Through the looking glass: what’s in store for ‘madtech’?

What should the ‘madtech’ world be thinking about as we dust off 2018? 

The pending Identity wars

Many column inches will once again be dedicated to the pros and cons of probabilistic versus deterministic IDs. Digital identity will become the new battleground, and those that own it will display little sympathy for those that don’t, as it increasingly becomes a USP to lock in media budgets.

Device graphs will be trendy once again. Next year they will be the must-have accessories as consumer time fragments even further from desktop, mobile web, app, over the top (OTT) and increasingly the devices powered by the growing IoT’s infrastructure.

ID coalitions and joint ventures will come and go. Some will focus on building a more efficient cookie to increase match rates for buyers and sellers while others will build a common probabilistic and screen agnostic ID that will help brands and agencies manage holistic reach, frequency and attribution across their myriad of programmatic media buys in the face of walled gardens and browsers restricting third-party cookies (think ITP and beyond!).

There will be cries and demands. Both the buy and sell-side want a common framework when it comes to identity. The question of who should own this will be a moot point, but still be debated at great length on many panels next year. Should identity be a commodity or USP? Time will tell…

Data Portability

There will be a growing appetite from chief marketing officers to be able to extract and apply their data holistically across each walled garden. It may sound far-fetched as identity is tightly controlled by the few but how will the many manage the basics of planning and buying such as frequency without it?

Brands and their agencies will become increasingly frustrated that the siloed insights they are receiving are effectively rendering their DMPs and CDPs redundant when it comes to the interpretation and activation of their data assets at the macro, not micro level.

If we’re ever going to reach the utopia of buying audiences and not screens, portability of data and specifically identity will be a necessity, not a luxury. 2018 was the year brands commanded supply transparency. I genuinely believe 2019 will be the year they ask for basic rights when it comes to digital ID management and ownership.

Voice search creating brand bypass

As smart speakers adoption grows, we’re going to continue to see stats next year that reference the decline of traditional search as voice search rises. This is going to create a lot of opportunity and disruption to many, as ‘brand bypass’ starts to set in. If somebody shouts at their speaker for batteries, razors or cheese, how will the speaker order if a brand name is not used prior to the request?

There will be lots of questions from brands in this area as concerns around speaker owners also being competing retail merchants begin to grow. In 2018, brands can capture intent online with paid search but this dynamic is changing quickly due to the growth of voice that is less than easy to get in front of in the connected homes of tomorrow.

Portable bidding logic

Many are going to start to think about owning their bidding logic. What do I mean? Well, some DSPs already let smart buyers play around with bidding logic and create custom features.

However, from the conversations I’ve had recently, it sounds like the ability for a brand or agency to port custom bidding logic from one DSP to another is still severely limited due to interoperability restrictions. Again, many will say I am daydreaming when I suggest this, but the way bidding logic works for a seat selling luxury cars will be completely different from the way it would work for another seat looking to sell moisturiser.

As brands and their agencies are forced to use more, not less DSPs as each start to create tangible USPs such as access to O&O supply or 1st party data. Sophisticated client trading desks and agencies will start to look for DSPs that can ingest their own proprietary bidding logic in a plug and play fashion so they can switch in and out new execution layers based on features like QPS, price, service, supply (audio, DOOH, OTT etc), data, device graphs et al.

The application of blockchain in madtech moves beyond PPT

Yes, I am aware that blockchain in madtech is a bit of a joke to those who live and breathe the sector (many think it’s vapourware and too slow to support OpenRTB), however, there is no escaping the fact that both brands and publishers will continue to intensify their asks around transparency in 2019.

If ‘madtech’ vendors and agencies do not self-regulate, concepts such as a distributed ledger ‘public’ or ‘private’ are going to start to look more attractive by the day.

As I write this, two major holding companies have already released their intentions to support a blockchain framework (DAN and GroupM), many big brands such as Toyota are also exploring and have adopted to support their advertising strategies. I see blockchain like programmatic 10 years ago, we are still at the conceptual stages and it is far easier to bash than it is to enter into meaningful conversations.

