Tag Archive: programmatic

  1. Apple is retiring its iconic iTunes in a move reflective of a changing industry

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    Apple is retiring its iconic iTunes in a move reflective of a change in industry

    Back at the beginning of the millennium, the music industry was in a serious state. CDs were in decline as consumers digitised the way they consumed music: but they were doing it for free via Napster and other pirate websites.

    And then, in 2001, the industry’s knight in shining armour appeared, in the shape of Steve Jobs. He announced the birth of iTunes at the Macworld Expo, heralding a music revolution. The era of MP3 music was here, and over the next six years Apple would sell more than 100 million units of the iconic iPod with which to listen to those MP3s. Apple was at the pinnacle of its success, having redefined what music ownership looked like: no longer physical records, tapes or CDs, but a world of songs in your pocket.

    In the 18 years since its launch, iTunes has become a media behemoth, a one-stop shop for users to consume not just music, but movies and TV and, latterly, podcasts too. But over the last few years, downloading has been eclipsed by a new kind of access: digital streaming.

    A new contender in the market

    In 2008, just a year after the launch of the first iPhone and when iTunes was at the height of its powers, a small Swedish start-up called Spotify launched its music streaming service across eight European markets. Its two-tier model – free to the consumer ad-funded, and a premium subscription option – gave users on-demand access to stream millions of tracks. Music streaming was still in its infancy, accounting for just 1% of global music revenues in 2007, and Spotify’s initial growth was good but unremarkable. By 2013, they had 30 million active users and 8 million premium subscribers.

    It is the six years since 2013 that have seen a seismic shift in how music is consumed. By March of this year, Spotify’s user base had skyrocketed, with 217 million active users and 100 million premium subscribers around the world, a number which looks set to continue growing. By opening up the streaming market and persuading users to give up ownership of their music, Spotify has arguably redefined the music industry, just as Apple did when it persuaded users to give up physical ownership.

    The consolidation of Apple

    iTunes’ download model was starting to look clunky and old-fashioned. In 2015, Apple launched Apple Music, its streaming service which it hoped would compete with Spotify and other broadcasters with its three distinct components – on-demand streaming, radio and Apple Connect, which allows artists to upload songs, videos and photos for followers. Since then, as streaming has increasingly become the norm, there have been rumours that iTunes would be wound down.

    That finally came to pass this week, as Apple announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose that it would replace iTunes with standalone music, television and podcast apps. This will align Apple’s media strategy across the board: iPhones and iPads already offer separate apps for Music, TV and Podcast, and Mac/Macbook users can expect the same.

    However, the move is symbolic as well as practical. As Amy X Wang says in Rolling Stone, “by portioning out its music, television and podcast offerings into three separate platforms, Apple will pointedly draw attention to itself as a multifaceted entertainment services provider, no longer as a hardware company that happens to sell entertainment through one of its many apps” – and that’s increasingly important as iPhone sales have started to slow.

    Consolidation moves reflecting the wider market

    This move towards entertainment services is being seen across the technology and communications sector: we’ve seen the tech giants buy up rights to live sport, while AT&T acquired Time Warner for $85bn and Disney bought most of the 21st Century Fox empire, fending off an offer from Comcast. This trend is of course being driven by changing consumer behaviour as internet connections over 4G and now 5G accelerate – allowing for uninterrupted streaming of music, TV and films. We’re seeing the effects of technology on the media and communications industries, and lines between these sectors will continue to blur. This blurring of boundaries will then pose another issue on how they can all be monitored & assessed both separately and in totality.

    Image: Shutterstock

  2. Changing the rules of the internet: can Zuckerberg turn around Facebook’s fortunes?

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    After a difficult year, Facebook is looking for solutions

    Facebook is facing heavy scrutiny from people and governments across the world after a range of transgressions: the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the hiring of a PR firm to attack George Soros, the departure of 10 top executives and the livestreaming of the Christchurch terrorist attack among them. These and other issues have forced Zuckerberg and his senior management team to appear before governmental committees and the press to explain exactly how they are going to change. This was all reflected in Facebook’s share price, which peaked in July 2018 but had plummeted by 40% by the end of the year.

    The conclusion? Facebook must focus on real, meaningful evolution in order to ensure a prosperous future – and that’s just what they appear to be doing.

    More cooperation between governments and tech companies

    After months of appearing before government committees and journalists around the world, in March this year Mark Zuckerberg seemed to finally kick off the evolution that his organisation so urgently needs. Having rejected demands for increased regulatory oversight of Facebook for years, in an editorial in the Washington Post Zuckerberg called for more cooperation with governments to deal with the problems posed by internet platforms and emergent internet technologies: “By updating the rules for the internet, we can preserve what’s best about it – the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things – while also protecting society from broader harms”.

