The Best Defense For Publishers Is A Good Offense

jeremyhThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Hlavacek, vice president for programmatic at The Weather Company.

No one likes being on the defensive. It’s naturally uncomfortable. When faced with a challenge or critique, taking a defensive approach can often make things worse as it emboldens the attacker. How many times have we seen politicians, celebrities, athletes or other public figures respond to criticism by taking a defensive stance?

“That quote was taken out of context!” or…

“The press is out to get me!” or…

“I have never used performance-enhancing drugs!”

And how does that usually work out? Not well. So what’s the solution? Well, as Don Draper would say, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” In other words, go on the offensive.

In many ways, it feels as if the online publishing industry has been on the defensive for several years now with the rise of programmatic media. Spend time with some online publishers and you’ll hear stories about the evils of ad networks, manipulative trading desks and DSPs, unfair metrics and any number of other evil forces undermining their business.

There are probably some legitimate complaints to be addressed, but at the same time, how many publishers are going on the offensive and facing the challenges of the changing online ecosystem head-on? In my mind, there are at least two areas where most publishers should be more aggressive.

First-Party Data

Marketers have always had an incredible hunger for data. It improves targeting and efficiency, and makes the whole ecosystem work better because the right ads get to the right consumers. And yet, on the pub side, data is most frequently discussed in the context of “leakage” and “theft.” But think about that for a second – this data is obviously valuable enough to cause concern about someone else stealing it, but how many pubs are really using their data to create differentiation? Not many. That ground was largely ceded to third-party ad-tech companies, which leads me to…

Owned-And-Operated Technology

Networks, DSPs, DMPs, exchanges, programmatic buying – these changes have rocked the media and advertising landscape over the last 10 years. Many media owners have been slow to react at best, and in denial at worst. Even today, there is a shrinking minority that still won’t buy in to these changes in technology.

But forget about adoption for a moment and notice what is missing here: leadership. How many media owners have their own in-house technology groups that are actively building products? Or groups that scour the landscape for the best that market had to offer? The all-too-common solution is an insular, understaffed and undertrained group that responds to vendor pitches while looking for a quick revenue boost. Highly strategic? Hardly. Technology decisions have huge implications for media owners and in most cases they are not considered as carefully as they should be.

One way to sum up all these thoughts is with the headline of this article: The best defense is a good offense. However, if that’s too long, here is a shorter version – Innovate or die!

Follow Jeremy Hlavacek (@jhlava) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Katie Steiner

    Jeremy, while I agree with you on your two main points, I think you are failing to mention one thing – buyers on the programmatic side are still not ready to properly implement first party data. I have been in many meetings where people get really jazzed about our first party data and then end up just doing a RON deal.