To summarise, many reports have suggested that funding for new ad and martech entrants is going to dry up in 2019. Boy did I laugh when I read that. There has never been so much change and opportunity in the industry. To name a few areas:

OOH – The M&A in this sector right now is bonkers, think Global taking out Primesight, Outdoor Plus and Exterion. Like TV, OOH is an area that resonates really well with both consumers and advertisers and the opportunity to extract even further value via the application of tech and data is exciting to many. There is going to be so much innovation in DOOH over the next 12 months and lots of opportunities for existing and new entrants.

OTT – So much has already been written about the migration of linear TV budgets due to this new world of CTV via OTT environments and many in madtech are going to see the tide rise for them. It has already been proven that large demographics globally are increasingly difficult to reach via linear broadcasts (AKA cord cutters) and they are only accessible to advertisers via addressable channels. Those in the video data, sell side and activation space are each going to be building their features and honing their narratives for this lucrative opportunity in 2019 and beyond.

Expect many new OTT entrants specifically in the data and measurement area as new protocols and standards continue to be agreed by industry constituents.

So here’s the bottom line: identity will feature heavily in discussions next year and ‘portability’ will be a theme that dominates. The digital advertising sector is an amazing place to be right now and I can’t wait for 2019, times are a-changin’.

Read the original article published in The Drum.

Last month I was invited along to the ExchangeWire studios to take part in their latest MadTech Podcast as the weeks special guest.

I joined ExchangeWire’s CEO, Ciaran O’Kane, and COO, Rachel Smith to chat about Unruly, programmatic, and the latest trends and news stories from the world of advertising.

During the podcast you can hear us chat and debate about the following topics;

  • Now that Brian O’Kelley is moving on, what does he do next?
  • What can be done to save Johnston Press? And what can ad tech do to help journalism?
  • Has OTT hit a saturation point, and does ad-funded content still have a future?
  • The Unruly solution for buyers and sellers.
  • The shift from IO to programmatic guaranteed, and what that means for the market.
  • The future of independent ad tech, and the differentiation required to survive.

Listen to the podcast:

Read the original article

It’s been a hectic few months in the ad and martech sectors so I wanted to share an overview of some of the things that have caught my eye.

This article has been taken from the The Drum’s monthly ‘Welcome to Programmatic Perspective’ series. This is an opinion piece and has been written by our programmatic lead Paul Gubbins. Each month he offers his take on the latest trends in the automated advertising space.

DMEXCO is changing, but it’s here to stay

Off the bat, DMEXCO is not going anywhere.

It felt just as big this year as it has ever been. OK, there were fewer agencies in attendance but I feel that is more a reflection of the day to day pressures they are under rather than the event no longer being relevant for them.

That said, the consultancies were there in force, their stands sandwiched between SSPs, DMP’s and DSPs which really illustrated to me their intent to invest and invade the activation space.

Another observation is that mobile point solutions seem to be back in a big way.

Two months ago the concept of a mobile-only DSP/SSP felt a little dated as all big display vendors shouted from the rooftops about their ability to be screen agnostic, but fast-forward 12 months and it feels like many have abandoned the complexities of mobile to funnel their R&D budget into a bigger prize: OTT.

As a result, DMEXCO was awash with a mixture of mobile first CDPs, DSPs & SSPs that were all servicing the demand of partners struggling to get the same features and performance from the big desktop ‘madtech’ vendors as they chased their utopias of owning OTT.

Key soundbites that have caught my attention recently

AppNexus pulling out of the advertiser ID consortium was a big story.

It makes perfect sense to me as to why the business want to focus its internal engineering resources on the integration with its new owner AT&T, but it is sad to see what looks like the gradual demise of a really important project for the industry.

I have been asking anyone who will listen for the last several years: ‘what happens when brands and their agencies want to manage the basic foundations of media planning and buying in 12/24 months?’ So, how will reach, frequency and attribution be measured if each walled garden has deprecated the cookie and device ID in favour for their own screen agnostic identifier?

The industry is racing towards being partially-sighted, and opticians are far and few between in the media sector to address this growing concern.

One idea that I know sounds bonkers that I feel may gain traction in the future is a joint venture between each of the biggest walled gardens.

