ads comply with the EU ePrivacy Directive in the UK and throughout Europe.
VivaKi strikes online ad compliance partnership
By Daniel Farey-Jones, brandrepublic.com, 10 October 2011, 04:11PM
VivaKi, the digital media arm of Publicis Groupe, has turned to Evidon to offer its clients the ability to ensure their online ads comply with the EU ePrivacy Directive in the UK and throughout Europe.
The Trouble with Trading Desks is that..
They threaten a nice and cosy Ad network world where the networks manage to co exist by all buying the same inventory in exchanges, using client data and passing it back to agencies at a nice margin. Let me ask a few questions:
1. Does the average client / buyer realise the Ad networks that all have nice individual sounding names are all down shopping at the same auction, forcing up the prices for our clients and making delectable margins.
2. Why is it so bad that the agencies are bringing transparency back out of the black boxes of the performance networks, so we all learn?
3.. When did an Ad network last tell you how they achieved their results? They wont as they have to expose their exchange buying techniques. Agencies can now show the workings not just the answer.
4. Why would a client be happy to spray their data around like its going out of fashion – it’s a valuable commodity that is being used by networks to power the individual client results as well as who knows what else?
5. Is the client absolutely sure that their data is not being used by an ad network to power one of the clients competitors?
6. Why are the publishers fighting tooth and nail to protect their data whilst advertisers are giving it away?
Lets balance off this debate a little and ask who the main protagonists are in the debate, perhaps there are people out to protect their business models. I will say that our clients are getting better results, more transparency and better control of their data. Does not sound too bad to me.
Finally can we stop building cases on the back of a couple of media buyers who we don’t know the identity of, who have probably not got a pay rise this year. If this was a court of law it would all be thrown out. If I were a client, I would trust the agency as we have a lot more to lose, the networks win some lose some.
In case this annoys anyone, these are my views, not the views of my organisation.