By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

April 20, 2018 | 6 min read

Collaboration, education, innovation and consumer first were the core themes discussed at The Drum Digital Trading Awards annual breakfast, moderated by Lara Izlan, director of advertising platforms and data solutions, Auto Trader UK.

A panel of industry experts including Havas global head of programmatic solutions, Hossein Houssaini; global head of agency partnerships, Adobe, Nick Reid; Jellyfish digital strategy director, Gawain Owen; and Time Inc digital director international, Barbara Agus discussed how the industry needs to begin to fix accountability, brands conversations, collaboration and the language that they are all speaking to better understand each other.

What is the one thing that the industry needs fixing?

Reid: Where there have been challenges, is around accountability. There have been advertisements placed where there shouldn't have been, a lack of accountability and measurement and tracking and generally we’ve been letting ourselves down. It's not difficult to fix, we need to drive more focus and accountability. Software and programmatic enables us to do that. We just need to start acting upon the opportunity we have and not ignoring that.

Agus: There needs to be more collaboration between the major players, and we can’t keep saying that it is a brand issue or a brand safety concern. The brands need to be a part of the conversation.

Houssaini: There’s so much behind the content creative data in general that needs to be fixed before we can buy efficiently and bring in the advertisers/brands. It is process, technology and education. We all speak the same language and the industry is the pimple stage. We are still teenagers. We are still in the growing up phase, we need direction and to collaborate.

There’ve been some very strong reactions in the market to what is currently going on (such as the rise of in-house agencies), what are your thoughts these and are they working?

Owen: In-house has a skill shortage. You have to be running a significant line to be able to justify having a data scientist, who might be working on your campaigns one day a week, earning £120,000 a year and then stand there for four days twiddling their thumbs because there's not enough work for them. There are a lot of people involved in the agency in setting up campaigns, pioneering them, trafficking them, etc. There are a lot of skills needed there but they come with costs. So, what is the level of investment that a brand needs to put into that?

Reid: In-house agencies are much more informed and more educated these days. There are traditional digital businesses where it makes sense to bring their display and video in-house, like they did with search and social years ago.

There are other brands where it doesn't make sense for them to do so. It doesn't mean they don't want transparency or accountability of automation, but they much prefer to utilise the service level within an agency, because that suits their business model and their brand.

Agus: We recently started to talk to brands to try to learn their understanding of working with a publisher. There can be a disconnect sometimes between what they want to achieve and what you can offer them. On the one side there can be a lack of communication, but we also have to take accountability so that the brands trust in us.

What can you do to help make this industry better?

Agus: Everything starts with innovation. The problem is with people who don’t understand and implement correctly. As a company when we say we want to be digital first, it means that we need to start to create more bridges across different environments. We need to bring everyone on the same page.

Houssaini: Before we can even think about efficient media buying, we need to be reaching the audience with the right content, at the right time. Education is key. Which means we need to educate everyone. They need to be on the same page. But we need to make sure we use the same language everywhere and don't invent new buzzwords like we do every year. Simplicity is the key.

Reid: Advertisers, agencies, consumers, we are all going through a period of transformation which can be challenging and exciting at the same time. At Adobe, for instance, we started driving personalised experiences to the consumer. It's a great opportunity for us to start drawing resonance to the consumer.

Owen: Take the consumer first approach. Trust your inner consumer. Everyone is doing great work but think where you were 18 months back to where you are now. Digital is no longer test and learn. Serious amounts of money is being invested in digital to actually grow your market share. Think about the consumer first approach, then look at what your 18-24 month road map is and then bring your partners across the eco-system into that and continue to look at it once every 90 days and assess if you are on track and how you might need to adjust. Otherwise you are going to be inventing things like programmatic audio, programmatic out of home, programmatic over the top TV and you will be constantly chasing your tails.

The Digital Trading Awards 2018 award ceremony will take place on May 31 at the Park Plaza, Westminster, London, you can book your table now online.

The Awards are partnered by IAB UK and sponsored by: The Trade Desk, Tapad and Aspire

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