    Changing the rules of the internet

    Zuckerberg argued that there were four areas that would require deeper cooperation between tech companies, governments and regulators: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. Measures he suggested included the creation of an independent body to review Facebook’s content moderation decisions and the formation of a set of standardised rules for harmful content; regulation for common standards for verifying political actors; a focus on creating laws that address advertising for divisive political issues; and GDPR-type regulations across the world. Nick Clegg, the head of Facebook’s global affairs and communications team, spoke about how “the way that the rules are drawn – or not drawn – will be quite different to how they are drawn in ten years’ time… and I think big tech companies have a choice: either they play ball and they try to play a responsible role in that debate, or they try to duck it all together.”

    Practical changes for the Facebook platform

    Facebook hasn’t stopped at promoting cooperation between tech firms and governments: the evolution strategy has also extended to a series of changes, announced in April, that ‘put privacy first’ because ‘the future is private’. These changes include encrypting Messenger messages and fully integrating the Messenger platform with WhatsApp; trialling a ‘private like counts’ feature; and ways of sharing content without a permanent record. Furthermore, the company is rolling out ‘FB5’, an aspirational redesign of the platform that puts the spotlight on what Facebook would like to be – thoughtful, meaningful and calm. The Groups functionality will be central, and there will be an increased focus on Marketplace as well.

    Other ideas for how to control Facebook

    The challenge facing those governments and regulators with whom Zuckerberg wants to work to create a new, brighter internet is massive. Siva Vaidhyanthan notes that “regulators are trying to address Facebook as if it’s like companies they have encountered before. But Facebook presents radically new challenges. It is unlike anything else in human history – with the possible exception of Google.” Governments are trying: the UK, for example, proposed a duty of care standard for platforms to ensure they filter harmful content, and the US government is expected to issue a $5bn fine for the violation of a 2011 order preventing the distribution of user data to companies such as Cambridge Analytica. But Vaidhyanthan compares this approach to dealing individual weather events rather than tackling climate change. Others have suggested more radical approaches: Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes called for Facebook to be broken up because “Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or government. He controls three core communications platforms – Facebook. Instagram and WhatsApp – that billions of people use every day… The government must hold Mark accountable.” Meanwhile, US senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren proposed dramatic antitrust regulations, and a Bloomburg article suggested that, as social media has been proven to be addictive, it should be regulated in the same way as the tobacco, alcohol and gambling industries – and not the communications industry.

    Radical solutions for a brighter future

    The issues that Facebook faces are dramatically different to, and more important than, those faced by any other company, and they require dramatically different solutions. The varied approaches announced by Facebook in recent months are collaborative, radical and positive, and we at ECI Media Management look forward to seeing them come to fruition.

    With increased transparency in the Facebook marketplace, response from consumers is likely to be varied. Users, Governments and Corporations alike should clearly understand how their data is being used by Facebook to target Ads.  Changes to transparency and the required investment into security, will no doubt impact the firm’s profits. As customers and co-operations learn more about the result of their time and investment into the platform, initially it is likely demand for the Ad space will see a minor drop, before companies become educated on how to utilise on this newfound transparency. At ECI Media Management, we recognise the value and immense scale of Facebook, which will be crucial to monitor as it moves into this new era.

    Image: Shutterstock

  3. US senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren takes on Big Tech

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    Embattled tech firms face a new challenge

    There’s no denying that the tech giants are having a hard time of it at the moment. There have been the scandals that we’re all so familiar with: Facebook is still dealing with the fall-out from the Cambridge Analytica affair as well as accusations that it allows interference in national elections, while earlier this year Google once again had to face the wrath of angry advertisers whose ads had been run alongside inappropriate content on YouTube. They’re also facing numerous legal challenges from national and EU lawmakers in Europe over issues such as privacy, fake news, tax and competition – and of course there is GDPR to contend with.

    Into this rather bleak landscape strode Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic candidate for the US presidential election in 2020. In a blog post Warren laid out a plan to break up the tech giants, namely Amazon, Facebook and Google, by forcing them to divest some of their biggest acquisitions and money-spinners.

    Why is Warren proposing such radical antitrust measures?

    So what are the reasons that Warren gives? There are two key ones: in her view, the big tech companies damage small businesses and innovation which stifle healthy competition. In effect, she believes that Facebook, Google and Amazon in particular have too much power over the economy, society and democracy. Facebook scored an own goal by promptly removing her ads around this issue from the platform. It later restored them, but they had neatly illustrated Warren’s point for her (!).

