Posts Tagged programmatic

Thursday Flash (23)


No way you living in the Moment – as a Buddhist this is tricky. We should focus on the present moment but our brains are wired to focus on the future. Even more important to train your brain daily via meditation.

Five ways to keep stress at check. It is all about connecting with what matter. Good friends, nature, the outside and disconnect from technology and disturbance. Taking a break from the constant pressure reallly.

The next programmatic revolution. A more industry focused article on why what’s possible with programmatic these days and how it is best used. Like it!

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Sunday Column (362)

This week saw the start of the Syrian war, the time when Britain decided to attack the terrorism in Syria. I am not very political but I remember, as a teenager, to listen to the 6 am news one morning, that the US announced to go into war with Iraq. It must be 20+ years ago. I am still not sure if the world is a safer or better place since. I cannot make those decisions and will just accept things as they are. However, as of discussion with a fellow father, what are we leaving for our kids to be sorted. Essentially we have been at war with terrorism for more than 20 years, right? It is a different war to the world wars. That’s for sure. But isn’t war war?

Another of my lowlights this week was an early morning start. Not because it was early but more because it was early out of the door. And surprisingly to me, when you catch a 6.13 am train from Haywards Heath it is ram packed. That’s a 5.53 am from Hassocks btw. Crazy. No way you can work or get anything done. So I started writing this blog post on my phone 🙁 I am getting too used to be able to get a good hour of work done on the commute each way.

What followed that day was awesome. A really well attended panel discussion, 8 am breakfast meeting, delivered by a few people on the convergence of social and TV. Digital and TV. And it is coming together. Finally. We are far from connecting the dots but we are getting there. I am excited for next year. As the industry evolves, so does the attribution, the connection of the silos and the cross device connection. And we are in the middle of it. Amazing.


Then my wife called me a Tidsoptimist this week. What’s that? Oh someone thinking they have more time than they do. And because of that they are late for things. Time, as it seems to me, expands. But it doesn’t. It is the same for everyone. It all started when I worked for a company that made meetings with agencies. I arrived in time and realised that 9 out of 10 meetings started 10-15 minutes late. So I started being 10-15 minutes late, to make my work flow more efficient. In London you can always blame the tube.

Having said that, even when moving closer to my clients, I was still late, as there was always something to finish off taking only a minute. And none of my clients mind, as it seemed to be the norm. I have gotten better again now, as the meetings become more senior. After all, I am still trying to leave a positive impression 🙂 So nothing to be proud of, just I get a lot more done really.

On another note I published another article on productivity. Whilst writing my next book chapters I realise that being productive is actually not that difficult. I also realised there had been one advice I got in 1997 that is still true today: only plan 70% of your time. As soon as you step over that red line something will be left undone. This is because you are having to account for the unexpected. For the unknown. The incoming pitch, the email from your neighbour to help or the information about something you need to action on.

Days sometimes don’t feel busy but turn out to be quite manic. And also over the summer I had little time to breathe and think. Sounds mad but if you don’t have time to think, things will be missed. So give yourself time to think, to breathe, stare out of the window and come up with some cool ideas.

We also managed to get all out Christmas presents ordered. The tree is up and cards sent. We went to Winchester to see a friend and his family. Christmas is all about the children. I totally enjoy looking at last year’s Christmas pictures, and the ones before, to see the glow in the kids’ eyes when we put up the tree. The future, the love, the activities, anything we do, is about the children. And then there is Syria.

It is a bit of a damper for Christmas. However, we decided to give some money to a charity supporting a child that got cancer and the hospital he is in for which they collect money or unused toys to give to the kids for Christmas. Isn’t that nice. Nice to give. Nice to be able to make other kids’ Christmas as special as our own.

No, life for me isn’t about myself. My job is for myself, and my goals. But the greater things in life, they are about the children. And they are who really matter in life. Everything else is just not as important. No matter what it might be at the moment. If you are with your kids, the only thing that matters is them. If you are with clients and something happens to your family, everyone understands if you had to cancel a meeting. It is everybody’s first priority. It took me a few years to learn that too.

We had a blessed and great week overall. Despite some lowlights. We also had plenty of Christmas lights and sparkle!

We are truly grateful.

