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.

This week we sat down with Sadie Spooner from Unruly’s New York office to talk about trust in advertising, Unruly culture, and what life is like as a Partnerships Lead.

“When bad actors are being called out it must be scary for some, but it’s a huge opportunity for a company like Unruly”

Q: Hi, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

Hello! I’m Unruly’s partnerships lead in the US, based in our New York office. I help grow Unruly’s US business by overseeing commercial relationships with key partners. This includes our biggest advertiser, and our parent company News Corp.

Q: How did you find your way here?

I had a friend who worked at Unruly and loved it, so I had to check it out! When I came to London to interview for a role, I had never seen people walking around an office in jeans and trainers before! Not to mention all the exposed brickwork and an office pug! Everyone at Unruly seemed to genuinely love and care about their jobs. It clicked for me that life didn’t have to be all suit jackets and filing cabinets, so I made the move to Unruly. It was definitely daunting at first going from the most digitally savvy person in the room to the least, but I loved it.

Q: What notable roles did you hold prior to Unruly?

I started life on the advertiser side, graduating in marketing and working as a marketing manager for two national house-builders in the UK before joining Unruly. It was fun, I got to drive around the country doing the marketing for our housing developments and putting together show homes in beach towns, country villages, and big cities like Manchester and London. A lot of what I learnt translated across to my role at Unruly. I was responsible for hiring and managing our ad agencies, and choosing vendors, so I knew what a marketer was looking for in a partner before I joined Unruly.

Q: What draws you to this type of work?

Well for a start, this industry is fascinating. Did I dress up as an advertising salesperson when I was five? Obviously not (pop star). But the longer I’ve worked in this industry and the more I’m exposed to our leadership and decision making, the more I’ve realized we’re one of the good players. We’re building products that work for users, driving trust in advertising, supporting quality journalism, and doing right by advertisers, and that is fulfilling.

When bad actors are being called out it must be scary for some, but it’s a huge opportunity for a company like Unruly, who are committed to making advertising better. Personally, getting to work alongside powerful, historic brands like the Wall Street Journal, and making deals with the most sophisticated and discerning advertisers, is very exciting.

Q: With trust in advertising being a huge talking point recently what does it mean to you?

As a base line (and this should be obvious) if a company lies or doesn’t hold itself accountable for something that was misleading, it’s not a trustworthy partner. As a layer above, it should be possible to trust another business to do everything in its power to protect your reputation when you work together. I think that’s quite a difficult kind of trust to achieve in our industry, and that’s the type that gets broken when brand safety is lax, or controversial tactics are used without permission. Due to its rarity, I think that kind of trust isn’t talked about enough and is generally an undervalued component of a business partnership. However I think that’s beginning to change.

Sadie drinking a coffee in the Unruly New York office

Q: Tell us about something you’ve learned while working at Unruly.

I’ve learnt a huge amount about productivity from Unruly. This company is great at encouraging you to think about more productive ways of working like standing or walking meetings, setting clear meeting goals, and stand ups. It sounds simple but I feel like I’m three times more productive since being more cognizant of the way I’m working.

Q: What are Unruly doing to tackle fake news?

We’re in a very good place to tackle fake news. Literally, we’re in the same building as the Wall Street Journal! By working closely with our News Corp publisher partners we’re funding real journalism. One of the first steps we can take to fight fake news is to stop fake news being funded.

At Unruly, we are in a position where we can be picky with who we work with. We have always been stringent about the websites our ads appear on so we have no weird legacy long-tail sites. It’s much harder to catch and deal with on user generated websites like social networks and YouTube, so I think the right thing is happening. Pressure from advertisers and more premium businesses like News Corp will hopefully encourage those guys to step up their game and do what they need to do to.

Q: How does Unruly build trust with its customers?

We’re a company taking trust in advertising seriously, it’s not just our vision to be the most trusted marketplace, we’re injecting transparency into our comms with clients and engaging with advertisers about what trust in advertising means to them.

We recently held a Trust Talks event here in NYC with panels on the subject of trust in advertising, and transparency in programmatic buying. It was so interesting to get the views of panelists from ad agencies, advertisers, ad tech partners, and publishers and a lot of healthy disagreement! Another one is happening in London next month which I’m really looking forward to! We also just launched U7, a client council of the biggest heavyweights in our industry, which is designed to help clean up the advertising industry by making practices more transparent.

Q: Enough about work. It’s the weekend: what do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m lucky enough to have a free weekend in the city it’s usually brunch with friends, a lot of walking around the city, maybe some shopping and later on bar hopping. After over two years of living in New York I’m still in awe every time I look up Lexington Ave and see the Chrysler building behind rows of yellow taxis!

Want to join the Unruly family? You’re in luck, we’re hiring! Check out our job page for the latest roles!

On 6 November we kick off our next Trust Talks event in London. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are we to bring this event back to the UK? We reckon about 15! This edition of Trust Talks is focused on all things programmatic!

