We need a model that’s safe for consumers and preserves ad-funded content, says Google’s David McMurtrie

Ahead of The Drum’s 2016 Digital Trading Awards, Google’s David McMurtrie, a member of the awards’ judging panel, offers his take on the key issues facing the industry.

There has been much consolidation in the space over the last 12-18 months, in particular Facebook, Google, and now Verizon have been acquisitive in the space. Not to mention the many ad tech players. How do you think this is likely to affect media trading in the sector?

A glance at the Luma landscape today reveals that there are still a huge number of tech companies operating in the ads ecosystem. In 2016 I hope we will see progress made towards a more streamlined ecosystem that continues to support the integration of diverse technology partners and provides an open trading platform, but with the associated problems of working with multiple technology partners removed. The Programmatic Path to Profit* study, conducted by Boston Consulting Group in 2015, emphasised the importance for publishers of working with an integrated ad platform to improve operational efficiency and drive higher yield.

Much has been made of the move towards more closed trading environments (i.e. away from open exchanges, towards things such as PMPs, etc.) at least from the sell-side. What has driven this, and do you think buyers are likely to follow suit?

Different deal types have come about because they reflect the needs of the market at any given time. Today there is a role for every type of trading mechanism in programmatic - open auction, preferred deals, private auction or programmatic guaranteed - and without doubt each of these deal types has helped drive programmatic growth faster than open auction could have done alone. Preferred deals and private auctions provide reassurance and fulfil a need for advertisers to secure the content/audiences they need while allowing publishers to drive higher yields on their more valuable inventory. In the DoubleClick for Publishers platform, the Dynamic Allocation feature supports equal competition between all deal types (including direct sales) and optimises to the highest yielding bid for every impression. The rapid growth of programmatic guaranteed this year may precipitate the move towards a simpler programmatic landscape with the majority of transactions being either guaranteed deals or taking place in open auction.

Many still bemoan the disparity between data-driven marketing techniques (and those who espouse such techniques), and the advertising industry's creative community. Why does this gap continue to exist, and can you suggest any ways to help improve the lack of cohesion?

There are three major factors bringing about positive change: 1) Over the past year we’ve seen the role of trading desks evolve and brought closer to the planning function in their parent agencies; 2) Buying against viewability goals and trading on viewable CPMs is becoming the norm; 3) Adblocking is making publishers reassess the user experience on their sites. Each of these factors together will help bring about a change in measurement goals and greater emphasis on creativity.

How much of a problem do bad actors (i.e. fraudsters, etc.) continue to play in the sector? And does this continue to significantly hold back spend?

This is a challenge that the whole industry needs to take seriously and invest in. At Google each year, we review and process billions of ads, and constantly monitor where they appear and where they direct our users. We blocked over 780 million ads last year, and suspended over 1 million sites and apps as well as over 200,000 accounts for violating our ad policies. We’re constantly updating our technology and our policies and working to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters. Other companies take the challenge equally seriously and together the industry should aim to minimise and even eliminate fraud from our systems.

Ad blocking has been one of the key issues of 2015, do you think this will lead to innovation in the sector, as advocated by outfits such as AdBlock Plus?

We’re going to see some major initiatives on ad blocking in 2016 and companies like SourcePoint and PageFair are already in the market with innovative solutions to tackle the challenge. The problem is too big for any one company to address alone so I hope we’ll see consensus emerge this year between all parts of the industry and agreement on how to move forward. We need to find a model that allows consumers to have a fast, safe and positive online experience and preserves ad-funded content, and we are consulting with colleagues in the industry to find solutions.

Do you find awareness of programmatic advertising has increased among brands? If so, what has the effect on the wider industry been?

We saw huge growth in programmatic in 2015 so we can assume that awareness amongst marketers across the spectrum has increased. However, I’d argue that we’ve really just scratched the surface and the awareness of programmatic outside of a fairly narrow set of media and technology companies is still low. More education needs to happen especially around the benefits for the industry of transacting all types of deals programmatically. Programmatic guaranteed will be one of the catalysts for increasing awareness this year but, for some brands, programmatic will only become mainstream with the growth of programmatic TV. I would expect some major steps forward in this area by the end of the year.

What top tips would you give to entrants to help them produce an award winning entry?

Think about what is unique about your entry - what is the one thing that nobody else could do or that you did better. Use data to support the entry but keep the overall message clear, don’t try to overcomplicate it. Avoid the use of jargon and acronyms, write for somebody who doesn’t understand the language of our industry.

The Drum's DTAs ceremony will be held on May 4, with the closure for entries scheduled for 3 March

The awards are held in association with The Trade Desk and sponsored by Audience2Media, eXelate, Integral Ad Science, Rubicon Project, Sphere DigitalRecruitment and TubeMogul.

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