Love to you all,

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Behavioural Finance

Ok. There has been lots of discussion around whether real time or programmatic marketing can learn from finance. Looks like the Financial Times suggests “behavioural finance”. Is finance learning from us?

Is it cookie based 😉


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The Future Of The RTB Digital Industry (2/2)

Thanks for continuing to read my thoughts about the industry. Part 1/2 of the future of the RTB Digital Industry got a few hits.

So what I was saying in part 1?

The future is about tech companies that can deliver added value. Maybe a short synopsis for a lengthy article but the bottom line is that this is where the industry will be going. In the meantime ‘ad networks 3.0’ still have some added value, premium has value and the more complex the technology gets over the years, the more likely the agency can add additional value to the value chain again. Simple really. Wouldn’t you agree?

We are going in circles. And I don’t want to be misunderstood, saying the agency doesn’t add value. However, what seems to change our world more and more is DATA. BIG DATA. A few ZetaBytes of it. What it really means is that we have a lot of data available and need to try to utilise this. And some publishers do, and some publishers don’t. And some agencies try 3rd party data and utilise their clients’ 1st party data, and some don’t. But who owns the data? The adserver, the publisher, the advertiser? I believe that those companies that can utilise and analyse big data best and to the advantage of their clients will win! Simple. I spoke to a premium publisher the other day that achieves higher CPM rates than any other by allowing the first party data to be utilised down to the impression level. Amazing stuff you can do. And, once 3rd party data is more reliable in the UK and across Europe, we can do a lot more analysis and qualitative exploration of data. Stay tuned, a big topic. But don’t think the future is in data collection. It is in data processing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the EMCs and IBMs of this world will soon get (and partly already have got) involved in this part of our industry, because they can process data. They can utilise data. Online data. Offline data.

I also wanted to come back to my earlier comment about the end to end stack. It seems as if the whole industry is obsessed with the idea of a “one stop shop”? Similar to all companies in the space wanting to go public or being sold. I wonder how much VC is there to make it all work out for them….but that’s a topic for a different day. SSPs add DSPs and DSPs add SSPs. Premium becomes guaranteed and floor prices guarantee revenue for publishers. The end game is still to convince the end user or consumer and getting that person to perform an action/buy on the site. Or to proof that the exposure is leading to a brand awareness and sales. Whilst digital is a lot more traceable, it still has to proof its value and performance. Hence I believe that attribution modelling and de-duplication will become very much an essential tool as said in part 1. One probably goes in hand with the other, and the specialists needed for that, e.g. people with the knowledge of digital, data modelling and statistic will be well sought after. To all graduates, get in there, you could revolutionise an entire industry.

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Of course, if you follow me on twitter, you would have seen the discussion I was alluding to last week. Should media brokers develop attribution models or agencies? I am not sure if you really want this kind of verification tools being independent. And that is where a lot of BS comes from in our industry. We are relying on a lot of tech that claims to add value without verifying it. We rely on our agencies to make the right decisions without realising how much goes into their back pocket. The lunches are fine but what about the brown envelopes? Yes, I am sure they still exists and the old “I help you and you help me” approach is surely still working. We are buddies in media and help each other. But do we deliver value?

YES needs to be the ultimate answer. Of course (attention: self promotion again) I believe that whatever product I am selling adds value to a client. And this is important to me. I am verifying that via my own ‘independent’ sources and if I am not 100% convinced, or know of limitations, then I address this with the client. Only a win/win situation, full transparency and the true state of your product or service will result in a long lasting relationship. And this is important in a small industry like ours. No ifs or buts. Not every product works each time but overall, you don’t want to end up working for one product and ruin your reputation. Your Linkedin network is a big asset!

So maybe a new IAB body will need to be formed to monitor the attribution models or clients will look at it themselves? A few years back we called it the holy grail and we are now holding it in our hands. We have to be careful about it. And the new holy grail is data as mentioned above.

One of my biggest question remains why an agency would use an end to end stack, or why an end to end stack exists. Whilst most agencies don’t want to develop their own tech, some are keen to rely on one technology or develop some of their own attribution modelling (or other tech). Would you trust your agency? You should I suppose but as margins are more and more squeezed, the independent technology companies are key on delivering transparency to clients and act as warrants to the agency. And if agencies own part of the technology value chain they could become end to end stack too in some way or another. Is that a thread or is the old ad network model moving to the agency side? So I will assume that independent verification companies will flourish over the next few years. Not because of demand from agency or supplier side but clients wanting to find out what’s really happening. There are a few companies out there but none have a profile like the big accountancy auditing firms.