The programmatic advertising ecosystem can be a confusing place – so full of acronyms, vendors and platforms that it can be hard to know who (and what) you can trust. The issues of brand safety have dominated the headlines in recent times, and this is only becoming more of a concern as programmatic buying continues to scale.

In light of this we decided it was time to bring influential figures within the programmatic sphere in the UK together under one roof for the morning to discuss the problems and opportunities that programmatic is facing, and how we can work together as an industry to either solve or embrace them.

We will be hosting a number of panels throughout the morning to discuss and tackle some of the most prevalent issues and questions being asked across the programmatic model. Take a look below to find out who will be speaking, and what each panel will cover.

Trust Talks: The Great Programmatic Debate will be live streaming via the Unruly Facebook page from 9-12 on Tuesday 5th November!

09:10 – 09:40: Adtech 2018 – impressions from the sell side

Adtech 2018 - impressions from the sell side panel

Moderated by Ronan Shields, Ad Tech Reporter, Adweek. This panel will address the issues and opportunities facing premium publishers in 2018. From the rise of initiatives such as ITP from Safari restricting ad opportunities on mWeb, right through to the complex landscape of unified yield management, also known as header bidding. The panel will discuss life post-GDPR, the rise of 2nd party data marketplaces, and why publisher coalitions are so hot right now. 

Speakers:

  • Dora Michail, MD Digital Telegraph
  • Steph Miller, Head of Sales & Marketing Services, Zoopla
  • Danny Spears, Programmatic Director, The Guardian
  • Lauren Dick – Head of Emerging Platforms, Mail Online
09:45 – 10:15: Identity, the quest for an open & alternative ID continues

Identity, the quest for an open & alternative ID continues panel

Moderated by Paul Gubbins, Programmatic Lead, Unruly. This panel looks at where we are as an industry in the quest for an alternative and open ID. They will challenge the idea that life post-cookie will challenge visibility for both buyers and sellers, unless they operate within walled gardens. The panel will also explore ID portability, and how initiatives from bodies such as the IAB Tech Lab will tackle areas of concern such as digital ID management, privacy legislation and the explosive growth of connected devices.

Speakers:

  • Nigel Gilbert – Chief Market Strategist, AppNexus EMEA, A Xandr Company
  • Shane Shevlin – SVP Strategic Development, IPONWEB
  • Matt Simpson – Joint CEO Investment Omnicom
  • Morwenna Beales, VP ID5
10:35 – 11:05: Exchanging views, thoughts from the buy side

Exchanging views, thoughts from the buy side panel

Moderated by Vincent Flood, Editor, Video Ad News. This panel will discuss in detail the ever-changing programmatic landscape and look at best practice examples from those on the buy side. it will address topics such as auction mechanics like bid caching and shading, releases such as ITP from Safari, and the emergence of new transaction models such as programmatic guaranteed. This panel will also discuss preferences for 1st versus 2nd price auctions, and how initiatives such as ads.txt have changed the way traders buy.

Speakers:

  • Matt Bushby, Head of Programmatic, MediaCom
  • Charlie Glyn – Head of Programmatic, Havas Media Group
  • Simon Harris – Head of Programmatic, Activation Dentsu Aegis
  • Emily Macdonald – SVP Precision EMEA, Publicis Media
11:10 – 11:40: Why emotions matter in an age of automated advertising

Why emotions matter in an age of automated advertising panel

Moderated by James Chandler – CMO, IAB. This panel will focus on how marketers are showing an increasing appetite to understand the connection between consumer emotions and digital advertising.

Post-GDPR, and pre full roll out of the CCPA, dependencies on 3rd party data sets have been wound down. Marketers and agencies are now looking for signals familiar from traditional advertising buys, but that are often overlooked in programmatic. Featuring pioneering insight from UnrulyEQ, this panel will discuss the rise of AI and what using traditional targeting methods via modern programmatic technology actually means for those on both the buy and sell sides.

Speakers:

  • Liam Brennan, Global Director of Innovation, MediaCom
  • Becky Waring, VP Insight, UnrulyEQ
  • Anna Forbes, UK general Manager, The Trade desk

11:40 – 12:00: Closing remarks and refreshments

Trust Talks: The Great Programmatic Debate will be live streaming via the Unruly Facebook page from 9-12 on Tuesday 5th November!

Click here to find out more about this event.

The programmatic advertising ecosystem can be a confusing place – so full of acronyms, vendors and platforms that it can be hard to know who (and what) you can trust. The issues of brand safety has been publicized for quite some time, and is only becoming more of a concern as programmatic buying continues to scale.

At our last Unruly Trust Talks event in New York, Unruly’s Programmatic lead Paul Gubbins sat down with Ryan Rolf, VP Data Solutions at Lotame, Rachel Nyswander Thomas, SVP Operations at TAG, and Doug Zarkin, CMO at Pearle Vision to uncover the truth behind popular programmatic myths, and how advertisers can work to rebuild trust.

Paul Gubbins (PG): Why do publishers and brands still not trust adtech vendors?

