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

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Mediatel Video interview on Ad Fraud

Advertisers should be asking the tougher questions of everyone on their plan and seek out value and not just lower prices. An interesting couple of panels at Mediatel event showed that there is still too much fixation on the wrong topics and mainly those related to agency business models and not the wider marketplace.

Ad Fraud: Advertisers and Auditors have only themselves to blame

Its Official! There is fraud in the Ad network business and it is big. The New York Times has written about it, see article here and so now at last it must be real. Why has it taken so long for people to take notice on the subject? VivaKi have been pushing this agenda for so long now and it is not being grasped or maybe more importantly valued by many. I will come back to what we are doing in this space, but lets get back to the ad fraud.

The media industry has always been pressured by constantly reducing pricing, every contract, every agency, every buy cheaper than the next. The advertiser is looking to reduce the costs and the ‘pitch consultants’ or rather auditors have done nothing to help that situation by creating a vicious circle of ever decreasing cpms, one agency bidding against the next. On and on it has gone, with those consultants taking their nice fees while the agencies get squeezed and squeezed. So where does this all take us? Well lets put aside agency fees and just focus on buying cpms and hope the agency gets to charge for it’s value in other ways.

The buying cpm is being reduced year on year on year and so agencies are turning to networks and other avenues to be able to hit the cpms that advertisers want. To be able to do that the only option at a certain point is to buy low cpm network inventory that is blind and very very long tail, all wrapped up in a glossy $35m marketing budget by the Ad network.  And with a nudge and wink everyone rolls over, the agency, the advertiser turn a blind eye. Years later, surprise surprise when the relevant technology becomes available and we discover that there is a lot of unsavoury, poor quality inventory being bought, there is uproar. Well come on – how did you think these companies made money?

I have no sympathy with the wailing and thrashing of bare backs about the state of the inventory because those same advertisers and auditors are the same that would not accept that if you take appropriate brand safety metrics including proper verification of inventory, whitelists, viewability tech and tracking to make sure the buy is quality and safe that there came a cost and a higher cpm. VivaKi Verified, the protection part of the Audience On Demand offering have been focused on all of these areas working with Adtricity and many others as well as having our own in house team that determine the best, safest inventory, but often times the cpm is deemed too high. Well there is a reason for that, because we are not buying click fraud, long tail, non viewed ads. 

So part of me wants to throw my arms up when an advertiser questions the well worn path of Agency Trading Desk transparency – we have the safest most robust approaches to brand safety and ability to show where every one of our ads appears – for that we have to invest. So for all the wailers out there currently, here are my final thoughts.

  • When considering the media purchase, when the glossy Ad Net is offering you a rock bottom price – you might want to ask how they get it? 
  • If you care about brand safety and every advertiser says they do – you cant accept a blind buy, I say it again – if they don’t tell you where every ad appears – you are fuelling the business that NY Times has picked up on. 
  • A challenge to auditors; seek value not price, it is in all your brochures, live it out and have the strength to tell a client they should pay more for better inventory, change your own business model away from ‘savings’ 

These headlines will become louder and let us see what happens, I will tell you, CPMs are going to rise, they have to because all those that have not been playing fair, who have been playing fast and lose with your brand, will have to improve because technology is going to find them out. When they are found out and they have to act more appropriately, their cpm will rise and then advertisers and auditors will have a dilemma – accept higher cpms for quality or continue to bury their heads in the sand and hope all this goes away.

Either way this is a good omen for those who have been banging this drum for some time and of course for genuinely premium inventory providers and for the rest I hope they suffer a lingering demise.

 

Advertisers need to press the reset button on digital

Agency Trading Desks. Independent trading desks. RTB Networks. Data networks. Managed service Desks. We have significantly added to the ecosystem in the last few years and on balance for the better I think. Of course there are concerns about transparency and who is doing what and the advertiser is being taken for a ride so on, but in totality we now see a more sophisticated digital ecosystem than three years ago which is a good thing.

However with that comes a need for everyone to refocus. There is a whole auditing, pitch consultant business, advertiser organisation business that is focused on Agency Trading Desks. I think part of the issue around Agency Trading Desks is that they are all different. Some are an extension of the agency, some are more akin to a department within an agency, some are out there in the extreme like Xaxis that has changed so significantly that it really no longer sits in the bracket at all and everything in between.

So when it comes to pitches, auditors, advertiser evaluations of the space they obsess with agency trading desks but not the wider market. My business and that of a company like Rocketfuel or Criteo or Quantcast are the same, we do the same. Plenty of people will argue the good and bad of both including me but for now put that aside, fundamentally we are the same, we cook with the same ingredients – the end plate of food looks and tastes different but we do the same. For that reason we compete with these companies, spend that we could argue should go to us goes to those companies and independent trade desks. So for me, we should all be judged the same by advertisers. The same rules should apply, if those rules are based on genuine concerns of an advertiser about their media investments then why would they not?

So why don’t we start with what is asked of us? What do the agencies and advertisers want of us? Lets run through a few:

  • They want to see results line by line with associated cpms, cpc etc
  • They want brand safety – clear controls as to what we are buying
  • They want to know what tech we use and why – and how much does it cost?
  • They don’t want us to create large margins behind set cpas and cpcs etc
  • They want auditing rights on activity
  • They want private marketplaces and innovation with partners
  • They want detailed costs breakdowns

Those are just a selection. Articles in the past have commented on how the ATD is not held accountable but that is a falsehood. The pitch process would argue differently as well as regular reviews with advertisers that question in detail all of these areas, we are constantly evaluated on one level or another including our toughest challengers, the agencies we work with, and rightly so.

Trouble is on any plan spend is going not just to us, but to many of those companies mentioned above and many more in display, video and mobile. These companies are not held to the same standards and I think this should be investigated further. If a guidance paper for instance gets released to advertisers on ATDs, I can guarantee it will ask all those questions above (and more) but why just to ATDs? Any such guidance and evaluations now have to be extended to a wider group of companies and end the double standards.

I sat with a large group of advertisers and time and time again the issue of brand safety was raised. One of the core tenants of AOD is protection, and that is for a good reason, we are advertiser / agency focused, we know what they expect. So why would an advertiser invest in a company that provided no transparency at all? An ad appearing next to inappropriate content is still inappropriate regardless of how it got there. Blind buys should not be acceptable to any major advertiser. Why if you are concerned about how much money AOD makes do you not care about the 50-60% margins being reported in the company accounts of some of the other companies? I could go on but my point is that we cannot attach the ATD to the agency, but rather attach the RTB/programmatic industry to the standards of the agencies and ATDs, at least those like AOD. So I hope to see from the various trade bodies and the like a stance that widens the net of companies that it recommends should be evaluated in this new exciting programmatic world we live in, and avoid people having too much cake and eating it.