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Peeking Inside The Black Box Of Demand-Side Platforms And Exchanges

Ad Agents"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Adam Cahill is SVP, Director of Digital Media at Hill Holliday, a full-service communications agency.

Last week I gave the presentation embedded below on DSPs and exchanges at ad:tech in NY.

The premise of the presentation was that information is hard to come by in the category, because:

  1. Publishers obviously don’t want to talk about how much inventory makes its way into the secondary market
  2. Google has become the most important exchange, and they aren’t discussing the progress Adx is making
  3. Agencies are making announcements that make it sound like they have more going on than is probably the case

To try to get toward some real data I spoke to a handful of very smart, connected people who know what’s going on, and where things are headed including Turn's Bill Demas, Zach Coelius of Triggit, DataXu's Mike Baker, Tony Katsur of MediaMath, Sarah Fay from x+1 and Iggy Fanlo of Adrite.

I made four observations based on those discussions, as well as my own experience.

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The Changing Role Of Media Planner In A Digital World

Ad Agents"Ad Agents" is a column focused on the agency-side of the digital media community.

Matt Greitzer is the Co-Founder of Accordant Media, a media buying and optimization company.

"What do agencies do, anyway?"   In my twelve years in the agency business I never heard this phrase posed to me directly (though I often felt it left unsaid).  Three months out of my agency shoes, I’ve now heard untold themes and variations of this question, sometimes asked in earnest, sometimes in sheer exasperation, and sometimes in spite.  Many in the tech-centric circles of Silicon Valley and New York deem the agency obsolete, a relic of a bygone era soon to be extinct, replaced by SaaS software and predictive models.   This view is naive.  As long as vendors seek to part advertisers from their dollars, there exists the need for a neutral party to filter and vet the crowded landscape of publishers, technology and marketing service providers.  Beyond that, agencies provide the vital service of historical memory for large corporations.  Client-side marketing managers may change roles every twelve to eighteen months.  But senior agency leaders can spend a career focused on one client, and one client only.  The institutional capital agencies provide to longstanding clients and their marketing teams is impossible to replicate.  In their best incarnations, agency partners synthesize this deep understanding of clients’ business objectives with a broad view of the marketing vehicles available for achieving these objectives.

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The Algorithm Is the New Decision Maker: Communicating with the New Demand Side

Ad Agents"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Greg Hills is platform manager of media trading agency, Varick Media Management.

My work focuses on the economics of advertising, but recently I've been thinking about the political economy of advertising. After all, advertising dollars don't have a mind of their own. They need industry professionals to push them around from one company to another. Trusted personal relationships have historically been the conduits through which ad dollars flow.

This relationship driven world of advertising is now being replaced by the data driven world of advertising. RTB, DSP, SSP....these acronyms have got sales leaders thinking. How do you staff up for this alphabet soup of new business models? Who do you call on and what do you tell them? What does the advertiser need and how do you win their business as a publisher?

When I was a media planner, I had the answer to the last question. I could tell you what the advertiser needed and I would decide whether or not you met that need. This is the type of arbitrary power that brings a recent college graduate towering seafood platters, custom sneakers, and a taste for fine scotch.

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A New School Of Thinking: 10 Trends For Marketing Campaigns

"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Greg Hills is platform manager of media trading agency, Varick Media Management.

OLD-SCHOOL-VS.-NEW-SCHOOL

As our industry continues to rationalize the way brands buy advertising, we've seen plenty of new companies and products pop up. Some provide solutions to old advertising problems, like universal frequency capping. Others deal with fresh challenges, like how to handle tens of thousands of real time bidding requests per second.

Despite the rapid pace of innovation, I think its possible to identify 10 larger trends that will continue to operate for years. Taken together they represent not just a bunch of complementary technologies and organizational challenges, but rather a new school of thought --- a new way to to think about, plan, and execute marketing campaigns.

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The Profile Of The Media Agency Staff

Ad Agents: Martin Kelly of Infectious Media"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Martin Kelly is co-Founder and Managing Partner of UK-based agency, Infectious Media Ltd.

At times I feel like the least skilled person at my company, in fact if I hired some management consultants to come in and take a look the business, they would probably recommend getting rid of me.  Let me explain.

Most of the conversation in the space currently revolves around the technology; if you don’t have an acronym to describe what your company does then really you are nothing, service companies have, until now been low on the agenda.  Of late there are a new set of companies appearing that service both advertisers directly and agencies with exchange trading services.   These companies are all in a period of rapid scaling at the moment, filling a market need, and one of the interesting challenges they are faced with is what skill sets are needed and how this differs from 1.0 digital media buying organisations.  When I look back at the media agencies I’ve worked at previously there are two broad disciplines, planning for which the typical candidate is creative, strategic and a good salesman.  On the flip side is the buyer who is a negotiator, buttoned down and good with people; a titanic alcohol tolerance is also helpful.