    What would these antitrust regulations mean?

    The implications of Warren’s proposals are huge. She would pass legislation designating platforms with more than $25bn in revenue as ‘platform utilities’, which would be banned from owning both the platform and the participants at the same time. This would mean that, for example, Google would need to spin off Search, with Amazon doing the same with Marketplace. Perhaps even more dramatically, Warren also claimed that she would appoint regulators to reverse mergers that had already been completed – including Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp, and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. This would lead to a world where Facebook would be competing with Instagram and Amazon’s power over sellers – and buyers – would be curbed significantly.

    Warren wants to implement these measures to “restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last”. She points to the antitrust case involving Microsoft in the 1990s which forced the ‘original’ tech giant to behave with increased restraint into the new millennium and, argues Warren, paved the way for the growth of the very giants she now wants to shrink.

    Are there alternative ways to promote competition?

    Warren is not alone in wanting to address the huge power held by the tech giants, particularly as the public feels increasingly uncomfortable about the amount of power they wield, but she is the first to have crossed the threshold to an antitrust solution. Of course, the chances are that Warren will not be the next President of the United States (she’s up against many other Democratic candidates, not to mention the incumbent) and, even if she is, many believe that her measures will be extremely difficult to implement. However, what is undeniable is that the tech firms must evaluate how they operate in order to regain trust from users and from governments. A middle ground could be, as suggested by the Report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel, which was commissioned by the British Government and led by Barack Obama’s economic adviser Jason Furman. The report recommends a new regulator to force firms to ‘rewire’ themselves so that users have more control of their data and can switch between providers; it also suggests modernising antitrust rules.

    As ever, Google, Facebook and Amazon have an uphill struggle on their hands, and they must examine their business models hard if they are to continue their success and deflect the scrutiny of governments across the world.

    Image: Shutterstock

  4. AI will make personalisation even more powerful: advertisers must exercise restraint

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    In advertising, personalisation is king. As the mantra goes, right message, right time, right place – if you can tick all three of those boxes, your ad will be much more relevant to the consumer and therefore so much more powerful. In the rapidly approaching age of artificial intelligence, it will be easier than ever to personalise your advertising: when machine learning is applied to the vast quantities of data, advertisers can understand the motivations of almost every consumer on the planet. That promise holds a great deal of power and potential wealth, but as they say – with great power comes great responsibility, and advertisers must consider carefully how they will use and handle customer data.

    Personalisation will become ever easier with widespread uptake of AI

    Advertisers are understandably excited about the prospect of artificial intelligence; just twenty years ago, it was almost inconceivable that brands would be able to directly target individual consumers based on their unique behaviours and motivations, with messages that were relevant to them. To an extent it is possible now, but it will become increasingly easy as artificial intelligence becomes more widespread, particularly as it is harnessed by programmatic platforms for real-time optimisation, for example.

    But personalisation can annoy consumers

    Some research indicates that consumers actively want advertising that is relevant to them; indeed, they’re even willing to give away their personal data for more personalised advertising. But there’s a fine line between advertising which is more powerful because of its relevance, and advertising which is annoying or just plain creepy. That’s down to a number of factors: bad targeting, use of sensitive personal data, placement, frequency or a lack of relevancy. You can understand why. If, for example, a consumer has recently purchased a pair of blue shoes online and is stalked around the internet by ads for blue shoes, it’s annoying and the ad simply serves to remind him or her that their activity is being tracked – they no longer need blue shoes. Ads for a blue handbag, for example, or for nice socks, might be more relevant – but that is when the mighty GDPR starts making its presence felt. The EU data regulations, which any advertiser with a European target audience will be all too aware of, make the transfer of consumer data between one company and another very difficult.

    Of course, this example assumes that there are two companies involved, and that the brands themselves are doing the selling. The inability to share data will give more power to the platforms where consumers can buy from a large selection of brands: they will be able to harness their first-party data to build a more complete offering for their consumers, and more targeted marketing. The brands themselves could begin to lose the battle to understand and successfully reach audiences.

    Where is the line between persuasive marketing and behaviour control?

    Brands shouldn’t just be concerned about not annoying consumers. The amount of data at their disposal – and the tools available to process and understand it – means that they can have an astonishingly complete understanding of their consumer – and that means marketing which is too effective and too persuasive. The art of persuasive marketing could be elevated into the science of behaviour control. Layer that with the ability to exploit people’s inherent prejudices and insecurities and we’re into some seriously apocalyptic territory. Need we mention Cambridge Analytica?

