The Programmatic Handbook 2019

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I n d u s t r y I n s i d e r s Ta k e A L o o k A t T h e Y e a r A h e a d

The Most Inclusive Conversation in Digital Trading



elcome to this special edition of The Programmatic Handbook. You only need to look at some of the numbers you’ll find over the following pages to see why there’s so much excitement in the industry right now.

An estimated 82.5 per cent of US digital display ads will be bought programmatically in 2018, rising to 86.2 per cent by 2020. Globally, 55 per cent of digital advertising is now traded programmatically. But the numbers don’t always tell the whole story, so over the following pages of this sponsored supplement, you’ll find some of the leading lights in the programmatic business tackling some of the key issues facing the industry head on. From Celtra, we have a call for higher-quality programmatic ads, plus advice on how to scale across millions of devices. Nexd takes a deep dive into the issues surrounding rich media in programmatic, and how they can be overcome. For Rezonence, 2018 has been about building a platform to enable it to trade engagement programmatically, while Rubicon Project celebrates the success, and growth, of mobile video. Oath turns the spotlight on machine learning, offering advice on what to look for in your DSP’s machine learning systems, while Seedtag calls for more creativity in programmatic, and Fyber shares the results of a survey of brands and agencies to gauge attitudes towards in-app advertising. To round off our in-depth exploration of the topic, Ryan Skeggs, general manager of, looks at how programmatic is playing out in the sports business. We hope you enjoy this edition of The Programmatic Handbook.

David Murphy Editorial Director

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SCALING CREATIVITY, REIMAGINING PROGRAMMATIC Celtra’s Nick Fitzsimmons explains how to scale big brand ideas across mobile programmatic, while his colleague Andrew Slater calls for a new quality standard

MACHINE LEARNING 101 Oath’s Lewis Sherlock offers advice on what to look for when assessing the merits of competing DSPs’ machine learning platforms

CHARTING IN-APP ADVERTISING Fyber’s Welby Chen reveals the results of a comprehensive survey gauging brand and agency attitudes to in-app advertising

WHY WE BUILT AN ENGAGEMENT EXCHANGE Prash Naidu of Rezonence explains why the company created a platform enabling engagements, rather than impressions, to be traded programmatically, and how it works

PERFECT PARTNERS Rubicon Project’s Steve Wing explains why mobile and video work so well together

MAKING RICH MEDIA SING Nexd’s Alex Rahaman considers some of the issues around rich media in programmatic, and offers advice on how to overcome them

CREATIVITY PLEASE Seedtag’s Dal Gill calls for more creativity in programmatic

BACK OF THE NET’s Ryan Skeggs offers a sporting industry slant on programmatic



SCALING CREATIVITY CROSS-PLATFORM Nick Fitzsimmons, director, sales solutions at Celtra, explains how to scale big brand ideas across millions of tiny digital channels


s marketers continue to find more and more channels through which they can communicate with consumers, a creative challenge increasingly presents itself: how do you translate a big brand idea into dozens of tiny digital channels? In the ‘olden days’, you might have engaged with your creative and media agencies to come up with a big advertising idea, and then purchased a few premium placements – say TV and a newspaper or magazine ad – to reach a wide target audience. The creative output from your agencies was a few static assets that may have included a TV spot and a fit-for-purpose design for the campaign. Nowadays, marketers are tasked with taking these static assets and translating them across a variety of digital formats, sizes and devices. They have to reimagine what that big advertising idea looks like in a meaningful, contextualised way across all platforms, at scale.

MARKETERS HAVE TO REIMAGINE WHAT THAT BIG ADVERTISING IDEA LOOKS LIKE IN A MEANINGFUL, CONTEXTUALISED WAY ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS, AT SCALE” Scaling creative should be simple. But the perception that intelligent, personalised creative is not scalable has persisted, often compounded by the tedious requirements that today’s media plans can bring. Activities like adding media partners and