Hear me out… if global chief marketing officers are today standing up on stages around the world asking for supply chain transparency, how long will it be before they stand on the same stages asking for better infrastructure to support data portability when it comes to ID management?

Will we ever see a time when each of the walled gardens create an ID clearing house that enables brands and their agencies to better manage reach, frequency and attribution as their customers jump from one sandbox to the next?

Bottom line, it is in the industry’s interest to ensure agencies have holistic visibility on IDs since no one single player owns 100% of consumers time, yet.

If there is not an ID joint venture from the walled gardens, then who will take up the mantle?

We know many of the agencies have an appetite to create internal IDs but with the high volume of accounts won and lost at the moment, will clients get to keep this information or will it be proprietary to the holding companies?

What will involvement be like from the IABs or other governing bodies, like the AOP, when it comes to identity?

We have seen the US IAB Tech Lab recently acquire the DigiTrust and this has been a positive move to try and create some type of framework.

Without an open ID, the walls for all will only get higher so expect to see a continued momentum from many to make this work.

AppLovin’s acquisition of MAX – it’s a big deal

For many, this news may have passed by, but I think it is a pretty big story. Why? Well first, AppLovin has been valued at $2bn and MAX recently raised a $3.5m seed.

Also, we know that serving ads in the places where consumers are increasingly spending their time is difficult, and with moves from the likes of Apple (which has made alterations to its ITP feature that make it even more difficult to run targeted ads on Safari) buyers are going to increasingly find the app ecosystem to be a pretty strong environment to invest in.

After all, apps still support a deterministic identifier in the device ID and often sit within the tightly-controlled environments of the app stores.

As this increase of ad budgets slowly moves away from mobile web and into apps, developers are going to find themselves with a massive increase in demand for their inventory.

Enter header bidding…

Yes, I’m aware there is no header in an app but the concept of the unified auction still applies. The reason this will be big business in-app is due to the fact that many developers still have a multitude of ad nets and mediation partners all set up in waterfalls, very few have until now been able to run a true unified auction of their demand.

This is where AppLovin has made very a strategic move and bought a company it can bolt onto its already well-adopted SDK; instantly offering publishers a header auction feature.

If you are in any doubt that this will be bigger in-app than on desktop, just look at the PR released recently from many desktop SSP’s discussing their own in-app features. However, many of these legacy desktop vendors chasing in-app header dollars face a big struggle as very few have scaled SDKs.

It sounds like the industry is running with the feature name of ‘parallel bidding’ when it comes to in-app unified auctions, expect to hear this term a lot over the next 12 to 24 months.

Open Data Initiative

A joint venture between Adobe, Microsoft and SAP to support data portability and a single comprehensive view of data, has just been announced.

It sounds like a really good collaboration and mirrors other partnerships we are seeing in the market across areas like ID management (IAB TechLab and AIC) and publishing, (Ozone and The Verified Marketplace by Unruly).

The European Broadcaster Exchange (EBX) is another great example of the tie-ups we are seeing play out as companies look to realign their competitive sets to face new headwinds from walled vendors.

The flight to programmatic guaranteed…

For several years now agencies have made very public statements of intent to become 100% programmatic. However, many are still not there yet and this is through no fault of their own, it’s just that programmatic buying model for them to do so has not really existed.

At one point, it looked like ‘automated guaranteed’ (AG) may help them to get there but this was never really a programmatic solution, it was more a workflow automation tool and one we rarely hear about now. PG models have emerged and support all AG features with the added bonus of being transacted via the OpenRTB protocol, meaning companies can implement both impression level buying and data matching strategies.

As more buy and sell-side vendors roll out their beta PG offerings, expect this to be the catalyst that really enables agencies to migrate from IO to programmatic.

Barriers that stopped them from doing this historically were PMPs that offered at best dynamic price and fluctuating impression volumes – both variables that made it extremely hard for agencies and publishers to commit demand and supply to these types of deals. PG is the best of an IO, but transacted in a programmatic way, and I think it’s a real game changer for both buy and sell-sides.

If you are a managed service media business without a function to capture programmatic demand, PG is going to create some headwinds for your sales team in 2019, so it’s time to think about SSP partnerships.

