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WATCH ON DEMAND FROM 25 Jan 2021
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Broadcaster RTÉ’s commercial director calls for 'more standards' in programmatic trading

Irish broadcaster RTÉ’s commercial director Conor Mullen has called for "more standards" in programmatic trading to cut down on video and display ad misplacement still rife across the sector.

The broadcaster has launched its own private marketplace for international ad sales across its video-on-demand (VOD) player following a tie-up with Adap.tv, which was acquired by AOL in a deal worth $405m (£262m) this morning.

RTÉ has “grappled” with how to approach programmatic trading for the last few years, according to Mullen.

It has “totally avoided” ad networks, opting instead to work with the likes of Admeld, prior to its acquisition by Google in 2011, directly to sell its inventory on an real-time bidding (RTB) basis.

“The whole premise of that decision was to give us control over what creative was actually appearing. The big issue for any publisher, whether it be for display or video, is having control over the creative, where it appears and at what price. With ad networks creative can be thrown into anything,” he said.

Mullen believes there is a lot of “misinformation” being bandied around, having experienced external sales houses claiming they could sell RTÉ, inventory without permission from the broadcaster, both in RTÉ’s domestic market, as well as internationally.

“We initially started by looking at the Lumascape for VOD and Adaptv met our criteria in terms of being able to help maintain the quality – we are achieving the same rates [internationally for the VOD player] as we are domestically, which just highlights the value of the editorial environment,” he explained.

Video ad networks and exchanges need to exhibit more standards and control mechanisms around ad placements for publishers if they are to attract more broadcasters to invest in them, according to Mullen.

He said some existing video ad aggregators that claim to carry premium video content which is in reality “at best, questionable”.

“These same aggregators are carrying premium advertisers in front of non-premium content. For example a video showing ‘how to increase your chances of getting a date on a Friday night in six easy lessons’ is not premium content, but there are family brands appearing in front of that kind of content now,” he said.

There is an urgent need for more standards to be established, especially since the demise of for display ads standards body IASH, Mullen claimed.

“We had IASH which looked after display advertising standards – but now that’s gone. There are no standards in relation to VOD. Technology advancements are occurring on a continual basis. You have the Nielsen GRPs appearing now – that’s a step in the right direction but it’s not 100 per cent accurate either.

“…BARB is also working on a project that looks at cross platform measurement and VOD extensions. I want to know what my extended reach is, and in TV it’s tried and tested but online I could tell you a certain standard today and tomorrow it will have changed, because there are no barriers to entry,” he said.

One of the major benefits for advertisers using RTB is they can buy individual impressions, rather than thousands, rendering very little wastage. “Yet at the same time you have to buy in volume in order to reach people so that is counter intuitive in some respects.

“So you will see lot of ad content appearing on inappropriate sites both in display and video – there needs to be some standards and an element of ad verification across the programmatic space,” he concluded.

RTÉ, airs programmes such as Eastenders, Celebrity Chef Ireland, and The Walking Dead.

Last month, Kellogg's digital director for Europe Matt Pritchard called for a growth in transparency within the programmatic and trading space.

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