    The golden rule: always remember the data belongs to the consumer

    In order to avoid annoying consumers and indeed to avoid straying into unethical territory, the answer is to always remember one golden rule: a consumer’s data belongs to that consumer, and must be handled with the care and respect that would be afforded to their other possessions. When collecting data, be transparent: explain how you will use it and ask for the consumer’s consent. Like any relationship, trust is critical and transparency is the way to earn that trust. Personalisation must be voluntary, overt and transparent.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  5. Martin Sorrell’s ambitions for S4 Capital reflect a changing industry

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    Technology is dramatically transforming the communications industry – and S4 Capital is a reflection of that.

    When Martin Sorrell speaks, the advertising industry listens. That’s still the case even when he’s doing it as the head of a relatively small start-up, S4 Capital, rather than as the Chairman of WPP, the world’s largest communications conglomerate. Earlier this week he took to the stage at a Campaign Magazine event with his colleague Victor Knapp, the Chief Executive of MediaMonks, the content production company that S4 Capital acquired earlier this year. They discussed their ambitions for S4 Capital – some of which we will look at in more detail below; what is striking is that they are very much a reflection of how technology has transformed the media and advertising industries, fundamentally shifting priorities for brands and therefore for agencies. This change in direction is exemplified by the contrast between S4 Capital and the ‘traditional’ communications organisations such as Sorrell’s alma mater WPP.

    A digital and programmatic approach to media buying

    The ambitions that Sorrell and Knapp laid out for S4 Capital fall into four areas. The first is how S4 is approaching media buying. It’s telling that their first acquisition in this space is, according to Sorrell, likely to be in the digital and programmatic space, as ‘that’s where the biggest opportunity is’. Knapp added that the acquisition is likely to be a more ‘performance-based agency’, although he believes that ‘there is no difference between brand-building and performance’. There are many discussions at the moment around performance versus brand marketing – indeed, we wrote a blog about it and it was a hot topic at the ANA Masters of Marketing last month. Wherever you land in the debate, the inescapable fact is that data allows us to understand customers like never before and optimise activity to their preferences in real time; this has inevitably led to a focus on the performance of our media activity. Sorrell even went as far as to say that scale is not the most important thing anymore, as you can ‘make entries at a reasonable cost’ in the digital and programmatic arena. This demonstrates the impact that technology has had on the industry, if the size of your budget is no longer the sole most important aspect of your marketing strategy.

    A consumer-centric strategy calls for an always-on approach

    One of the key ramifications of the rapid advance of technology in the marketing space is that it has taken power out of the hands of brands and put it into those of the consumer. It is now the consumer that calls the shots, and advertisers must respond by focusing on the consumer’s experience of their brand and being ‘always on’. This is at the heart of MediaMonks and, by extension, S4 Capital’s approach to communications: it’s no longer about

    focusing on a big idea and creating 30-second spots. Brands and their agencies must consider how they can tell the best creative story across all platforms. This approach demands better, faster and more efficient content and, in Sorrell’s opinion, agencies aren’t responding quickly enough. This is the space that smaller, more agile companies like S4 can step into, as they come without the baggage of siloes, units and a plethora of agency brands.

    Helping brands to take control of their marketing services

    Data is, of course, the major marketing story of the 21st century so far and has fundamentally transformed how marketers operate, opening up a world of possibility and the opportunity to connect more deeply with consumers. It has also, unfortunately, led to issues of trust between advertisers and their agency partners, and a concern about a lack of control. This in turn has led many brands to at least consider bringing some of their marketing services in house and S4 Capital will have an offering that helps them to do that, although Sorrell pointed out that it can be difficult culturally for organisations to keep themselves and their talent abreast of the ever-changing market dynamics.

    As always, agility is the key to success

    It is telling that Sorrell and Knapp emphasised the importance of agility and consumer-centricity for S4 Capital. In the 80s, 90s and even 2000s, marketing was a very different affair and the role of the CMO was to relay stories to consumers on a one-way basis – and the likes of WPP, Omnicom and Publicis with their huge scale and buying power were well placed to support in that mission. However, technology has dramatically and fundamentally changed the landscape and the agencies that can respond rapidly in an agile, flexible manner are the ones who will stay relevant and useful for clients. This is clearly the space that Sorrell and Knapp are looking to occupy with S4 Capital, and we believe that they are well placed for success.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  6. The effectiveness battle: performance marketing versus brand marketing

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    One of the key themes at DMEXCO earlier this month was the effectiveness of performance marketing versus brand marketing, and the related tension between offline and online marketing.