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Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Ad Agents - Adam CahillAdam Cahill is SVP, Director of Digital Media at Hill Holliday, a full-service communications agency.

Ad exchanges were undoubtedly the digital world’s Rookie of the Year in 2009, but in terms of buzz, the industry has moved on (it’s all “mobile, mobile, mobile” these days).

In order to avoid a sophomore slump, we’ll have to grow this space the old-fashioned way: proving it out, campaign by campaign.

Here are three suggestions that strike me as solid ways to make sure that exchanges don’t stall out in 2010.

One: Deliver on the Promise of Real-time Bidding

The benefit of exchanges is not to get marginally cheaper inventory than is possible through networks, but today too many of the impressions flowing through exchanges are just “cheap reach.” The longer we play the cheap reach game, the more exchanges look just like networks, and the easier they’ll be to dismiss.

I understand that Real-time Bidding still represents only a small percentage of the total exchange inventory, but we need to start seeing how that inventory can lead to tangibly different approaches and results. Instead of buying a ton of fifty-cent impressions, I look forward to paying a huge premium for one perfectly targeted impression, and removing waste altogether.

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Eye On The European Data Market

"Ad Agents" is a column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Martin Kelly is co-Founder and Managing Partner of UK-based agency, Infectious Media Ltd.

Ad Agents: Martin Kelly of Infectious Media

One of the most exciting changes that the exchange era has promised for the industry is data liquidity.  This is a concept that was brought to me in a quite phenomenal set of blog posts by Ashu Garg - and one in particular covered this area.

The idea that we can purchase or assemble a target audience in one place and then use an exchange to find only that audience wherever they may be is one of the game changing aspects of exchanges.  And lo, to service this space, we’ve seen a number of data exchanges emerge and then increasingly a tidal wave of new data providers that use social data, business data, zip plus one data, demographic data, financial data, basically any data you can think of.

This is all very exciting, well it is if you do business in the United States.  All the companies that are pioneering the portability of data and targeting are based in the USA and service only this region.  Clearly this makes a lot of business sense, as it’s the biggest and most advanced market for this type of trading and the easiest therefore in which to get some traction.  There are also different and more draconian cookie laws under debate in Europe but these have seemingly been sorted out.

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Don't Just Think Digitally, Act Digitally

"Ad Agents" is a new column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Greg Hills is platform analyst of media trading agency, Varick Media Management.

Ad Agents: Greg Hills of Varick Media ManagementDigital media has caused huge shifts in the advertising industry, including the rise of the Digital-Driven Media Agency --- media shops that have identified digital media as the key strategic focus for their organization. Management teams at these agencies have set aggressive goals to increase the share of billings coming from digital. Many agencies have collapsed separate print, broadcast, and online divisions, instead forming integrated planning groups led by “digital thinking.”

Agencies have recognized that in a landscape where consumers control their own media consumption, brands need to be authentic, interesting, and useful. In response, they’ve formed branded entertainment and social media teams to help brands thrive in this - the new landscape.

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The View From The UK: Looking At Exchanges And Display Advertising

"Ad Agents" is a new column written by the agency-side of the digital media community.

Martin Kelly is co-Founder and Managing Partner of UK-based agency, Infectious Media Ltd.

Ad Agents: Martin Kelly of Infectious MediaOn a recent trip to New York, Infectious Media met with Adexchanger.com amongst others to chat about the exchange space. The sector is growing rapidly in the UK at the moment, with advertisers, agencies and publishers all showing a real appetite to grow their involvement. One of the biggest differences that surprised everyone we spoke with in the US was to hear that exchange liquidity and, more specifically, inventory quality was a problem in the UK. To illustrate this, I'll give you a tale of two premium publishers that we've been dealing with.

The first has gone in to the exchange space head first. They are not someone who we would have expected to be trading on exchange, and if they weren't, I doubt we would be trading with them. They have dedicated time and resource to understanding how it works. They have made some mistakes - undoubtedly sold some of their inventory for a much lower price than it's probably worth and I'm guessing it's been a real headache for them. But over time, something magical has happened for them - the volume we buy from them has increased steadily as have the CPM's that they are receiving for their inventory. From our perspective they have proven through a strong ROI that their inventory is good quality, and in a depressed and over-supplied market, this is a great story.

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