channels across various types of inventory typically require so much creative adaptation that brands rely on a ‘one creative fits all’ approach that leads to ineffective, static, one-dimensional creative in every placement across platforms. Today’s consumers expect to be able to engage with brands on the channels and devices they’re already using every day. Whether it’s mobile or tablet, Facebook or Twitter, marketers need to ensure that they are compelling action with relevant creative using tactics such as precision marketing, without losing the brand’s big idea. As the most adopted creative management platform (CMP) across the enterprise, Celtra has helped hundreds of brands and media partners scale their big ideas without compromising the quality of creative. Over the years we’ve learned that the first step forward is to incorporate the following three priorities into your digital marketing plan: 1. Strategy – Bring your media and creative teams closer together, earlier. Gone are the days when creative and media strategy could be accomplished in silos. Whether you’re embarking on new in-housing initiatives or leveraging external agencies, to achieve meaningful scale, it’s imperative that we unify the big creative idea, media plan and data, during initial strategy planning. 2. Process – Streamline the end-to-end creative process for digital advertising. This starts by clearly defining the creative process as an efficient workflow with clear roles, responsibilities and timelines. Defining the process will ensure that everyone can work together to deliver on the strategy, while realising operational and cost efficiencies. 3. Execution – Select a technology partner that supports the execution of both your strategy and process with creative management capabilities. A CMP enables brands and media partners to manage the entire creative life cycle of digital

advertising – improving advertising effectiveness while reducing operational costs. The right CMP will support: •

The entire life cycle of your digital creative, not just the building. From strategy to reporting, your CMP should empower you to build, manage and measure the success of your digital advertising from one central platform.

Enterprise creative management workflows. Your CMP should help you to break down silos, enabling all contributors in the creative life cycle to collaborate, with purpose-built tools and flexible workflows that align with your creative process.

Your future personalisation initiatives. While your focus today may be building the foundation required to scale the big idea across channels, tomorrow it will likely be dynamic creative optimisation (DCO). It’s important to select a partner that understands why precision marketing matters and who is investing in the future, including automated versioning and creative adaptation (to the extent that it is possible without Don Draper’s involvement).

By prioritising strategy, process and execution in your digital marketing plan, you will be better prepared to take those big ideas and scale them to create better experiences for consumers who, in turn, will have better experiences with brands.



Andrew Slater, vice president, media partnerships at Celtra, says it’s time to set a new quality standard for programmatic advertising

t seems like everywhere you turn in the advertising industry, people are talking about programmatic. And for good reason. The numbers are worth talking about. An estimated 82.5 per cent of US digital display ads will be bought programmatically in 2018, according to eMarketer’s 2018 programmatic forecast. That’s more than $46bn (£36.2bn). And that’s about $10bn more than in 2017. That same forecast shows that by 2020, 86.2 per cent of US digital display ads will be bought programmatically. That’s a spend of more than $65bn. Over the last 10 years, as more than 60 per cent of the US digital advertising market has moved to Facebook and Google, publishers have continued to open more and more inventory up to programmatic channels in order to capture as much of the remaining 40 per cent of ad spend as possible. As open auctions became more prevalent in the industry, the onslaught of banners with seemingly zero targeting or contextual relevance became commonplace. So while this push to programmatic brought efficiency and reach for publishers and brands alike, it introduced a couple of major challenges for publishers and publisher sell-side platforms: ad quality control and commoditisation of valuable inventory. But this is where Celtra believes the game can be changed. It’s time to reimagine what programmatic advertising looks like across digital and bring life back to advertising.

PREMIUM ADVERTISING EXPERIENCES If programmatic is the new standard in today’s digital advertising, we have an obligation to create premium advertising experiences for consumers within programmatic environments. We should no longer see standard banner placements as the norm. It’s time to open our eyes to much bigger and more innovative programmatic strategies and create captivating experiences that will reach people. And creative is at the centre of this, of course. We know that an advertiser has less time than ever to reach a consumer in a creative way and take market share back. This means it’s even more important to combine the benefits of programmatic (think efficiency and reach) with quality creative advertising experiences. In a study Celtra carried out with Digiday in 2015 on the State of the Industry, we found that 92 per cent of marketers said creative messaging is more important than ever, even within digital display ads. So imagine that number going into 2019. Out with the basic JPEG, in with the technology-enabled premium placements. We believe that beautiful and innovative creative can be delivered in a programmatic way, without losing any of its impactful messaging – ultimately unlocking better monetisation of what was once a commoditised spot on the page. Every advertiser is in the user experience business, and creating quality programmatic experiences for consumers will be a huge step forward for the consumer and the industry as a whole.