    A trending topic

    A week or so ago, ECI attended DMEXCO in Cologne, and there was a lot to take in from the 1000 exhibitors on over 100,000sqm of exhibition space! We shared our summary of what we learned straight after it finished, but there is one topic that particularly piqued our interest that we explore in more detail in this article. That topic? The trends and debate around the effectiveness of brand marketing compared to performance marketing and the related tension between offline and online advertising.

    Short-term results versus long-term relationships

    As online media generates a vastly larger amount of data than traditional media, and much more rapidly, it is tempting to find ways to obtain higher click and conversion rates from digital campaigns. Marketers and their bosses have always been under pressure to prove the impact of marketing and, ideally, to cut out the parts of a media plan that aren’t working as hard as others. Performance marketing is a relatively new term for short-term, sales-driving online marketing that often uses layers of data and targeting to ensure that as few impressions as possible are served to people who are unlikely to register a conversion that can be attributed to the campaign in question. Performance marketing therefore contrasts directly with traditional brand marketing, for which TV is still a key channel. Brand marketing techniques are the result of decades of academic research which have concluded that high brand equity – and resulting long-term sales growth – are the result of moderately frequent messaging that resonates thanks to evocative creative. Those fundamental truths have not changed with the invention of online media spaces. However, it might never be possible to prove a direct and independent cause-and-effect relationship between a specific ad impression and a sale. So while brand marketing is great for building consumer relationships, it’s difficult for any responsible marketer to turn down a form of marketing that actually has the word ‘performance’ in it!

    The word on the street at DMEXCO

    At DMEXCO, the advantages of both brand and performance marketing were covered in detail – with tools to support the latter dominating the exhibition floors of the expo, while the advantages of a more sustained brand marketing strategy were extolled on the stages of the conference. There has long been feisty and fascinating debate between marketers about which should be given the lion’s share of a marketer’s budget, especially their online media budget. At the DMEXCO debate entitled ‘How marketers can be enlightened, empowered and enabled in a mobile world’, the MMA’s Chris Babayode explained how conversion attribution modelling accentuates the tension between performance marketing (the champion of last touch attribution) and brand marketing (which looks better when using multiple touch attribution).

    Last touch attribution of conversions for example is a common, simple method. It tends to demonstrate that methods such as search and retargeting generate a large number of conversions, leading many marketers to shift significant budget into these areas. Multiple touch attribution, on the other hand, recognizes that a click on a Google search link is not itself the cause of a conversion, and that various recent campaigns and on- and offline touchpoints should be taken into account. Multiple touch attribution can, for example, reveal what audiences and what sites will generate conversions further down the road.

    Don’t pick sides

    An interesting take on the debate appeared in an article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week last month. It’s a well thought-through piece which we strongly recommend that any marketer

    reads, but Ritson’s conclusion is that, in fact, marketers shouldn’t pick sides: the best way forward for your business in the long term and the short term is to keep up a traditional mix of more long-term branding and more short-term sales promotion. Ritson quotes Peter Field and Les Binet’s book The Long and Short of It: you want ‘60% of your budget invested in long-term brand building and 40% on more immediate activation’.

    The effect of GDPR

    It is interesting to see how the introduction of GDPR in the European Union has further blurred the line between the trackability of off- and online channels and therefore the distinction between which should be used for performance or brand marketing purposes. Many people have stopped allowing brands to track their data, meaning there is, and will continue to be, a large market for non-trackable impressions that are therefore similar to offline impressions. This shift in supply and demand is a huge, although likely temporary, opportunity. Several speakers at DMEXCO remarked on the drop in programmatic supply after GDPR was rolled out in May this year – despite the fact that media consumption of course didn’t drop.  It’s all about choosing the right media for the right job – a truism that was illustrated perfectly by the exhibitors of some of the world’s most advanced ad tech companies using paper fliers for their marketing at DMEXCO!

    Demonstrating how online can be an effective channel for brand marketing campaigns

    An interesting case study into how effectively online platforms can be used for brand campaigns was highlighted in the YouTube-hosted event ‘How consumer choice has changed the video landscape’ by Johnson & Johnson’s Northern Europe Marketing Director Meghan Davis. She related the story of how J&J briefed a few different creative agencies to create an ad, independently of one another, using the same dental hygiene brief. All three resulting videos were then tested on YouTube and the one that performed the best was run on a wider scale. This brilliant campaign showcases how using quick-effect metrics and the flexibility of online media can improve the impact of a branding campaign across both online and offline; and demonstrates how live data can inform decisions to optimize a campaign and maximize its short- and long-term impact. We believe that this is an online strategy that could be adopted by more marketers looking at how online media can be leveraged for brand campaigns.

