Mediabrands’ George To Publishers: For The Agency Trading Desk, Context Is Just An Attribute

The Internet Advertising Bureau has posted a short video clip for its data-and-media “Great Debate” panel led by Federated Media’s John Battelle on Day 3 of the Ecosystem 2.0 conference in Palm Springs, California.

Not included in the clip is Mediabrands’ agency exec Quentin George giving clear guidance to publishers with a dose of audience-based medicine. He didn’t sugarcoat when asked if context still mattered to audience-buying trading desks.

From the Q&A at the end of the panel discussion:

Question from the audience for George about the trading desk: “Directly – does the environment matter in which the ads are seen?”

Quentin George: “Environment matters if one of our agencies buys it. Environment is one of many attributes that we load into the system that ultimately the algorithm will decide whether its universe.. (muffled) or demographic. There’s a big shift away from just relying on aggregated use of consumers and behavior and we’ve got to respond to that….

…So, yes it does, if you want to buy context. But if we look at this in terms of the trading desk, we don’t know which attributes have the most meaningful impact on the outcome.

The one key differentiator is that if your perspective is that there is inventory that is suited for brands and inventory that’s suited for DR (direct response) – for us, that’s the wrong dimension to look at it. We work real hard with clients to define a certain kind of business outcome that’s going to be unique to their needs across cost per unique user, cost per unique download, cost per time spent, cost per (muffled) brand lift. Those are the business outcomes we try to optimize against.

And so, would context matter in that? I dunno. We’ll load it in as one of the factors, but there’s no guarantee that ultimately it will drive (performance).”

With The New York Times’ Michael Zimbalist in the seat right next to him, Mediabrands’ George is saying that from his agency trading desk perspective, and in the non-guaranteed space, the media brand (irony!) has been commoditized by data-driven digital audience buying. Oof – or opportunity?

Nevertheless, the point for large publishers shouldn’t be to back away from automated selling opportunities. Yes, guaranteed is still your primary source of revenue but you need to bridge to the trading desk fire hose from your guaranteed business. Guaranteed will only get more automated over time, too, as guaranteed, data-driven, “big ads” solutions proliferate, for example (and where the “context” attribute becomes much more important).  Non-guaranteed and guaranteed will only get closer as the publisher’s own data-driven toolkit continues to improve over time. Data is driving media.. faster and faster…

Short Video Clip courtesy of the IAB from “The Great Debate
“Resolved: A Data Driven Ecosystem Permanently Disadvantages Publishers”

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    How do you measure the contribution of that attribute (i.e. context) relative to the other attributes in play? And, in that same context, how do you best incorporate qualitative aspects that are an integral part of any brand discussion?