Lewis Sherlock, head of demand platforms, international at Verizon Media Group/Oath, explains what to look for in your DSP’s machine learning systems





ight now, every major DSP is talking about machine learning. Marketers are looking at machine learning as a way to make smarter buys and exceed campaign expectations. Machine learning can dynamically deliver relevant brand messages to the right people, in the right context and at the right moment. So in an industry where everyone is vying to tell their story as to how and why their machine learning is better or different, it is hard to determine how to cut through the marketing to investigate exactly how machine learning can benefit a marketer. Here are four key questions to consider when evaluating how a DSP is using machine learning.

HOW ACCURATE AND DIVERSE ARE THE DATA POINTS? In a DSP, machine learning effectiveness is all about the data. Highly accurate data points and a diversity of data sources – whether it be email, search, apps, user registration, content consumption or others – are what make the engine run. And it shouldn’t come only from audience data, as is common in the RTB world. Instead, a DSP should also leverage deep-site segmentation data from both supply and demand. Only with a large amount of accurate and diverse data can a DSP create the best view of an advertiser’s most relevant audiences and reach them. Fortunately, in the last year, data accuracy and diversity questions have become focus areas for marketers. 84 per cent of marketers say data accuracy is a critical concern, according to a recent Lotame study.

WHERE AND HOW IS MACHINE LEARNING USED? In assessing DSPs and their use of machine learning, it’s important to understand the areas and functions where it’s deployed. Every DSP does things differently. One might use machine learning in campaign optimisation and forecasting. Others might use it in their modelling of predictive audiences, where deep learning using neural networks analyses and scores relevant data sets to predict an audience’s probability to perform a specific action. And others do both. We are also using machine learning to build a recommendation planning engine into the DSP (powered by AdLearn) and enhancing our forecasting tool. Foundational machine learning use cases in a DSP can include:

Performance Prediction – Estimate the KPI rates (CTR, CVR, IVR etc.) per impression.

Control System – Maximise ROI while meeting pacing and performance constraints by computing campaign-level bid adjustments.

Forecasting – Predict properties of a campaign’s price– volume curve, which is then used to turbo-charge the control system to maximise efficiency.

Bidding – Combine performance predictions and information from the forecasting system to enable optimal bidding.

Given its complexity, it’s important for marketers to understand how machine learning is activated across a DSP. By demystifying use cases and gaining clarity, they can make smarter decisions and more targeted plans.

HOW FLEXIBLE IS THE SYSTEM? How flexible are the DSP’s machine learning capabilities? Flexibility is key, because it speaks to the quality of the technology. For example, can the system optimise bidding for both first-price and second-price auction dynamics? Keep in mind, bidding for first-price inventory demands flexibility. It requires sophisticated prediction and forecasting of competing bids. Also, can the machine learning system optimise to brand, performance and multi-level goals? The rubric here can vary dramatically. For these reasons, a DSP with malleable machine learning capabilities is increasingly important today.

IS EVERYTHING WORKING TOGETHER? It’s not enough for a DSP to feature the right algorithms. It needs the right algorithms that are working together. There are standard machine learning algorithms out there which any DSP can leverage, but what really makes a machine learning engine stand apart is the ability to work in concert with other customised proprietary algorithms. This enables it to determine the best strategy and optimal bidding tactics to deliver against campaign goals. There must be connective tissue among systems so they can collaborate, learn from a campaign and create better performance. Believe it or not, many DSPs fail to deliver here. Every DSP features machine learning technology today, but each one has different capabilities and degrees of sophistication. For advertisers to understand the best tools for their purposes, they need to ask questions and determine from the answers whether that DSP meets their needs. These four use cases are a good place to start and will help them move beyond the buzzwords.







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CHARTING IN-APP ADVERTISING To gauge attitudes towards in-app advertising, Fyber conducted a survey of brands and agencies. Here, Welby Chen, Fyber’s president and chief business officer, looks at the results. The survey was first published on the Fyber Blog. View the complete survey results at


hy don’t brands and media agencies increase ad spend through in-app advertising and mobile games? That’s the million-dollar – or rather, billiondollar – question everyone in the mobile app industry wants answered. Despite countless reports from top market research firms, all of which are forecasting mobile ad spend to surpass other media channels such as TV, the collective mobile app industry, including mobile gaming, hasn’t felt the effects.