How do I best summarise all my thoughts now?

To be honest, we will see a shift towards the use of more technology and more utilisation of data. Companies who do that well, will continue to strive. And that will be independent whether they are SaaS lead or media driven or tech driven or ad network driven or even end to end stack. It doesn’t matter as long as they deliver a value proposition that allows for easy use for agencies and advertisers alike. With the ongoing complexity of our ecosystem we shall see more independent verification and qualification of key players.

But as always, we are going in circles. Because I really believe that all technology is doing is creating a shift from specialist user to everyday/less familiar user, with some specialist service companies at the side which you might call agencies. The future will be in tech companies that understand to deliver easy to use, high performance, low margin tech, and those tech companies being able to offer a unique proposition like integrated attribution specialised in either DR and/or brand. The more niche and specialised the better the performance – that would be my take. Yes, the omni channel one size fits all DSP will survive. It will be the ‘Golf’, the model that everyone can drive. But the agency proposition and the value proposition will be down to the ‘Ferraris’ and ‘Porsches’ of this world: specialised, high performance driven tech at scale.

Happy driving 🙂

Now I hope this all made sense and I didn’t scare off any potential future employers 🙂 Or, if you liked it, give me a nudge and we talk about it in person.

Shout out and comment, let me know what you think?
What do you believe is going to happen?

Best wishes and see you around soon,

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The Future Of The RTB Digital Industry (1/2)

Triggered by my recent redundancy I thought I put some thoughts together of what’s happening in our industry from my perspective. In my little part of the digital industry, in the world of programmatic decision making and big data. Whilst I keep myself busy uncovering the European publisher market and trying to understand the industry from a different point of view, I also take my blinkers off in order to look outside real time and programmatic buying from a demand perspective. Because when I started in real time, or “ad exchange optimisation” as we called it in 2010, the big players like Google or Appnexus weren’t even in the UK yet. Some SSPs (Supply Side Platforms) were working of ExcelSheets in India….those were the days. They call me a veteran of RTB. I think that is a compliment. Yet still, 3.5 years after launching a service provider that got sold to a technology, I still have my doubts which business models will be moving forward. Having said that, I do believe I am more than capable of identifying good business models, technologies and companies who I like to continue my career with. So watch this space.

In the interim (Attention: self promotion), if you have any needs to be consulted on RTB, the industry, your digital strategy or just like to grab a coffee in order to discuss anything, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Things have changed in the last few years. We are living in a world dominated by buzz words like “big data” and “programmatic marketing”. Those buzzwords kind of took over “RTB” and “exchange buying”. Some of you might remember the days when SSPs used to be called Yield Optimisers. Those were the days too. But I don’t want to be getting sentimental by looking backwards. Let’s look forward and see what’s on the horizon of our industry:

So what is happening, and what is exciting?

It seems as if some companies trying to move away from media buying dependency and move into SaaS (Software as a Service). There was a discussion on twitter the other day about it. That companies should stick to what they do. However a strong argument for it is to innovate and evolve as a business. I am not saying either is right or wrong but we are at exciting times to see the wheat separating from the chuff. Or is it diversification from network to SSP to cookie-less contextual targeting that brings a new dimension to the industry? Or is it the publisher that does audience extension via 3rd party data, uses data effectively and gets higher CPMs? Or is the future that just all of the above combined ‘wins’ as an end to end stack? Is it about the specialist or the generalist? Like in most other industries we are moving form one extreme to another. Everyone wants to be everything, get the margin from both demand and supply and be the “end to end” stack.


My question would be about the value proposition. Where can some companies actually add value? Who doesn’t know the fragmented Luma landscape? And of course the ever growing question: will 2013 be the year of mobile or will we be looking at mobile from a different perspective?
How many networks used to be out there and were destroyed due to real time bidding? How many networks had to re-invent themselves. And how many got replaced by “RTB network” or “network 2.0”? The names have changed, the principles remained the same. Transparent pricing doesn’t alway mean transparent margins. Word plays allow for wrong perception of what’s actually happening just because it seems better doesn’t mean that it is better.