Doug Zarkin (DZ): It’s because people blindly trust technology in this space. The programmatic model is only as good as the input you put in it. One of the main flaws in the programmatic model today is that there isn’t enough of an understanding of brand intent or consumer targeting. It’s just the programmatic model says, for example, I should target blonde, blue-eyed women between the ages of 27-35 who have a poodle. There’s not enough of an understanding of the person that’s pulling those levers and making those adjustments to the programmatic model of what the brands intent is, and what reality looks like outside of the algorithm.  

Rachel Nyswander Thomas (RT): I think you’re spot on, I also think there are other aspects to it. I understand brands saying they need to know everything that is happening in the programmatic model, and that is part of what TAG works on – the transparency of exactly what is going on in the supply chain. We are exactly three years old, which isn’t very long in the history of programmatic in terms of having standards by which you can judge the efficacy of your anti-fraud vendors. Yes, there are the MIC guidelines, but let’s be honest, there’s a lot more to fighting fraud than that. I think we are gaining trust back as an industry at this point. Knowing your partner’s more closely is going to be key to continuing to do that.

PG: As I think we all agree programmatic is good, but nowhere near as good as it could be, how do we fix this?

DZ: Firstly I think there are some opportunities with the agency model: we need to look at what should be done in-house and out-of-house. Secondly we need to look at the ad experience. Let’s not forget the advantage of advertising is to motivate an action, and that action comes in two ways. There has to be an emotional decision before that rational choice. One of the questions we need to ask is how do you make the advertising experience better in the digital landscape? The answer is deliver a better brief.

We have an amazing creative agency that does all our digital stuff and contrary to their earlier view, they love doing digital because they’re not confined to a 30, 60 or 15 second ad. We can create a 72, 83, or even a 2:12 second ad if we want to tell the entire story. The input that goes into any model, especially when it comes to programmatic, is only as good as the amount of time you’ve taken to write the brief. You also need to understand the emotional decision making process a consumer goes through before they make that rational choice to click on your banner and take the action.

The entity itself has to be done right before the results can come. Programmatic is simply the science. The art really comes in the ‘what’. If you are a brand in a competitive market you really need to ask yourself what your ad is saying, and communicate that in an emotive way to your consumers. Everyone says that Amazon is killing retail. They aren’t, they are just killing bad retail. The bar has been raised for all of us who are in a position to drive the ‘what’, to spend more time thinking about what the ‘what’ is, before we spend too much time thinking about ‘how’.

Trust talks: the great programmatic debate panel NYC

PG: There are now a multitude of different vendors you can work with within the advertising space. There’s no shortage of buy side vendors, of sell side vendors or of third party data vendors. How do you go about navigating that space and finding the right vendors that you can trust?

Ryan Rolf (RR): As an independent company we come up against the clouds, your Adobe, your Neilsons and this goes back to that whole idea of saying that no one ever got fired for choosing blue, and this is something we come up against all the time. The issue we have is that people don’t know us as well as they do the bigger vendors. Our main message is the fact that we really just specialise in data, and help companies untap that data, which to Doug’s point is just one piece of the puzzle. People often come to us if they are looking for that, rather than the cloud companies who have 50 other solutions that they are trying to sell them that they just don’t need.

DZ: I think brands have to come down and data suppliers and providers need to come up and be able to keep things as simple as possible. Because at the end of the day I don’t believe there is a comprehensive understanding that exists. All the problems about what websites to go to and privacy this and privacy that, those are all real issues and I’m not mitigating the impact of them, but I do not believe that the technology in those who are empowered with only the technology realise that any buyer of that technology isn’t a tech nerd.

Trust talks: the great programmatic debate panel NYC

PG: Why as an industry do you think we keep over-complicating things?

RR: I think truthfully the only reason we over-complicate things is because we keep trying to tell the story smarter than the next guy.

DZ: There’s an enormous disconnect between data and knowledge. None of us suffer from a lack of data, we live in an era of big data. We have to remember that data is only as useful as the questions you ask. Data does not make decisions. People make decisions using data, and so I think when you’re looking at vendors, whether they be big or small, you need to really look at their ability in doing that.

PG: Aare companies asking TAG the right questions around trust and transparency? Should there be a template issued by the IAB to help both buy and sell side vendors ask everybody the right information to track those insights?

RT: The conversation has to be very unique between partners. Everyone knows we certify organisations but a big part of what we focus on is not just are you certified or not, it’s connecting the dots between partners and encouraging them to get to know each other better beyond just seeing whether a company is certified or not. At the moment within this industry brand safety means something different to everyone. We need to dig further into what the advertiser actually wants and what does the publisher actually have to offer, that transparency and connection is vital, a checklist can only go so far.

Trust Talks event logo

Unruly Trust Bytes is a new video series exploring trust in different areas of Adland.

For the first episode of our series, we asked key industry figures at our recent Unruly Trust Talks event what they thought the impact of GDPR would be on third-party data usage.

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At Unruly we wanted to understand what trust means for ad tech in 2018, and how advertisers are navigating these uncertain waters.

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