Rather than panic, maybe patience is all the mobile app industry needs to hear. “Advertising in games is in the first inning of opportunity,” wrote Activision Blizzard president and CEO Bobby Kotick and chairman of the board Brian Kelly in the company’s 2017 annual report. For those unfamiliar with baseball, Kotick and Kelly were making an analogy between the slow-moving nature of a baseball game and the state of in-app advertising in mobile games. To truly understand why brand ad spend isn’t flowing into in-app as much as expected, we surveyed brand advertisers and agency media planners from the US, UK, Germany and France, gathering over 500 responses, to find out what they think about advertising in-app and in mobile games. What follows are the top five highlights from the survey as well as a complete list of our findings.



SURVEY HIGHLIGHT 1: BUY, BUY, BUY Brand advertisers are increasingly aware of the exceptional growth of app usage and greater campaign success, which is requiring in-app to get the spending it deserves. Over twothirds (68 per cent) of brand advertisers primarily use in-app ads to build brand awareness and 52 per cent have used in-app ads to generate sales. This is why 77 per cent of brand advertisers surveyed have asked their agency to start buying in-app. But brand advertisers need to move fast to win this newly accessible premium inventory.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHT 2: THE VALUE OF IN-APP ADVERTISING According to brand advertisers, in-app ads can improve ROI by an average of 41 per cent. While in-app is already competitive and prices for premium inventory are high, there is still plenty of inventory that is under-monetised, and the fact that fewer brand buyers focus on mobile app advertising gives early movers the opportunity to win more premium inventory for lower prices.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHT 3: REACH YOUR TARGETED AUDIENCE The top benefit for agency media planners of in-app advertising is better user engagement (32 per cent), while the greatest gain for brand advertisers is targeting capabilities (27 per cent). Because apps can collect first-party data with a user’s consent, app publishers use advanced audience filters to send buyers the exact impressions they are looking for, making it easier for advertisers to reach their targeted audience segment.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHT 4: ENGAGEMENT, SCALE AND REACH. OH MY! A user’s attention may seem impenetrable when they are trying to raise their score, conquer the world, manage resources or complete a mission, but user engagement is stronger in mobile games, according to 51 per cent of brand advertisers surveyed. Another reason to invest in mobile gaming, according to 49 per cent of respondents, is scale and reach.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHT 5: DON’T DELIVER AN AD, DELIVER AN EXPERIENCE When playable ads were introduced to the market, many wondered if they were merely a trend or would prove to be an effective way for app developers to acquire new users. Two years later, 28 per cent of agency media buyers surveyed said that playables were the most impactful for in-app advertising. Rewarded video came in a close second, with 26 per cent of media buyers surveyed considering it to be the most effective in-app ad format.




ENGAGEMENT EXCHANGE Prash Naidu, CEO and founder of Rezonence, explains how and why the company built a platform enabling engagements, as opposed to impressions, to be traded programmatically





efore we answer the question in the title of the article, let’s run through a brief history of why we chose engagement as the currency for human attention. Advertising is essentially a transaction for a

It’s great if you have a commodity that people want to buy, but it’s not much use if you can’t sell it into the marketplace in a manner that they want. This is the position we found ourselves in; we had a great product, but the market was increasingly moving towards programmatic trading – and programmatic

person’s attention; a media owner captures attention, which is then sold on to the advertiser. In the pre-digital era, it was impossible to precisely quantify how much attention was captured, and therefore a multitude of methods were invented as a proxy for measuring human attention.

systems that were available in the market only effectively operated on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis.

However, even with the advent of the digital age, human attention is still transacted in a manner that is essentially no different to how print or billboard space is transacted – on an impression basis. Even if we can now work out whether the banner was in view and on the screen, we can’t determine if somebody actually saw the ad and, most importantly, paid attention – which is what the advertiser is really after. Engagement, by definition, means that the user engaged with the ad, and if the engagement is well constructed, it also means that the user paid attention. This simple fact means that we can finally use engagement to transact human attention in a precise and attributable manner.

