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.

Dr Douglas ‘Data’ McIlwraith is Unruly’s resident data scientist. If you want to know more on machine learning, experimental methodology or ad optimisation, Dr Doug is your man. Aside from his work with Unruly’s Product Development Team, he’s also helped bring the world’s most prestigious AI and data conference to London. We sat down with him to find out more…

MS: Hi Doug. Can you tell us who you are and what you do here at Unruly?

DM: Certainly! I’m Dr Douglas McIlwraith, resident data science consultant for Unruly. I support all aspects of data science across the company – from working with our product development team on machine learning pipelines for advert optimisation, to helping our UnrulyEQ team develop the best experimental methodology. There’s so much to do, and we are only just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

MS: Talk us through a typical day.

DM: My day-to-day role is pretty varied, but it’s always focussed on pushing ourselves to make the best use of our data, and to create the best data products in market. I typically work with all areas of the business on this, from members of the executive team to product managers, software engineers, data engineers and other data scientists. It’s all about highlighting the possibilities of best practice in data science and allowing us to make the best product decisions so that, ultimately, we can go to market with the best data products in video advertising on the planet!

MS: Talk us through your connection with KDD2018. What is it?

DM: Sure! So KDD stands for Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. It’s widely recognised as one of the leading global meetings in the areas of machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science. It attracts up to 3,000 attendees with some of the most well recognised names in these fields.

Every year it moves to a new location, and cities are invited to bid to host the event. Two years ago, and with the support of the Unruly founders, I got together with Duncan Ray from Hackney council to place a bid for the event. I was blown away when I heard that we’d beaten some unbelievable competition to bring the event to London for the first time. I have a chair on the organising committee and I’ve worked closely with the other members to make this event the biggest and best data science meeting in it’s 24 year history!

MS: Sounds impressive. So what makes KDD2018 such a big deal, and what kind of issues will be discussed?

DM: KDD is so important because it is a truly interdisciplinary and applied research meeting. It’s not just theoretical insights, you’ll also get to see these ideas applied to massive datasets as well. Google, Facebook and Amazon are all regular contributors, and have a huge presence in our exhibitors hall. It’s really the best place to see the latest advances being worked on by the tech giants.

MS: Why should ad and media people pay attention to KDD?

There’s always a significant focus on advertising and media. I’m particularly looking forward to an invited talk by Dr Suju Rajan, Head of Research at Criteo who is going to discuss the technical challenges of computational advertising at scale. Criteo have been been making groundbreaking advances over the years, so just to hear their take on where we are now will be extremely valuable.

Suju is also running an amazing workshop called AdKDD: it’s a whole day dedicated to data science for computational advertising. There are also some really interesting advances in the areas of header bidding and optimal allocation of inventory from an SSP perspective in the main conference track, not to mention the Data and Journalism workshop that I’m organising.

MS: What’s the story with the workshop?

Dan Gilbert, who is Director of Data at News UK, and I joined forces to propose a whole day workshop on data in the media, as it seemed appropriate given the large number of media organisations in London. We ended up broadening the scope and joining up with other experts in the field to cover journalism as well. Now we’re working with organisers from Bloomberg, Darmstadt University, Zeit Online, IBM and the University of Illinois. We’ve got some great keynotes lined up. I can’t wait to hear what Maria Mestre from Factmata has to say about their work on fake news detection. It’s exceptionally relevant right now as advertisers are keen to ensure that they are not associated with poor quality content.

MS: What are you most looking forward to about KDD?

DM: I’m really excited about Deep Learning Day, which is a new initiative. They’ve got Andrej Karpathy, Director of AI Tesla giving a talk, so if you want to learn about the latest advances in self driving cars, this could be your chance. There are many, many other exceptional speakers, but Nobel Laureate Alvin E. Roth is definitely worth calling out. He won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design”. This makes him spectacularly well qualified to deliver his keynote ‘Market Design and Computerized Marketplaces’. Given the growth and ubiquity of new marketplaces that are facilitated by smartphones, think AirBnB, Uber, Deliveroo, Didi etc, this is a really timely talk that I’m sure will be extremely illuminating.

MS: Finally, data science rules because….

DM: Data science rules because it has so much potential to be disruptive and transformative. We are seeing huge, positive advances in so many businesses and business verticals that have been enabled by access to the vast quantities of data we generate. It’s such an exciting time to be involved in the field. I’m really looking forward to pushing ahead at Unruly and seeing how we can use data science to provide the best experience for our clients and users.

Meet some other members of the ProDev team!