Joel Christie, online marketing controller, BSkyB talks to The Drum's Jessica Davies about the challenges and opportunities in the real-time advertising landscape.
Confusing jargon and an over-crowded technology supplier market are just two of the challenges brands face when approaching the programmatic buying space, according to online marketing controller for BSkyB Joel Christie.BSkyB was one of the first brands to throw its weight behind real-time bidding (RTB), not only becoming one of the first to recognise the potential of the market but also backing that up with serious investment. It currently dedicates 40 per cent of its annual £15m display budget towards the RTB space, a figure which could rise further if Facebook continues to expand and drive its own exchange FBX, in turn injecting more premium inventory into the space, according to Christie. However, arriving at this point has not been without its challenges, many of which will still be a barrier for the brands that have not yet grasped how to capitalise on the use of RTB for display.“We’ve been on a two and a half year journey going from a media plan that I inherited, of 20 providers to just a few. With any new market opportunity there springs a raft of new companies and the same happened with RTB – the space became flooded with companies looking to provide services trying to differentiate and that created a real headache,” he says. Christie says BskyB tackled this by surrounding itself with people from companies it could fundamentally trust which meant those with a good vision of the future RTB market and a deep understanding of what the pay TV operator wanted to achieve. As a result it narrowed down the providers it worked with to just a few and currently works with Infectious Media for its customer cross/up sell activity, Group M’s Xaxis for retargeting, and Rocket Fuel for prospecting.“That was a big shift for us. We were known in the market for being quite ruthless in the space – yes we have a lot of spend, and if it is not working we will just chuck you off and move onto the next one – that’s fine but there’s a lot of churn there.“So what we really wanted to get a grip on were the opportunities around the data. We wanted to find out how we could get back more insight from our providers to use in our creative planning and then go out and find more of the same – that was a big change. We are there to an extent – we have a group of people we are working with who buy into that vision but it took a long time.” he says.However, there remains a disconnect between the “brand guardians” that sit within the brand teams and whose priorities, as well as those of the sales teams, lie with traditional branding channels such as TV advertising versus the online teams, according to Christie. “My challenge is to get the buy-in and freedom to invest more in the online space from the brand guardians based on numbers and data insight. We are starting to get there but it has been a challenge,” he adds. The amount of jargon that has arisen to describe the digital ad trading ecosystem has only led to further confusion and alienated some buyers and sellers. “Ultimately it is a trust issue and about understanding the opportunities. We talk in too much jargon which puts off a lot of buyers and sellers whereas if you can condense it and streamline it and make it easy to understand it will be better for the RTB display space as a whole,” he says.The high volume of data being pumped through exchanges, demand-side platforms and demand management platforms has triggered alarm bells among some brands regarding data ownership and the transparency of trading desks’ use of it. Christie believes this debate has been around since the dawn of online advertising, but has been brought to the fore in the last few years with the evolution of agency trading desks. “The fact trading desks are using data as their key USP has brought the issue of transparency more to the fore, whereas when it sat behind an open network and optimisation was all done behind the scenes, all people cared about was the cost per acquisition (CPA) you got and that was the metric of choice. Now, quite rightly, people are questioning where their data is actually going. They are right to be concerned about that but they need to ensure they are working with the right people and not going out and buying kit with everyone – that’s where the danger is,” he says. Christie’s focus for the next year will be on driving insight into peoples’ cross-channel behaviour to dynamically serve ads whose creative message is tailored to an individual’s specific stage in the purchase funnel and online journey in general. “Everyone talks about attribution and that is key, but I’m more interested in looking at the opportunities around what people are doing across platforms and segmenting that audience. For example, is someone a prospect or a customer? How can we either cross or up-sell to keep them there, segment down to where they have been on the site, and whereabouts down the sales funnel they are?“If they are an existing customer, how long have they been with us? Every ad they are sent should be relevant to their history and details. So if they have never been to our site, how do we bring them in; if they have been to the buy area of the site but not bought, what can we do ensure they do next time?”