Paul Gubbins: Thoughts from the programmatic coal face…

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.