HIGHER REVENUES The benefits of being able to do so are immense, not just for advertisers, but for publishers and readers too. Engagementbased advertising can lead to higher revenues for publishers, but only if their content is of sufficient quality to generate an engagement from the user. This has a beneficial impact on the whole ecosystem, because high-quality content will derive more revenue, while poor-quality content will be starved of revenue. This will put an end to the proliferation of clickbait and fake news, while funding quality journalism. Furthermore, engagement-based advertising is more impactful than simple banners, which means fewer impressions are required, ultimately leading to users getting a less ad-cluttered web experience. We designed FreeWall® to capture human attention in a clear and well-defined manner: a user is deemed to have engaged when they answer a simple quiz or survey. Since the reader has to pay attention to answer the question, we know that an engagement has captured the required amount of human attention.

We therefore had a choice to make: go programmatic but transact on a CPM basis, or stay in an IO world, because trading on a CPE (cost per engagement) basis was more important to us. Neither option was satisfactory; we wanted to be able to trade on a CPE basis programmatically. So we decided to back our ability and give ourselves a challenge – to build a programmatic engagement exchange.

CPM-TO-CPE CONVERTER The problem we faced was that most DSPs in the market could only transact on a CPM basis and we couldn’t ask our clients to change their DSP purely on our account. We therefore had to find a way to deliver CPE through a CPM platform. To achieve this, we built what we call M2E – a CPMto-CPE converter – meaning we can now set up a PMP with any DSP. For example: If we’ve agreed a 20p CPE and £1,000 is spent on a CPM basis, our system will ensure you get 5,000 engagements, thus backing out to the agreed 20p CPE; the floor price of the PMP is set to an arbitrary amount. It took about six months of hard work and many iterations, but we were eventually successful. Now, nearly a year after going live, we’re glad to report that our clients are increasingly buying FreeWall® programmatically on an engagement basis. This has been a hugely important step in our development, meaning that we can continue to trade in engagement as the currency of human attention – but at scale, and most importantly, with the simplicity that the market demanded. So as programmatic continues to gather steam, we hope to see more and more of you trading through our engagement exchange. You’ll benefit from the clear advantages of trading in human engagement – while at the same benefiting the whole ecosystem.



PERFECT PARTNERS Steve Wing, managing director of UK, Ireland and Nordics at Rubicon Project, says mobile video is driving global ad spend


ideo and mobile have hit a milestone. For the first time, the two have collectively won more programmatic ad dollars than desktop and banner ads this year. The explosion of mobile video consumption has undoubtedly contributed to this benchmark. More people are watching video content on their mobile devices, and more marketers are opting for mobile placements over desktop in media buying.

Smartphones have made watching digital video more accessible than ever before, and eyeballs are turning away from computers and traditional television and refocusing on mobile screens. According to Statista, the number of monthly active smartphone users in the UK will reach 53.96m individuals by 2022. Recent reports from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK and PwC indicate that smartphone video is the fastest-growing advertising format. Last year, 45 per cent of all digital ad spend went on smartphones, compared to a mere 9 per cent five years ago. Meanwhile, the way audiences are consuming content is changing significantly. Viewers are now watching digital video on their smartphone screens in social media platforms and increasingly in gaming apps. Each day, 500m people watch video on Facebook, and worldwide, people watch 1bn hours of YouTube per day. According to Bloomberg, more than 25 per



cent of UK smartphone users are on Snapchat, and its ‘User Stories’ fuel 10bn video views daily. Audiences are also now toggling between platforms as they consume content: a viewer may start watching a film at home on their Apple TV and then switch over to their iPhone screen on their daily train commute. Be it over-the-top (OTT) long-form content, or short-form video on social channels, more audiences are consuming video across multiple digital devices – including television and movies. This move away from linear TV towards digital video is driven by users. By 2022, 204m people will watch connected TV at least once a month in the US alone. With OTT devices, there’s a lower barrier of entry for viewers to access premium entertainment, and the ease and accessibility of an OTT device like Roku offers an appealing alternative to traditional cable. There’s the expression ‘content is king’, and linear TV juggernauts must now compete with the competitive content of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other subscription-based companies. Recently, Netflix revealed that close to 25 per cent of streaming globally happens over mobile networks, and in international markets like Finland, mobile consumption accounts for 75 per cent of total streaming. With more people watching video on mobile devices, media companies are now more open to programming for smaller screens. To optimise and propagate the video-buying ecosystem, collaborative efforts are being made across media companies in the UK. Even rival media companies have come together to offer video inventory through programmatic pipes via the Unruly platform. As TV has become smarter and more digitalised, the line between OTT and mobile video has consequently become more blurred. Millennials in the US aren’t just ‘cord-cutters’ – many are ‘cordnevers’ – and advertisers and media companies are changing