    As is so often the case with advertising, the answer to the brand marketing versus performance marketing conundrum is not binary. The best results lie in achieving the right balance: as Ritson says, ‘a great brand plan will deliver short-term results within the year and set up longer-term, enduring advantage from stronger brand equity and improved funnel conversions. A great brand plan manages to hit short-term sales targets while also funding longer-term brand objectives that focus on brand health metrics.’ That means just the right mix of on- and offline channels, working in harmony to drive brand equity and meet sales targets. And to achieve that holy grail, robust strategies and creative messages and visuals that resonate, backed up with insight and measured with the right KPIs, are of critical importance.

    To see how ECI can help you to obtain the perfect balance, contact us at .

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  7. ECI’s DMEXCO download

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    ECI was at DMEXCO in Cologne this week: from ethical hackers to in-housing, here’s what we learned.

    Important questions and lots of answers

    ECI joined thousands of fellow ad industry professionals at DMEXCO in the German city of Cologne this week. The digital marketing and advertising trade fair and conference has become a key feature on advertisers’ calendars as they seek to understand and capitalise on the countless opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls – offered by ad tech. There are so many questions on these people’s minds – should I bring my ad tech in house? Who are the right suppliers? How can I best leverage my company’s proprietary data? If the answers to these questions are anywhere, it’s at DMEXCO – although you have to filter out a lot of noise on the way…

    We came away from our two days at DMEXCO with two big takeaways. The first is how cluttered the marketplace is and the (perhaps related) knowledge gaps, particularly among those who should really know better. The second – quite possibly a result of the first, as we’ll discuss later – is the debate around inhousing ad tech versus outsourcing it.

    A cluttered marketplace and knowledge gaps

    DMEXCO is crowded, noisy, hot and very exciting – much like the industry that it showcases! As we found while we were there, the more you learn, the more you realise just how much there is to learn, and the effort required to keep up with the latest developments in online marketing. As is so often the case in the digital world and particularly the digital marketing industry, buzz words and phrases were swirling around – ‘performance marketing’, ‘attribution’, ‘intelligent’, ‘data’, ‘personalisation’ and ‘disruption’. Our old friend ‘email marketing’ is still up there, with general consensus that it remains an important tool. The new phrase on everyone’s lips – one to watch out for – is ‘ethical hacker’, the information security experts who identify vulnerabilities that non-ethical hackers could exploit: critically important in these times of cyber threats and security breaches. We observe, with a wry smile, that DMEXCO is perhaps the only place where the words ‘AI’, ‘machine learning’, ‘algorithm’, ‘performance’ and ‘optimisation’ can be used in the same sentence unironically.

    Despite this lack of irony, there was some healthy scepticism at the conference. Taking to the stage in the event ‘The next mission in marketing’, Philipp Markmann talked about the ‘absurd level of complexity’ in the media market, with far too many services to choose from, meaning that advertisers are overwhelmed by choice. Is this because publishers and vendors are targeting and talking directly with CMOs rather than focusing on agencies, who traditionally identified the best solutions on their clients’ behalf?

    Perhaps this is partly down to surprisingly low levels of knowledge in the industry. A common opening line from exhibitors at DMEXCO was “do you know a bit about ad tech?” We raised this with one of them who explained that a large proportion of attendees had a lower than expected knowledge of ad tech and digital advertising. AppNexus, one of the largest ad tech suppliers which was recently sold for $1.6bn, was mistaken for an app creator by more than one attendee, while one ad tech exhibitor said that they met with a media agency rep who didn’t know the difference between a first and second price auction, let alone the implications of each. There is evidence that the struggles, illustrated here, to keep up with online media markets are leading to irresponsible media buying, ultimately resulting in advertisers taking matters into their own hands by bringing their activity in house.

    In-housing or outsourcing?

    It was no surprise, therefore, that the in-housing of media buying was the subject of many of the events and discussion at DMEXCO. It’s being driven by a feeling that media agencies need to be doing more to earn their clients’ trust, but also by the understanding that marketing and sales in general, and online marketing in particular, should be closely integrated with a brand’s core business – especially when it comes to technology and strategy. Philips’ global head of digital marketing Blake Cahill, speaking at an event entitled ‘Brave the seismic shift – the future of creative digital consultancy’, recommended a mix of in-house and agency, with the latter focusing on media strategy and planning. This consultancy role would allow them to increase their fee – a glimmer of hope for agencies alarmed by clients taking activity in house. Meanwhile, in ‘The next mission in marketing’ event, speakers concluded that, in order to thrive into the future, agencies need to be experts, strategic and proactive thinkers, and reduce their complexity. Interestingly, as we reported last week, WPP’s new CEO, Mark Read, announced this as part of his strategy to future-proof the group.

