Ctrlshift wants to boost premium programmatic and challenge the duopoly with multi-publisher private marketplace launch

Diana Boo, head of publisher solutions and Serm Teck Choon, head of product and country manager for Malaysia, Ctrflshift

Ctrlshift has launched what it claims to be the first multi-publisher private market place in Southeast Asia, first launching in Malaysia before expanding to Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

The marketplace, called ‘AMP’ has ambitions to be Asia’s by-invitation marketplace for premium inventory. AMP launches this week in Malaysia with seven publishers signed up at launch: MediaPrimaDigital, Star Media Group Berhad, RevAsia, MalayMail Online, SinChew Online, Tantannews.com and Cari.my. According to Ctrlshift, the combined offering gives marketers access to over 11 million monthly unique visitors in Malaysia.

Speaking to The Drum, Reza Behnam, co-founder and executive chairman at CtrlShift, said there has been an increasing demand for a private marketplace in the region as sophistication in digital advertising develops.

“Publishers have been looking for different means - in addition to direct buys and using RTB marketplaces - to monetise their premium inventory with scale and efficiency. Moreover, as publishers become increasingly aware of the inexorable trend among brands towards targeting and purchasing audiences or audience segments, they are keenly interested in monetising audiences and audience segments in conjunction with their ad inventory.

“At the same time, marketers’ have had a long-standing demand for a way to target quality audiences in brand safe, premium environments, at scale. AMP is basically providing a level playing field for the two main principals, the publishers and the marketers. It gives them both greater control compared to the options available to date. It helps both sides optimise for their objectives,” he added.

According to Behnam, the need for such a service has been strongest from the buy side of the equation in Asia as brands are looking to have more efficient advertising in a brand safe environment.

However, on the supply side, the ambitions are levelled more specifically at the duopoly of Facebook and Google.

“On the supply side, AMP aims to be the ‘third force’ in the market after Facebook and Google (the duopoly) and debunk the idea that, for publishers, auction-based media buying (RTB) equals to a ‘race-to-the-bottom’. Through AMP, publishers will enjoy fairer prices for their quality inventory. These potential higher-than-RTB prices are not going to be achieved at the expense of the advertiser; rather, they are coming at the expense of the supply chain. They are the direct result of the efficiency and effectiveness we have built into the platform. It’s a win-win,” he explained.

Complexity has been a critical issue in holding back investment into programmatic advertising in the region. At a recent event in Singapore, key leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Mindshare, Entropia and The Trade Desk, all offered their view on the complexity issue in Asia.

Ctrlshift hopes that this platform can help with issues around complexity in the supply chain. It will offer publishers additional help to build expertise and knowledge around the AMP platform, while it said it would also work with agencies to integrate the platform into trading desks. The platform will allow users to get information, such as audience value and demand, yield analysis and individual campaign learnings.

Behnam explained that the fact that each market in Southeast Asia is at different stages adds additional complexity to making programmatic scale for brands and publishers quickly.

“Each market has its own evolutionary timeline, with different dynamics influencing its development. This has been the case with the industry in Southeast Asia, and specifically relating to introducing a solution like AMP in the region. Setting up a platform like AMP requires considerable resources, and has its fair share of challenges, be it technological, resource-related or contractual. It requires a team with vision, dedication and, most importantly, partnerships built on trust,” he said.

“Consider all the complexities that have been introduced into the digital advertising supply chain in the last few years – the plethora of demand and supply side service, and technology providers and other enablers who facilitate automated media buying (programmatic) and real-time bidding (RTB). For a solution like AMP to work, you have to streamline all that complexity; build all the necessary tech, automation, and incorporate agreements with multiple publishers into a single platform. This enables marketers to deal directly with a single party (the AMP team) for audience-optimised buys across a curated range of premium publishers. From the marketer’s perspective, the complexity and clutter is removed. They’re simply buying real, select audience segments in guaranteed brand-safe environments,” he added.

However, Behnam does agree that the launch seems late to the party, as the need for private marketplaces has been coming from both brands and publishers. Thus far, most deals have been around individual brands striking up agreements with individual publishers.

In Singapore, the two major media businesses Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp have only just announced a collaboration and publisher co-operatives are at a nascent stage.

“We understand that the collaboration between Mediacorp and SPH will be launched sometime next year (though the actual launch date hasn’t been announced). We welcome such alliances and partnerships, and invite them to put-up their inventory on AMP. We’ve seen other publishers in the region similarly band together to form such alliances, an example being the Online Premium Publisher Association in Thailand (OPPA). The momentum is driven by marketers’ needs for a curated, brand-safe environment within which they can target relevant audiences at scale – and publishers recognising this need and taking the necessary actions to meet it,” he explained.

For Ctrlshift, the next stage for AMP will be extending the offering to more high in-demand ad formats. In a confident statement, Behnam predicted: “We fully anticipate that the efficiency in AMP will be able to capture a significant portion of the spend on audience-focused/ data-driven advertising, currently dominated by the duopoly.”

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