Ad Trading Summit London #atsl

On Tuesday this week the industry around RTB gathered to celebrate the 3rd Exchangewire event: Ad Trading Summit London 2011. Ciaran O’Kane got a great audience of 450 people and high end industry speakers together: well done. It is a testament to our ever growing niche within online.

RTB is here to stay, as I wrote in a blog post earlier this year. So Brian O’Kelley from AppNexus had the opening keynote. It was great to see an industry veteran setting the scene, putting RTB on the map. After Mike Nolet’s classification of DEM (display engine marketing specialists), Brian came up with the latest acronym for people working across exchanges: ATS – Ad Trading Specialists.

I guess companies like mexad, e.g. Ad Trading specialists, are what you need if you want to get the best performance across exchange buys. And, the exchanges space just gained another new exchange yesterday. Hi Media announce that it partners with AppNexus to channel through their remnant inventory in Europe. That is fantastic news and shows how networks evolve into SSPs and how our industry is getting more exciting by the day.

The first panel about attribution modelling was more of a discussion around what one could measure rather than giving some insights or examples. Attribution modelling still seems to be in its infancy, is client dependent, channel dependent and difficult to measure. There are new technologies coming to the market measuring actual views of ads and measure whether they have been seen, and for how long. Also new ad formats are on the rise as shown by AOL and Microsoft lately. This is fantastic to see, as the message and creative itself is getting more emphasis as well as the user engagement. So will we be able to get brand performance away from some premium sites and on to exchanges. Not saying you won’t get premium inventory across the exchanges but if brand engagement can be measured we are a step closer to tapping more money away from direct sales. Another step in the right direction if you ask me 🙂

MediaMath’s CEO was supporting this saying the question marketers need to ask is not how but why are we doing what we are doing. And now is the time to reduce friction and focus on the advertiser and get the ROI. We are in the middle of the RTB journey, we are in full swing. As you can imagine this got support from the audience.

In the following sessions the debate was a bit flat. We spoke about 5 display ads on one publisher site and whether there is a mechanic to buy them all? Would an advertiser appreciate that? What about the control of message, context and personalised ads. Can we learn from TV or can we test video ads online and then transfer those learnings to TV in order to save production costs? I will publish a think piece about where RTB is going soon too, e.g. the increased RTB capabilities for mobile, video, VoD and IPTV. Another story for another time.

Another discussion was around the added value of exchanges and SSPs for publishers and advertisers. Surprisingly the debate was less heated than anticipated as I believe most people saw the increased value those technologies bring to the market. But of course they would, delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time and the right price. Come on, can it get any better?

Dennis from Microsoft showed the 1984 Apple ad for their first “Mac PC”. This might be surprising Microsoft showing a competitor’s ad, but to be honest don’t we all have appreciation for some really good ads of our times. And the 1984 Apple one for the superbowl surely is an iconic one. It is about engagement and creativity. Microsoft is selling itself well, a slick presentation for what they can do. Even Dennis touched on IPTV and the above mentioned IAB Filmstrip ad format. Advertising is changing once again, and we are in the middle of it.

Before I get too enthusiastic, the next panel with agency trading desks, networks and ad trading specialists on board, was a little dissappoiting. I was hoping for a much bigger “fight”. Most trading desks or networks that also buy across exchanges use one technology. They all sticked to their guns and no one dared to come out of their corner. I was hoping to see more discussions around the best business models. Of course I’d say that, but there needs to be more of a attempt to test different technologies and put the emphasis on performance for advertiseres rather than political discussions, profit margins, and agencies trying to hang on to publisher data, creating a network model in house. Will networks go directly to advertisers moving forward? I am confident that we will see advertisers soon focusing more on independent specialists (ATS), a move I personally don’t think is the right way forward, as an agency can still add a lot of value to the media plan.

These are my thoughts and main take away from the ATS and I cannot wait to see you all again at the next ATS. Ciaran did a great job, and I hope that with all the acquisition rumours flying about, we soon have more stuff to talk about.

Let me know your thoughts.