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The Drum Programmatic Punch: publishers are optimistic about the future


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

January 16, 2019 | 6 min read

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With the launch of The Ozone Project, a jointly-owned audience platform that will allow advertisers and agencies direct and transparent access to an audience of more than 39.4 million unique users, looming, industry experts discussed the challenges publishers face in an automated media buying world at The Drum Programmatic Punch in December.

Ozone — the project between the Guardian, The Telegraph, News UK and Reach - is a a digital display ad sales and audience data platform, designed as a single sales point for newspapers' digital ad inventory.

Ben Walmsley, digital commercial director at News UK [a founding member of The Ozone Project] explained that when they started Ozone, the publisher recognised that the programmatic market place didn’t serve the best interests of the consumers, the readers, advertisers and the creatives of the original content.

“A lot of alliances have started in the past by creating scale and scale in itself is not really a differentiator. Scale may get you a headline but if you look at Ozone, we can say we are as big as anyone out there and that's great but that doesn't really create value itself.”

The alliance is designed as a "premium, fraud-free and brand-safe" alternative to Google and Facebook.

“Having built the foundation,” said Walmsley, “we then saw to create a data asset which is where we see the value being. Scale in itself gets you a seat at the table, but if you can do something better with the data then that is having a taxonomy which is far deeper than it would make sense for any one publisher to create.

“Then you can really start to interrogate that data, that first party data at a much deeper level.”

Past alliance failures were the first steps on the journey towards Ozone suggested Hamish Nicklin, chief revenue officer, The Guardian.

“This is a technology platform built on technology for data, whereas the others were combining everything that the publications had to offer, that included branded content solutions, print solutions, which are very different,” he explained.

Benefits for buy-side

According to Walmsley, buyers want to work with first party data. It can be challenging to piece together the publisher’s own interpretations to a particular audience.

“You can go and create a PMP (private marketplace), speak to a lot of individual publishers and buy their interpretation but what you are effectively doing is piecing together quite different data sets to create an audience at scale,” he clarified. “That's very inefficient and it doesn't enable you to really interrogate a massive data set. That's the differentiation, the understanding and ability to do things like audience discovery on scale that you wouldn't be able to do individually.”

There also needs to be an understanding where the revenue is flowing and knowing that more of that, of an advertiser’s budget, is flowing into working media. “That's is something that we really are set out to prove.”

How can publishers better understand revenue?

At Rivr, the audience powered yield manager for SSPs and publishers, launched by Simplaex early last year, vice president of strategic development, Benjamin Hans believes that understanding the data and being able to deliver the right audience to the right buyer is key. Which is what Rivr does.

Hans said: “The publisher is able to deliver the right inventory to the buyer, the buyer gets their message in front of the right user, the user gets a better user experience because it's relevant content and therefore brings in a higher engagement. The main thing about that is trust and first party data.”

He suggested that the first party data isn’t the data you think you have, there’s also the digital exhaust that stews there. With so much information, it can be hard to piece together and that’s when you need the robots, machine learning etc to make sense of it all.

“The second thing is trust,” Hans added. “Which is delivering what people want more than what they say they want. Instead of giving them an audience that they think they want, it's delivering them the audience that's delivering on the KPI's they want. That's what our technology does. We help both publishers and alliances.”

Conversations between agency and publishers

Amir Malik, digital marketing expert, Accenture Interactive said that the broadcasters are really looking into a suite of data products both as individual entities and as partners to provide critical scale. “If you look at UK digital ad revenues, Google are number one, Facebook's number three and ITV are number two. ITV makes more money than Facebook in advertising.

“The sort of moves these big broadcasters make in programmatic over the next few months, will be interesting. Those are the clients we focus on. What the broadcasters are doing and how they are going to change that video experience.”

Adopting the right tech tools for evaluation

Publishers are adopting less technology, Walmsly said. In the early days of the programmatic, everyone took a lot of technology on and to some extent, the industry is paying the price for that now.

He added that publishers are also starting to think like retailers and about more about the utility that they can offer. “What's the next best action offered to a consumer on my site? Technology which enhances that, which create a better value exchange, which gives the consumer the ability to interact back and offer some kind of declared data setback that can be used to either enhance the publisher proposition or to create an enhanced data set. That's the kind of technology that I think we'll see publishers adopt.”

Hicklin suggested that the sort of technology they will be looking to build on and to develop further in 2019 and beyond is one which allows them to price their inventory much more dynamically. “We should be able to trade every single piece of inventory dynamically and we can't. That's one thing we need to invest in.”

He concluded: “ We're also looking to develop the ad formats. When was the last time anyone developed interesting, killer ad formats that changed the market? We'll see more of that in 2019.”

Nicklin, Hansz, Walmsley and Malik were all on the 'Publishing and Programmatic’ panel at The Drum Programmatic Punch 2018. Register your interest for 2019.

Rivr were a sponsor of the event.

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