In my next post, I am going to offer an update on where we are with the concept of unified auctions; who is winning in the battle to get S2S adoption; and what best client- side wrapper practices we have seen play out over the last 12 months.

As always, feel free to dispute any points i have made or make recommendations about future areas you would like me to cover.

DMEXCO Insights: This year’s DMEXCO is going to be fantastic! Not only does Unruly have one of the most epic stands we’ve ever had, but we’re also at a point in time when there has never been so much change, disruption, and opportunity within the digital advertising ecosystem.

Photo of the Unruly stand at DMEXCO 2016.

Here are seven questions that I believe will be the most debated topics at DMEXCO 2018, and I’ll be there to quiz some of the world’s biggest brands and advertisers on their thoughts around each one.

Where do brands sit on the bid caching debate?

Many have mooted the benefits for both the buy and sell sides of bid caching when executed in a transparent environment. Others feel there are too many risks associated with the practice, so I’m keen to see how the wind blows on this topic, as auction mechanics are often an emotive subject for all involved.

Who will own digital identity in 2019?

The walls get higher by the day, yet very few ask how brands and their agencies will manage the basics of media buying such as holistic reach, frequency and attribution. I’m keen to see what this will look like, especially considering that every vendor in the near future will be using their own proprietary ID rather than cookies.

What will data portability look like? Will DMPs fold into CDPs? How will attribution modeling work? Is there a need for an independent and agnostic media platform to sit below the walled garden that provides global brands with an ID clearing house/taxonomy, so they can plan and buy more efficiently in the face of ID blindness?

How are publishers winning post GDPR?

I’m looking forward to spending time with premium publishers at both ATS and DMEXCO to  see the unified auction set-up play out. I’m also interested in finding out how publishers are leveraging EBDA, S2S, client side, and a multitude of other configurations to capture and grow their digital revenues in 2018. I’m also going to be talking to publishers about the evolution of auction mechanics: 1st vs. 2nd price, how CMPs have empowered them, and their thoughts on what’s next for header bidding and identity.

How are traditional linear TV budgets migrating to addressable OTT environments?

You don’t have to be Bill Gates to come to the conclusion that the OTT (over the top) opportunity is going to big. It will be big for advertisers that struggle to reach the ‘cord cutter’ audiences who no longer sit in front of linear broadcasts, and it will be a huge revenue opportunity for streaming services like Netflix, should they finally decide to embrace the ad funded route. I also want to better understand how activation, measurement and identity are going to evolve in the OTT space, as many on the LUMAscape rush to conquer that territory.

How big is the audio opportunity?

Out of nowhere, audio programmatic has become big business (think Spotify and Pandora). Brands can now access this supply via direct sold or programmatic partnerships and it’s an area that often sits outside the challenges faced by digital display. As a result, audio programmatic is fast becoming an attractive canvas for marketers and their agencies.

There are still limitations when it comes to data-driven, impression-level buying that the buy side has to expect from programmatic execution. Because of this, I am keen to better understand how audio platforms are building to meet buyer requests in these areas.

Are there any real applications for blockchain in digital advertising yet?

There will be lots of debate at ATS about auction and fees transparency, and I think this year at DMEXCO, we will see a lot of vendors pushing the value of distributed ledgers via their blockchain offerings in order underpin, and address, some of the opaque practices that we have seen reported within the sector.

I’m interested to hear more about how blockchain can support contracts, gather opinions on the reconciliation process of digital advertising, chat about real-time bidding and if they feel speeds are quick enough in 2018.

How are big brands pulling programmatic activation in house?

I’m going to speak to brands who have pulled their programmatic activation in-house, or are planning to do so. I want to better understand their motivations for doing this, and find out how they are planning to manage areas like data and activation vendor selection, auction mechanics, and supply path optimization. I’m curious about the role consultancies may play in this scenario.

One thing is for sure, following the wave of ad and martech M&A we have already seen play out in 2018, the media noise around auction mechanics, publishers taking control post-GDPR, and with the noises made by the consultancies to enter (or invade) our sector, it’s going to be a great few days in Cologne. DMEXCO here we come!

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