SMARTPHONES HAVE MADE WATCHING DIGITAL VIDEO MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER BEFORE, AND EYEBALLS ARE TURNING AWAY FROM COMPUTERS AND TRADITIONAL TELEVISION AND REFOCUSING ON MOBILE SCREENS” how they buy and sell inventory to meet their heightened expectations. ‘Digital native’ audiences expect relevant ads that are unobtrusively integrated with premium content across screens and devices. As a result, the challenge for today’s media providers is to deliver and monetise high-quality, long-form content across devices with efficiency and scale. The pressure on media providers and marketers to deliver a seamless viewing experience will only continue to mount: 40 per cent of the world’s ad spend is expected to take place online in 2018, according to new forecasts from Zenith. As reported by the agency’s Online Video Forecasts, average daily digital video consumption will hit 101 minutes by 2020 in the UK alone. Cisco reports that by 2019, video traffic will account for 80 per cent of all consumer internet traffic. Meanwhile, digital video ad revenue in the UK is expected to grow by 21.7 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year. This explosion of digital video, particularly mobile video, is reflected in Rubicon Project’s earnings reports. In the first half of this year, video was a significant growth driver for revenue at Rubicon Project, growing over 70 per cent on a year-over-year (YoY) basis, outpacing industry growth rates and growth share. On the buy side, DSPs and marketers are heavily focused on scaling video audiences – which accounts for the 105bn new video ad requests on Rubicon Project’s platform last year. Mobile is explicitly driving this growth: more than half of all video viewing now occurs on mobile devices, and that number is steadily rising. Meanwhile, the continued rise of programmatic is fuelling digital advertising growth on all fronts. Programmatic now

accounts for 55 per cent of global digital media buying, and is positioned to continue to soar. According to Magna’s Programmatic 2018 report, the global programmatic market will reach over €30bn (£26.7bn) this year and grow to €53bn by 2022. This growth is reflected in ad spend in our own earnings report, where video and audio continue to be our fastest-growing areas, generating significant market share gains. As shared in Rubicon Project’s Q3 earnings, ad spend increased 24 per cent YoY to €214.5m, driven by a 45 per cent increase in mobile ad spend and a 6 per cent increase in desktop spend. Of course, explosive growth has created its own set of challenges. These include ad fraud, poor ad experience and fragmentation. And while initiatives like Ads.txt are steps in the right direction, we still have work to do to prevent fraudulent activity and to optimise the user experience. With all of this change, a significant pain point for marketers is a dependence on multiple-point solutions. What’s needed now more than ever is consolidation: a comprehensive approach to buying and selling in a transparent, streamlined way across platforms and devices. Ultimately, there’s no denying that programmatic advertising is part of the future, and that future is being shaped by a hunger for mobile video content. Rubicon Project’s focus on transparency and inventory quality, along with our strong value proposition as a leading diversified independent exchange, uniquely positions us to help serve the increasing demand for programmatic advertising solutions across platforms.



MAKING RICH MEDIA SING NEXD CEO Alex Rahaman shines a light on some of the common issues with rich media in programmatic and how they can be overcome


oday, more than ever, advertisers are looking to deploy rich media ads for higher engagement and better performance, and to combine that with programmatic in order to reach the right consumers at the right price. This is understandable: rich media ads offer huge creative potential for advertisers. They look better than their static counterparts and, when used properly, can be far more engaging through storytelling or interactivity. Often, however, rich media and programmatic don’t work together as well as they could. So let’s consider some of the reasons why, and look at how to get around them.

LOAD TIMES Here’s the thing: all this creative potential (not to mention dollars spent) gets squandered if the rich media ads themselves don’t load in time. Web users, particularly on mobile, have little patience for anything that isn’t lightning-fast. They’re just going to move on and continue consuming all that delicious content.