    Media and creative agencies were notably quiet at DMEXCO – is that because of the problems they are having keeping abreast of developments in the space? Advertisers and publishers, as well as Google and Facebook, were prominent on the stages, while ad tech providers and publishers dominated the exhibition floors.

    But that’s not all

    Of course, discussion at DMEXCO also went far beyond whether advertisers will move their tech stacks in house and what that means for their agency partners and others. To succeed in digital advertising, marketers must ‘focus on the real consumer needs, understanding their behaviour’, as Alexander Ewig said in ‘The next mission in marketing’ talk. Rahmyn Kress, Henkel’s Chief Digital Officer and Debora Koyama, Mondelez’s CMO, also spoke about what success looks like in digital marketing at the ‘Future skills in brand marketing: how to transform into a modern marketing department’ event. They agreed that the FMCG sector is lagging behind when it comes to digital marketing, and that they – and all brands – must focus on the problem they want to solve, rather than the tools at their disposal. Kress and Koyama also concurred that data must be at the very heart of digital marketing; this is indisputable, but there was also a feeling across DMEXCO that advertisers should seek a balance between hard data and a more human gut feeling.

    A final observation has to, of course, come from Google. Their space on the exhibition floor was colourful, eye-catching and designed to look like a garden, complete with a wooden fence around the perimeter. A witty take perhaps on how Google and fellow tech giant Facebook are often called walled gardens for their reluctance to allow third-party tracking? We mentioned this comparison to a Google rep outside the fence, who laughed and then gave a very reasonable explanation for the fence: some advertiser heavy-weights were inside, making important deals with Google. Funny that in our world of AI-optimisation, data driving and agile bidding, business is still done over coffee and sealed with a handshake.

    Thumbnail image: Helene Kruse

  8. New WPP chief hits the ground running

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    WPP has filled its CEO vacancy – and there’s a lot to do.

    A popular choice to fill big shoes

    Since Martin Sorrell’s acrimonious departure from the top job at WPP earlier this year, there has naturally been speculation around who would replace him. Charismatic and combative, and the chief architect of WPP’s growth from a wire and plastics company into the world’s largest advertising company, Sorrell left big shoes to fill.

    WPP announced this week that those shoes have been filled by Mark Read, who had been running the organisation on an interim basis, alongside Andrew Scott, since Sorrell’s departure. Read is a popular choice both within WPP and among shareholders, and was the leading internal candidate for the role. He has a proven track record in running WPP digital agency Wunderman, as well as in digital leadership and as a board member from 2006 to 2015. He is viewed as a steady pair of hands and someone who can hit the ground running – perhaps less charismatic and pugnacious than his predecessor, but that is widely seen as a good thing.

    Read has industry challenges to contend with…

    Read has his work cut out for him. The day after his appointment was announced, WPP suffered a sharp drop in share price, and the company recently announced a somewhat mixed set of results, with a small Q2 global revenue growth of 2.4% but a continued decline in its North American business, which dropped by 2.9%.  WPP is suffering from many of the same problems as its industry peers, including navigating the seismic shifts that the advertising industry is experiencing thanks to rapidly advancing technology. Many clients are looking to take at least some of their marketing activity in-house, forcing agencies and in particular media agencies to re-examine what the future looks like. Those that aren’t yet taking their activity in-house are simultaneously cutting costs and demanding greater transparency in the wake of brand safety scandals and the like. Furthermore, a new generation of competitors is springing up: not just the small boutique and niche agencies, but also in the form of companies such as Accenture and other consultancies, who are establishing capabilities in high margin marketing services such as data and programmatic

    …and in-house problems too

    Read’s challenges aren’t just those faced by the advertising industry at large: WPP has its own set of unique issues to resolve. It is famously huge, with hundreds of agency brands across the world, more than could ever be needed to manage conflict and who indeed often compete with one another. The many P&Ls

    make it unwieldy and, crucially, ‘impenetrable to understand’ for clients, in Read’s words. This is a major cause of concern for some of the group’s key clients such as P&G and Unilever, while Ford – WPP’s biggest client – announced earlier this year a review of its global creative business, currently handled by GTB, the dedicated agency established by WPP for the automotive brand.

