Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) – heard of it?

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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?

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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.

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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?

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!

Why Ad networks can’t become agencies but the reverse is not true.

The latest debate in the display space is whether or not ad networks are going to have to become agencies and go direct to clients to sustain their business. It’s a fair assumption, the likes of Specific and others will hire agency people, create better strategies and approach clients. The latest article can be found here on exchangewire.

It’s a believable concept but one that is out of sync with the way the industry is heading. Although there is a lot of hype around ad exchanges and targeting / data opportunities, within an agency, exchange trading remains a line on a schedule, albeit a complicated one. The exchange space asks many questions of agencies but that is around change and adapting, once its all settled down, it will revert to being an important channel like search and crucially will be integrated into all the other channels.

Over the last few years clients have been on a journey where in the main they have consolidated channels, first digital overall and then they have dragged search in where specialists have held on for some time. It’s not only channels but they are integrating their media agencies both within countries and between countries with more and more international pitches. Anyone in a major agency will have lived that in the last few years. So after all of this integration I think it is unlikely they will want to start farming individual channels out again, especially when it may be big news in the exchange world but within agencies, it’s just another new channel. Time and time again through research, better coordination and integration has shown better results for the advertiser so there is no reason to split out exchange trading.

There is also some realistic areas to take into account. Clients spend 80% of their budgets on offline, 60% of their digital budgets on search, the rest is split all over. So its fine for an adnetwork to go direct but they will never fill the roll of an agency. The agency roll is more than buying and is across all media channels, its events, experiential, etc etc, it’s also highly people heavy and Ad networks have been used to high margins, low headcount.

So direct is fine but will struggle in the UK marketplace, however I think with time the agencies could start to deliver an ad network experience and product within the context of their huge global corporations. Of course there is middle ground, some chameleon organisations that act as an agency or a network, but their offer only goes so far to be a real threat.

I dont think we need to start a war between agency groups and ad networks, I am sure we will all find a way, but I know what side I would want to be on.