WHY NOT GIVE YOURSELF THE EDGE, AND CONSUMERS A BETTER OVERALL EXPERIENCE, BY TAPPING INTO THE TECHNOLOGY THAT IS AT OUR DISPOSAL AS AN INDUSTRY, FOR A RICHER EXPERIENCE?” Poor load rates have become almost a ‘hidden tax’ on rich media ads in the programmatic space, because although the ads may be called and billed, the creative never gets a chance to appear on screen. We have heard from customers that heavy rich ads can mean that more than 30 per cent of paid ads never load before the audience moves on. So, what to do? Go back to static images? GIFs? Flash (RIP)? Well, no. First, we need to make rich media ads lighter and ensure they load faster. This means that the ad pack being delivered needs to be lightweight, sub-1MB, ideally. To accelerate the actual rendering of the ad, we can harness the power of the GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than the CPU. The GPU was designed with the express purpose of rendering graphics after all, so why not let it do exactly that?

We’re in an era of data-backed decision-making and digitalsavvy chief growth officers who care about marginal gains and conversion rate optimisation. They care about what small changes can, at scale, deliver massive results. Through improved analytics, we can empower those that care to really get down to the details of what’s working and what isn’t. For example, which specific element within a creative that contains multiple elements is driving dwell time or resulting in more clicks?



To put it bluntly, do you really think an ad that looks and feels like a corporate PowerPoint presentation from the mid-2000s is going to give your (or your client’s) brand the wow factor? In this day and age, when consumers are being practically bombarded with ads, standing out is more challenging than ever.

Many rich media ads are still traded as separate files that need to be uploaded to a programmatic platform, then trafficked. All’s well and good if you can be sure of 100 per cent perfection in all those zip files that need to be uploaded and managed. But it all starts becoming a major headache as soon as any changes need to be made to those ads.

Getting creative right is always about having the right strategy first, reaching the right audience with the right message, at the right time. But why not give yourself the edge, and consumers a better overall experience, by tapping into the technology that is at our disposal as an industry, for a richer experience?

Want to update a line of copy? Now, think of all the people in the production chain that need to get involved every time that, or any other, change needs to be made: designers, developers, project managers, media people. The list goes on. But by using a tag-based system, where the creatives themselves don’t need to be uploaded, but are pulled from an ad server, any necessary changes can be made without the headache of sharing multiple files across many different platforms. When using tags, you should always aim to work with a provider that offers a clear, well-structured tag, which has understandable elements like click trackers, for example. Too often, I’ve seen tags that seem to be needlessly complex and which leave open a little too much room for human error when working with them.

BETTER ANALYTICS Getting the very best from a rich media ad, programmatic or otherwise, often means testing and experimentation. But doing this reliably requires dependable, granular, easy-to-access analytical data. This is particularly the case with anything that offers interactivity. CTRs, engagement rates, VTR, viewability – it’s great to have these things, but they only really give you a kind of ‘macro’ view of what’s going on inside an ad. To really understand how audiences are interacting with ads, we need to be able to see what specific elements or assets within the creative drive interactions.

For example, modern smartphones are packed with all kinds of sensors that easily be tapped into (without needing to be creepy about it). Gyroscopes and accelerometers can allow consumers to interact with a rich media ad by moving their phone, giving the double benefit of a longer dwell time as they play around with it and a better experience for them because, when done right, it is fun.

WHAT IS NEXD DOING ABOUT THIS? NEXD offers a self-service, drag-and-drop ad builder that allows our customers to quickly build fast, lightweight, tag-based ads that offer rich analytics and engaging, playful interactivity. The ads themselves are based on WebGL, rather than HTML5. WebGL leverages the power of the GPU, resulting in ad packs that are 10 times lighter than HTML5 and render in a fraction of the time. Combined, this results in an average load rate of 95 per cent. WebGL also offers more scope for creativity, thanks to its extensive graphical capabilities. Interactive 3D objects that react smoothly to user input, shader and particle effects, and more, make it easy to create ads that really wow audiences, with engagement rates of 40 per cent. And for those interested in getting into the details of how their ads perform, we’ve made it super simple to access and analyse ultra-granular interaction data.