It has only been three years ago since a few technologies, demand side platforms (DSP), entered the UK display market to buy the right ad at the right time and right price. With a decision making in milli-seconds it became real time advertising or programmatic advertising. From display this soon moved to video and mobile. Having said that, the mobile RTB world is still struggling with tracking and for video it is still early days. I personally still think that video is very exciting moving forward but probably a year away from really taking off in Europe. And mobile is and will always be very exciting. Then of course, omni-channel buying, attribution and budget allocation is on the rise. We can now target social via Facebook and soon via Twitter. Coming from a search background, I am now waiting until we get search integrated too. Or is that already there? And of course the data proposition of which I will speak in part 2.

Let’s look outside conventional RTB (and you can define what that means 😉 ). When you think search, social and display, those are the DR (direct response) channels whilst mobile and video are brand channels for me. Of course display is also brand but more so in the “video display” or rich media display or site takeover space. And latter is less available programmatically, and that’s why the brand budget still hasn’t moved as much across to RTB than a lot of people have hoped. Hence there is a demand for premium or networks servicing that need for non standard ad formats. However, DR budgets are squeezed down to the last penny and decisions on who stays on the media plans is due to performance and insight reporting. You might have heard of this company called Google who early on figured out to do exactly that with search. To survive in this competitive market you need to invest more and more, and you need to make it easier and easier for agencies to work with you. Very simple actually. Hence it isn’t a surprise that even in 2012, new networks, supported by big VC money, are still able to push into the market: good performance, great staff which is well paid, good customer service and excellent insight reporting. They just make it simple for media planners to use them.
And last but not least there are some companies that focus on that DR budget driven by search with a combination of search, display and social. Maybe less RTB driven but they all move into that space sooner or later as ‘real time’ will just be another way of buying media. A currency if you like. So the future might look like the “ad network 3.0” delivering display en masse for branding and reach campaigns whilst other companies focus on the actual DR driven and hard performance goals across the board.

Will the market get more fragmented? No. I believe that a lot of models we are seeing now are going to die in the next few years. Some short term revenue spinners that might sell themselves and then disappear again. Quick and loud into market, quiet out of the market. LIFO – last one in, first one out. Only tech driven companies will sustain the challenges thrown at them, and will be able to deliver long term added value. So technology will be key in the long term in allowing agencies or advertisers to utilise whichever channel they are after. And channel will mean DR vs. brand rather than search vs. video. Big agency groups already split between brand and DR. And there is a reason for it I believe.

I am not saying that agencies aren’t interested in channel attribution and or omni channel buying but you will have one team looking after DR and one team looking after brand. As a supplier of course you talk to both of them. Post click attribution versus post view or completed view or GRP. Audience measurement, conversion measurement, attribution. Yes, there is a future in figuring out the once holy grail.

So what am I saying here in part 1? I am saying that for the foreseeable future there will be a market for well organised ad network models and that only in the next few years technology will really play the key role. Companies who now invest in the right strategy and technology will survive. And once publishers and direct advertisers have caught up with the actual market situation, they then realise who adds value and who doesn’t. No more hiding! And adding value doesn’t mean cheap. You can have the highest margin but still deliver the most value. Then those marketeers who understand what’s happening will apply pressure on their agencies or walk away from them, utilising technology themselves. And, looking over to the US, you will see this trend starting already. But, in the long term, the agency becomes a consultant, it will adopt and will take technology in house again eventually as it will get too complex. Is that too visionary?

I hope you enjoyed this read and look forward to part 2 on Tuesday.

Please leave a comment.

Have a great weekend,

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Mobile Marketing #mobs13 @exchangewire


This Monday I attended the Exchangewire Mobile Marketing Event. As always, thanks to Ciaran and Paul for organising this industry get together.

I am still trying to get my head around the question whether mobile is a channel, a device or if people are right that tablets should be desktop devices (allegedly it is Apple’s fault that tablets are counted as mobile devices). Or is mobile just a second screen and we ignore everything else. Will banner ads work or is video the way forward to grab someone’s attention on the small screen? But it is also a private screen. And if you look to Asia, the importance of mobile takes another dimension.

