Quantcast EMEA marketing chief and Digital Trading Awards judge Amit Kotecha on programmatic trading road map

Ahead of The Drum's second Digital Trading Awards (DTA) in 2015, created to reward best practice in the digital ad trading ecosystem and highlight what brands are leading the way with programmatic strategies, The Drum caught up with DTA judge and Quantcast marketing chief Amit Kotecha about his thoughts on the market.

Amit Kotecha

What are the main challenges in programmatic trading marketing currently and why?

As advertisers start to get to grips with programmatic trading, their focus is shifting. Now that programmatic is more of a mainstay in the digital space, advertisers are getting into the nitty gritty of the ads themselves. For example, viewability; advertisers want to know if their users are seeing their ads, positive ROIs are no longer enough – they are looking for the truth behind their ads.

That same notion extends to brand safety. This can only come from giving advertisers more insight about who is seeing their ads and where they are seeing them. This is creating huge challenges for vendors and agencies as the industry scales and more ad impressions are bought and sold every day.

One the key ways in which to solve these challenges is education. The more the industry understands the technology and the nuances the easier it will be for the challenges to become opportunities.

To what extent has transparency improved in the value chain over the past year?

I think transparency has improved a huge amount. Over the past year the increase in knowledge passed back to the advertiser has been palpable. Advertisers now possess vast amounts of data, from demographic profiles of their customers to where and when they saw their ads and on what device. By applying this measurement to advertising they are really starting to understand their customer's path to conversion. This is essential as this information can help them strategically across their marketing plan.

As such they are hungry for that knowledge and actively search for vendors that can provide this – vendors have no choice but to follow suit – take Facebook's cross-device reporting for example, that is a great example of how understanding your audience can help your strategic media buying and helped Facebook keep people investing in mobile inventory – a sign of things to come.

What could marketers be doing better to maximise on their programmatic investments?

Right now the industry is very focused on the short term ROI. As we move forward we are realising that while this gets sales, we could also be losing loyal customers due to pushy retargeting ads. To maximise on programmatic investments marketers will need to start focusing on a more long term attribution model.

With a longer campaign the share of voice over the market increases exponentially year on year and this is directly linked to year on year market share growth – a trend which is only strengthening in the digital era. Advertisers need to understand that short termist messaging can damage the users view of the brand in the long term. Once this is understood they can maximise their programmatic investments by starting to focus on measuring prospecting and not just retargeting.

What’s the next big thing in programmatic trading?

Brands are starting to move away from last-touch attribution and that will be a big talking point for 2015. The industry has been very vocal about this topic this year and positive steps are being taken. The next big question after that, as we move towards a better sequential targeting model, will be cross-device attribution. Being able to see how every user saw your ads on each of their devices and how each channel affected the other will be a big deal for the industry and is the holy grail for programmatic trading.

With DR budgets becoming tapped out, to what extent can the progress in (linear) TV programmatic trading help shift brand budget into programmatic?

I don’t agree that DR budgets are tapped out; the problem is that programmatic is eating into digital and has yet to eat into the other 80 per cent of advertising spend that is still offline, with more trust through better attribution this should change moving forward.

That said, starting to talk to brand advertisers about programmatic advertising is essential. With Kelloggs, Unilever and P&G all investing a lot more budget into programmatic, video becomes a very interesting channel.

The problem right now is that the biggest TV publishers are still selling their inventory directly. If a big brand wants to buy their video programatically, Youtube is the obvious choice and that is why they are dominating this section of the video market. As the rest of the market moves to programmatic, video should hit its stride in the coming year.

To what extent should publishers pool their programmatic platforms to achieve greater scale for premium private marketplaces? What opportunities could be created?

The 'premium publisher marketplace' model has worked quite well in France and Germany, however UK publishers are still fairly hesitant when it comes to sharing data and media with their peers – possibly because they have been let down by ad networks and data exchanges in the past.

There is no doubt that advertisers are increasingly testing premium programmatic, whether guaranteed or private auctions, to understand what efficiencies can be gained vs their traditional direct buys.

The problem comes when data (primarily first-party) from the demand side is added to the equation, because it can be hard to achieve scale when the inventory is limited to a single site (or even a handful of sites), therefore publishers should consider the opportunity here – collaboration may increase their scale, and thus their value to an advertiser, to such an extent that they can drive up programmatic yield.

The same rings true for in-target and in-view guarantees – by working together there is an opportunity for publishers to deliver according to the changing needs of an advertiser without having to engage in a “race to the bottom” when it comes to rates.

How much progress has programmatic trading made in shedding its image of ‘remnant, cheap’ inventory? How much further must it go?

This can vary greatly depending on which brand you speak to, but in general we are seeing that smart publishers offering their inventory programmatically increasingly command very respectable CPMs by understanding how different advertisers value their ad space, and advertisers are increasingly willing to pay a premium to deliver their ads to the right user in the right environment programmatically.

There is no doubt that brand safety tools such as Double Verify and Integral Ad Science have made considerable headway into filtering out the worst inventory across the web but there is still a fear amongst some advertisers that programmatic = remnant, and is therefore unwanted or questionable. This perception of programmatic is not helped by fraudulent activity such as domain identity theft, however the fact that it is being spotted faster and reported more openly means the space is becoming more transparent, and this can only be a good thing.

What are the remaining barriers to marketers adopting programmatic trading?

There are two major barriers to adopting programmatic trading – tech and education. I believe vendors and agencies are key here. They have both the tech and the ability to educate and it is down to them to reach out to the advertisers and explain in simple terms the ability of the tech, so that we create a culture which is neither tech or advertising focused, but a great mix of the two.

What are the next wave of opportunities programmatic trading can provide in the overall marketing landscape?

Overall we are seeing users becoming more device agnostic. It is now one user with many devices, not just a pool of separate devices, and the cross-device ability of programmatic will be key here; it is so data driven that being able to keep track of your users and serve them the right ad at the right time across all of those touch points will be a huge advantage that programmatic can provide. This is going to provide a huge opportunity for the overall marketing landscape in terms of being the first person to nail cross-device attribution – that will be the key to opening a lot more doors in the digital space.

What will you be looking for from entries during the judging stages?

Over the last year we have seen a lot of the influence of tech on advertising and there is a danger it will start to drive the industry. With that in mind I will be looking for great creative execution and strategic planning – the kind of campaign that has kept the advertising focus as well as the tech focus. At the end of the day those are the campaigns that deliver real incremental value.

How did you get into digital trading/advertising industry?

My previous role was the IAB where I ran the Display Trading Council, set up to educate the entire industry about real time advertising and grow the market. This gave me huge exposure into the digital trading ecosystem which set me up perfectly for my role at Quantcast. This industry is moving faster every year and being at the forefront of it is the perfect place to be.

The deadline for The Drum Digital Trading Awards, in association with AppNexus, is 13 February.