    ‘Radical evolution’ is needed

    In response to WPP’s issues and in order to future-proof the organisation, Read has announced a ‘radical evolution’ strategy that will streamline WPP’s structure, consolidating some of the 170,000-strong workforce across 112 countries and 3000 offices. As Read said, “WPP needs to come closer together, not further apart. There are many good things about the business. It is a question of simplifying the offer, refocusing the portfolio and investing more in data and technology alongside creativity.”

    Read has ample experience in the digital side of the WPP business, and his transformation strategy includes turning WPP’s approach to how it works with data and tech on its head. He recognised that, in a world where the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Alibaba own the lion’s share of consumer data, the most realistic way for WPP to monetise its data capabilities is to effectively borrow data from the tech companies and charge clients for data consultancy, rather than execution. GroupM agency MediaCom is already progressing in this area.

    Other elements of Read’s approach include actively helping clients take elements of their marketing in house by consulting on the strategy rather than focusing on the execution; and management of their data investment or research portfolio – it appears likely that Kantar Media could be sold in the not-too-distant future.

    The keys to success: steady hands and an open mind

    Mark Read is stepping to the fore at a time when strong winds are buffeting WPP and the wider advertising industry. However, a combination of steady hands at the helm and a willingness to transform the organisation’s structure and model could well be just what WPP needs to stay on course.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock.com

  9. The power of transparency in programmatic

    Comments Off on The power of transparency in programmatic

    Programmatic is growing up

    Programmatic has finally come of age. It is celebrating a decade of existence with ever-increasing prominence in the advertising sector. In the US, eMarketer has projected that by 2019 83.6% of digital display ad dollars will be spent programmatically – that’s not far short of $46bn. It is also finally maturing, becoming more stable and reliable as the major players start to take responsibility and drive transparency.

    Scandals, scams, wastage and a lack of understanding

    It was not always thus. Programmatic has long been seen as the wild west of advertising: while advertisers see and have enjoyed the benefits, many have major concerns around a perceived lack of transparency, leading to issues such as wastage and a lack of brand safety. Some sources believe that up to 60% of investment in programmatic was being lost by the time it reached the publisher, while Digital Market Asia estimates that 80% of ad dollars are ‘lost’ to the programmatic chain: SSPs, third party data, trading desks, exchanges and the DSP. Ad fraud scares such as the Hyphbot scam, and the brand safety scandals of 2017 did nothing to help the reputation of the sector.  

    At ECI, we believe that a key issue has been a lack of understanding on the part of the advertisers, who often don’t know what data to request and how to scrutinise and analyse it. This allows agencies and ad tech providers to play faster and looser with their clients’ investment than they might otherwise. As they say, ‘mystery means margin’.

    Forcing programmatic to be more responsible

    In the last 12 months or so, advertisers, agencies and even governments have forced ad tech suppliers to start taking their responsibilities seriously. Armed with knowledge and the right talent, they have been taking ad tech providers to task – P&G, for example, announced earlier this year that it would slash its digital spend by $200m,

    having identified last summer that, in Q2, $100m of their digital investment had little appreciable impact on their business. Meanwhile, GroupM took heed of advertisers’ concerns by updating its viewability standards for display and video ads, and the Guardian sued an ad tech supplier for failing to disclose fees earned from advertisers that appeared on the publisher’s site.

    New initiatives are driving transparency and trust

    In short, advertisers and agencies are pushing for more control over media performance and what it costs, meaning that they are demanding better targeting, better viewability, less wastage, less fraud and improved brand safety. Suppliers are delivering, with initiatives such as ads.txt and first-price auctions providing more transparency, and mergers between ad tech vendors and content providers eliminating many of the middlemen who make the process so murky. ECI strongly recommends set-ups where advertisers have full rights to all the data related to their buying; we have established a comprehensive set of best practice guidelines on how to buy programmatically in a selective way that minimises risk and costs, while maximising value. These guidelines have been proven to solve issues around transparency, viewability and quality, often dramatically improving ROI.

    Transparency will drive success for advertisers, agencies and ad tech providers

    Transparency is a real business differentiator – not just for advertisers, but for those providing programmatic services. As is so often the case, trust and openness are absolutely critical, and those agencies and tech providers who guarantee transparency will be the winners in this lucrative area. For advertisers, the win will be in choosing the right partner for great performance and transparency, and having a thorough understanding of the data and processes.

    Thumbnail image: Best-backgrounds/Shutterstock.com