Big Brand Publishers Jumping Into Data-Driven Ad World – With Controls – At AdMeld Partner Forum

AdMeld Partner ForumWhoa, who are these people?

Big brand publishers are increasingly talking with both knowledge and foresight on the date-driven digital ad space -and they’re putting strategies in place to drive take advantage of the auction model for their inventory.

At yesterday’s well-attended, AdMeld Partner Forum in New York City, the featured publisher panel was led by former Time Inc. and current AdMeld exec Jason Kelly. Panelists included CBS Interactive’s Zack Rogers, NBC Universal’s Nick Johnson, Fox News’ Jeremy Steinberg and Kelly’s former boss, Kirk McDonald, who offered his perspective after recently leaving Time Digital.

In general, the steady proliferation of the private ad slot and private exchange models seem to be changing the tide for many big brand publishers who had been leery of the exchange space –or at least have been in perpetual “test” mode.

Newsworthy also is that CBS Interactive is apparently playing in the data-driven display ad space beyond its own efforts. Do you remember the day in 2009 when CBS quit the ad network biz except for their own? It appears they’re back, but this time in the world of exchanges. (Turner’s Walker Jacobs surely will be next to change his tune.)  CBS Rogers’ said succinctly, “An auction-based model is a more efficient model to manage our inventory.”

Fox News’ Jeremy Steinberg was full-steam ahead with his sell-side initiatives in the exchange space and he sees a bright future with guaranteed and non-guaranteed being sold in tandem:

“As fast as we’re running on real-time bidding is as fast as we’re running on the branded, premium side of our business. We’ve decided we can do both really well. There are going to be slices of the pie that are dedicated to national branding advertising where an advertiser is going to need a big idea and need to launch a product. I don’t see that going away. But, there’s a huge slice in the network world that I’m going to get and I think it comes down to having good ideas and insights – in either part of the business. And, if you have that ultimately the people on this stage will win because brand matters. But, you have to have the technology. If you just have brand, it’s not enough any more. It’s really brand ‘plus’ is what I like to say.”

Vertical ad network CEO Peter Longo of IDG Tech Network discussed some of the challenges around channel conflict and internal pushback initially, but said his company is resolute on pushing forward with exchange models and real-time bidding (RTB):

“I think for us the initial hysteria over going into the RTB business inside our own company – where sales people are running up and down the hallway and worried they’re going to be replaced by blinking lights on a server – had a lot to do with helping us understand what are business is.

We know that we have a core of our business that is high touch for our agency partners -custom units, specialized programs that we put together with them.

A lot of the conversations that we’ve had about what do you do with your big brand advertisers where they need non-pre-emptible inventory that has to be carved out to support the campaigns? Do you sacrifice time for bidding? Do you sacrifice selling out large volumes out into the future in exchange for not having RTB? That’s going to be one of the central challenges for us – can we create a futures market around inventory where we’re locking in pricing now and blocking off big pieces. If we can strike that balance then people will still be running up and down the hall screaming but it will be about different things.”

Futures market?  Wait, he’s a vertical ad network guy so maybe additional automated streams of revenue on behalf of the publisher network are in his company’s DNA. What about the big brands? Yes, they want it too. Yet, CBS’ Rogers said he still sees challenges with RTB and…:

“I think the futures idea is where it has to go because somebody who is going to [spend] is going to want something in return – ‘I want to reach auto intenders and I want to buy it out for the full year.’  Ok – it’s my auction.  Now publishers are back in control. I control my own destiny.”

Speaking from experience, Kirk McDonald stressed the necessity of a holistic packaging strategy  – the custom sponsorship offering and the exchange/data-driven offering – and that it’s important to drive all of these strategies from the top down within the big media organization:

“I applaud and champion and all of those who have to do this in their organization. And they need to make sure the drive to do this is coming from the owner of all the revenue streams in digital so that they get thoughtful as more clients ask publishers to solve one part or the other.”

In general, for these branded publishers, they appear to be ready to put the pedal to the metal in the data-driven ad world in a new way, as long as they feel they have control.

The publisher voices on the panel made one thing very clear – times are changing quickly in digital display advertising, very quickly.

(UPDATED: See video from the publisher panel here.)

By John Ebbert

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1 Comment

  1. That really was one of the most informative (and entertaining) panels I’ve attended in a long time. Kudos to AdMeld for putting on a terrific event!