According to the industry there are a few things to consider. Paul Wright started off that we need to look, amongst other things, at:

– cross platform tracking (ID across devices/finger printing)
– consider the volume of data available
– accept that we move away from keyboards
– that the society moves towards hybrid interaction like screens in cars
– local, social, mobile is still key and we keep forgetting that (or haven’t really understood it yet)

Looking from an agency perspective there are of course limitations set by the advertiser in terms of where is the ad shown (premium inventory) and they still like to be associated to Facebook or Twitter as they are prestige and trusted publishers. DSP buying is still not considered as much as it probably should be.

The following discussion supported the idea that mobile is about a “situation”, e.g. on the move, in the tube etc. and that the PC is going to die. Some argue it is more of a private storage or “cloud access device” moving forward.

mobilesInmobi (mobile ad network) says it touches each mobile user about 200 times a month and that the time being spent on mobiles is almost as much as watching TV. I might even challenge that in my case because I spend more time on mobile devices than watching TV. Again this supports the 2nd screen debate.

Is mobile the new way of catching consumers whilst watching TV or is TV the extension of mobile? Will only a multi channel attribution be able to figure that out? What about display, e.g. banner ads – are they still in the equation or are they moving onto the tablets as being the new “online”?

InMobi had a few points like:

– value of data
– mCommerce on the raise
– context being key, e.g. if someone is on the move they might want to have a more picture heavy ad than someone being at a static location; someone with small fingers having different context to someone having bigger fingers (female/male identification without prejudice of course 😉 )
– buying ecosystem: RTB only accounts for 0.5% of all mobile spent and eCPM is too high, fill rates are too low
– market maturation: rich media on the move and more money being put into programmatic buying

The following panel discussion was about the usual: “ROI”, “agnostic”, “audience buying”. However, one point really stood out: We have cracked the tracking on mobile. Wow. If that is the case why don’t we spend more on mobile? Is there an integrated strategy moving forward that allows us to ramp up the mobile spend, track the increased attribution (direct response or branding) and make mobile a full accepted channel after all? Is there enough inventory and commit from advertisers to actually spend money on mobile?

I believe it is time to integrate mobile into every media plan but for some reason we haven’t seen the “big spend” coming to mobile yet. The “year of mobile” is getting postponed 🙁

The Pizza Hut case study proved the point. proved the point. Both (ex) SMV agency guys who have a lot of confidence in mobile. The main targeting options were: tim, geo, audience (families & socialites) and that at scale.

Strikead’s CTO Michael Dewhirst summed the difficulties up: tracking is still not 100% sorted as there is a gap between browser and app cookies. The location data is not 100% reliable and the IP targeting might only be for the provider not the phone itself. So restrictions still apply whilst Strikead seems to have figured it out in regards to tracking. With 29bn data requests each months and the first global (!) mobile DMP.

A short presentation from WEVE and that they can reach 80% of UK mobile users, think that SMS are effective and that 40% of their database are happy to share their location data. More to follow they said….

mobile-devicesAdmobious presented their audience management platform. then pointed out that there is no turn key solution for tracking but what exists is good enough. And, quite frankly, Angus made it clear that it is not important whether the media is bought in real time, through a single platform or not, via API integration or any other “intangible benefit” as long as it works. Simple 🙂

The following talks from Rubicon and Twitter were a nice summary of how much is spend on mobile in the UK: it is as much as the total ad spend in Slovakia per annum. Twitter has been real time from the outset….and has always been predominately mobile. So here we go.

In summary my take away:

– mobile is huge, has potential of a massive spend and ultimately will grow
– only a few companies really know what they are talking about in terms of tracking and data usage
– tracking has been cracked but advertisers don’t seem to embrace it yet
– media plans need to take the 2nd screen into consideration and always add some mobile budget
– a combined media plan for mobile/connected TV seems a good option
– mobile is very fragmented and difficult to gauge whether it ever is having “a year of mobile”
– the mobile device stays personal
– the mobile device will replace the wallet

From a marketers point of view: there is NO way to ignore mobile. It is going to be huge. However, we need to move away from the classification of “mobile being a device” but as an industry re-define what we consider “mobile”. If that is “on the move vs. static IP” or “WIFI vs. 3G” to make best use of the possibilities and tracking options available, I don’t know.

Maybe you have some comments and ideas?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and should you have any questions re mobile RTB don’t be afraid to tweet, comment or send me a SMS 🙂

Best wishes,

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