Phil Cowlishaw is Performance Media Director at Sydney, Australia-based media agency Ikon Communications. Among his duties, he is responsible for the launch and build out of Ikon’s performance based media strategies such as the agency’s trading desk.
AdExchanger.com: What do you see as the major difference between Australia and the US when it comes to data-driven display advertising?
PC: The biggest difference is really one of market maturity. There are simply fewer participants across the board, and big gaps in the ecosystem remain unfilled. Clear examples of this are the lack of 3rd party data, and the slow uptake rate from local Australian publishers. I think as more agencies get involved in the space, and more demand flows into the system, we will start to see an influx of new market participants. It’s still early days here, but I think we’re seeing the same pattern of growth that we saw in the US and UK about a year ago. I don’t see any reason why Australian or Asian markets will behave fundamentally differently.
How’s the trading desk coming together at your agency?
Ikon’s trading desk offering helps our clients to navigate the increasingly complex and fragmented digital media landscape. We have developed deep integrations and bespoke partnerships with a number of different suppliers, including BRANDSCREEN, MediaMind and numerous data sources. Through utilizing technologies to assist in the purchase and optimization of customized audiences, we are able to apply Direct Marketing, one-to one principles to our online media buys. The outcome is delivering efficiencies for our clients that more reflect SEM than traditional standard display media buys.
I see four main reasons why we’d tend to use a DSP technology partner with strong local presence and track-record.
The first is that we’re a long way from European and US data centers. I’m aware of some other DSPs who have made moves into Australia and then discovered their infrastructure wasn’t ready.
The second is the competitive advantage we can get from being closely involved with BRANDSCREEN’s product development. For example, we’ve been closely involved with the recent integration of active-semantic page-level brand safety via the Peer 39 integration.
Thirdly, with the emergence of the Ikon Private Exchange, an endemic tech can execute better with local publishers because they’re on the ground and know the market.
Lastly, we believe that data driven audience management and exchange trading is of strategic importance to the business, which means we need technology partners ready and able to deeply integrate into our financial, data management, analytics, traffic and ad serving systems.
With all that said, Ikon believes in technology neutrality, and we keep a careful eye on developments across the whole market.
Given the scarcity of non-guaranteed inventory on Australian websites, is it possible and cost-effective to target Australian audience in DoubleClick Ad Exchange or Right Media Exchange on non-Australian sites?
There’s well over a 100 million Australian impressions available daily through the six RTB exchanges we’re connected to, and that’s certainly sufficient liquidity to run most campaigns for most advertisers, most of the time – but that’s not good enough for the long term. We have to see major local publishers opening up parts of their inventory to the exchanges, and doing it with reasonable price floors in place, and with the protection of the Private Exchange structure if necessary.
Is third-party data popular yet? Is it effective?
There is a serious scarcity of 3rd party data in Australia. We are connected into BlueKai and eXelate via our partners, but most audience segments are poorly populated and the quality is variable. We have a strong appetite for good data at the right price, and we want to see the 3rd part data market develop as soon as possible.
Across brand and DR marketers that are using data-driven media, who gets it and how doesn’t? Any trends you can share?
We are still very much in the early days, of what has been the biggest evolution in the way that digital media has been traded. Ongoing education process that still needs to take place at all levels within agencies, advertisers and publishers.
Ikon is fortunate to be able to work with some of the most forward thinking clients in the Australian marketplace. Naturally DR markets have been swift to see the benefits of utilizing our trading desk offering. Some of our clients are now investing 80% of their media budget through our trading desk offering; in some cases we have been able to drive efficiencies of almost 70%. With the expansion of our capabilities to now include video and mobile, and the implementation of semantic targeting technology, we are seeing an influx of branding budgets with advertiser keen to receive the benefit of trading media in this way.
A year from now, what milestones would you like to have accomplished at your agency?
I am confident that we will continue to see an increase in investment by advertisers through the Ikon Trading Desk. Our focus for the next 12 months is very much around audience intelligence and further developing our data capabilities. Building out the technology stack and skills set that sits within the agency. Educating our clients on the true potential of their 1st party data and working with 3rd party suppliers to increase their penetration within the Australian marketplace. Enabling better decision making in our optimization processes and increase the learning’s that we can create through our trading desk. I believe that we will have some clients will rely on the knowledge that we generate through our trading desk to facilitate ongoing, multi channel conversations with existing customers and prospects alike.
We are in the process of building out our attribution solution to enable our clients to better understand the full path to conversion.