Unilever, Starhub, Xaxis and more on restoring confidence in the ecosystem post-transparency furore

The Drum held a breakfast panel last week on the judging day of the Digital Trading Awards APAC 2017

The Drum held a breakfast panel last week on the judging day of the Digital Trading Awards APAC 2017 (DTAs), where panelists had a spirited debate on this year’s theme of transparency and clarity.

The panel discussed what can be done to ensure brands, publishers and agencies work together to solve the problems that plague the industry around clarity and transparency.

Negative headlines on transparency have dominated the headlines over the past year and, while there have been efforts to find a common ground, such as DTA's Asia Pacific partner IAB Singapore's recent Brand Safety Handbook, negativity prevails in some discussions.

In an intro, by DTA partner The Trade Desk's Duncan Chamberlain, the sentiments were echoed, as he enthused about the progression and potential in the region already but reinstated the importance of driving positive action for clarity and transparency.

The Drum Digital Trading Awards APAC is also supported by sponsors Integral Ad Science, Bidswitch, Unruly, Tapad and Tint, some of which also joined on the day.

The panel agreed that a diminished confidence in the ecosystem would slow investment, creating a need for even more positive action.

Professionals from agencies, publishers and brands, active in the programmatic space, offered their thoughts on setting benchmarks, rising costs in technology and paying for quality clicks. The Drum selected some of the key points from the panel discussion about this ongoing debate.

Colleen Ngo, head of supply and partnerships, Asia Pacific at Xaxis

Ngo firmly believes that there should be a benchmark for both brands and agencies to meet because there are various measurements for viewability at the moment, resulting in further costs that arise from a lack of agreement.

“I think benchmarks are important because it sets what we aspire to do. We have a different stance on measurement for viewability because we feel that number is too high, from an Asia Pacific point of view,” she said.

“I think in the last one or two years, everybody has talked about it enough and companies have gone on to employ a verification partner to look at the challenges.

“One of the challenges is cost and its not fair for anybody to add another cost because some people think that anything that is non-viewable is not valuable, so why do they have to pay for it?

“So, we need to think about how we manage the cost with the brands better and how we trade with them.”

Ngo added that while Xaxis has worked on brand safety for some years and found ways to address the issue, brand safety is never 100% guaranteed, so there is room for improvement for communicating benchmarks.

Chiradeep Gupta, global media director at Unilever

Gupta was of the opinion that the need for technologies to mitigate issues of transperancy and clarity and the high cost of employing various such technologies was adding on to the various issues that are seen in the industry today and firmly believes that the industry needs to address both the issues.

“I think there is an element of having far more openness in the last six to eight months, in terms of integrating with third party technologies,” he explained.

“For the potential issues around brand safety and being '100% safe', there is also an element of the cost of tech to mitigate this and one must not ignore it. At the end of the day, it is a question of choice when it comes to investing media monies and driving higher value though both efficiencies and effectiveness is what is the key deciding element.”

“When we can mitigate the cost and bring it down, it will do a lot in terms of driving the industry forward.”

He concluded that brands must constantly evaluate their existing platorms, as well as learn on the go and curate the relationships with the larger ecosystem [agencies, publishers and tech partners] to drive value for the long term.

Julian Tan, executive vice president and head of digital at Singapore Press Holdings

Tan suggested that there should be an agreed-upon metrics for viewability which will help all parties to be transparent and promotes accountability.

“I agree that education is required because there needs to be a certain benchmark, so the first step for agencies, publishers and marketers is to find the right metrics for viewability,” said Tan.

“Later on, once we have a standard to benchmark against, then it will be easier to have transparency between all parties.”

Tan also feels that rival publishers and brands should find a way to work together to solve transparency issues, pointing to his organisation’s recent programmatic trading desk partnership with rival Mediacorp.

Germaine Ng Ferguson, general manager of integrated solutions and analysis at StarHub

Ferguson admitted that brands are sometimes too demanding and vague about what they want programmatically, and called for both agencies and brands to manage expectations in their dealings.

“As a brand we also have to be fair in terms of what we get and be explicit in asking for what we want. There are cost involvements in things like measurement and that's what accountability is all about,” she explained.

“Sometimes the brands that we service can be unrealistic in their expectations. So this where there will be different benchmarks, whether it's internal pressure or because of the KPIs of the marketing campaign.

“There is a lot of education that is required, so having a benchmark will help because that will mean partners will meet the minimum and then it is up to the individual supply chain to improve.

“I agree that it is about setting and managing expectations because it gives the clients comfort.”

Greg Fournier, executive director of strategic partnerships at Unruly

Fournier was keen to stress for quality over quantity, urging brands to accept lesser views in exchange for a quality benchmark set by their agencies. He also opined that ‘you get what you pay for’ if you pay for less quality.

“I think when it comes to viewability, the question is whether you want something fast and quick. When you go to McDonald's, you buy a beef burger, you don't expect prime beef. So when you pay a cheap price for a view, at the end of the day, you only get half of what you deserve,” he said.

“There is a pressure that is felt at different points of the chain. Everybody who tries to do it, do the best they can, but you can look at different ways to charge the client for premium long form content.

“A lot of clients are educated enough now to deal on the models of models of CPV (cost per view) and CPCV (cost per completed view), so once clients agree to be a little bit more responsible and accept a less view but better quality benchmark, then it will benefit everyone.”

Dan Robins, Australia-New Zealand head of programmatic and data at Spotify

Robins’s point of view is that once brands and agencies agree on a benchmark, they should stick with it for a period of time before deciding to pull the plug, and stressed the need for managing expectations too.

“A lot of people aren't necessary saying the benchmarks aren't good enough, I would say its about setting expectations about the benchmarks,” said Dan.

“Three years ago, we decided it was about getting something the opportunity to be seen and wriggle out terrible sites that are doing things like pixel stuffing and ads that are right down the bottom of the page, which weren't getting seen.

“I think the important thing is to see what works for the brand in terms of engagement and I hate to see a derailment of that progress by people saying 'oh, the benchmarks aren't so good, so lets try something else.' "

Like Tan, Robins believes that parties learning together and collaborating helps and will go a long way in creating a ‘Utopia of clean space’.

The Drum Digital Trading Awards Asia Pacific awards night will be held on 27 October, to find out more about how to attend, visit the DTAs Asia website.

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