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CREATIVITY PLEASE Dal Gill, global head of programmatic at seedtag, asks if the programmatic industry lacks creativity


ccording to Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising, a report released by the IAB in September 2018, digital advertising budgets keep growing, and for some advertisers it is becoming their biggest spend: 29 per cent of those surveyed said they had invested more than 61 per cent of their total budget in digital. In light of the above, there is a huge growth potential in programmatic, since it provides strategic competitive advantage on both the buy side and the sell side of the digital advertising industry. While some native advertising solutions can bring a breath of fresh air into programmatic by boosting creativity, the nonstandard nature of programmatic has prevented them from spreading themselves widely, and most agencies would rather stick to the classic formats they feel more comfortable with. Here’s what some programmatic experts think about creativity in programmatic buying: Sam Yu-Hsuan Lin, head of programmatic at Zenith, states: “Possibly due to resource constraint, we often see brands stick to the usual creative formats they are most familiar with. This might provide the best reach; however, brands might be missing out on opportunities that can best maximise the impact of their creative message.” Olumide Gomes programmatic director at MC&C, says: “The promise of programmatic and buying based on audiences was meant to bring us closer to 1:1 messaging and creativity; however, it seems to be heading the other way. Rather than creating ads based around a consumer’s experience with the brand and creative, it seems to be more about an obsession with looking for what is deemed good metrics. Ultimately, in



the front of every marketer’s mind should always be how their audience will be receiving their brand.” In the words of Shaaf Tauqeer, Cadreon campaign engineer: “Programmatic can be utilised to drive so much more creativity than we actually are at this moment. If utilised properly, the automated element (AI algorithms) associated with the tech provides us time to concentrate on developing interesting insights, and therefore more useful campaigns. From a trader’s perspective, time is everything, so if data is analysed properly we can look into building audience insights to generate dynamic campaigns which are specifically directed towards the users’ needs. What we are lacking is not the ability to use data correctly to build those insights and then use those data segments all the way to mould creatives that drive sales or engagements for a brand, which is the ultimate goal of any advertiser.” Fern Potter, Neo Media World UK managing partner, thinks that Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) and other data-based technologies are a plaster for a lack of process around creative and media integration. Potter states: “Consideration of target audience, delivery platform and the audience’s consumption of said platform needs to be considered throughout the process of creative ideation, production and media distribution. Finally, measurement and success metrics for creative should be as robust and accountable as they are for media placement. A combined KPI delivers better accountability and a better consumer experience.”

WHY SEEDTAG IN-IMAGE PROGRAMMATIC? The planning and execution of programmatic ads are crying out for more innovation and creativity from their agency and publisher partners. This has led to the rise of ad tech companies, and their place in the ecosystem is more important than ever.

THERE IS NO POINT TALKING ABOUT AD FRAUD, BRAND SAFETY, BLOCKCHAIN AND AI IN 2019 IF THE END ADS ARE ALL GOING TO LOOK THE SAME AS THEY DID IN 2018” In-image display creative for the Renault Kadjar Spanish campaign, featured in

Seedtag was founded in 2014 with the mission to offer impactful, non-intrusive and compelling in-image solutions. Over the years, the company has evolved by developing its own technology, which provides a wealth of data used for accurate campaign delivery. My own view as global head of programmatic at seedtag is that too many programmatic ads lack creativity. We have got really good at the data targeting aspect and improving KPIs, but the same creatives are used by buyers across all publishers. First it was standard banners, then video, and not much has changed. There is no point talking about ad fraud, brand safety, blockchain and AI in 2019 if the end ads are all going to look the same as they did in 2018. Marketeers need new, innovative suggestions from their agencies. This may be a reason why many agency and publisher folk don’t make that jump into programmatic buying and selling, because, quite frankly, it is boring. You just need to look at the people in attendance at the numerous programmatic events throughout the year and you’ll see the same faces year after year. The industry needs a shake-up, with more creativity and innovation.

Safety (analyses whether the article is safe or not for brands to display in their campaigns); Context Categories (provides different targeting categories so that brands can reach their audience in the most relevant environments); and Custom Categories (like Context Categories, but built upon strategic keywords provided by the brand). Once collected, seedtag leverages all this data to find the optimum campaign context and to shape creatives accordingly, maximising campaign impact.

FINAL THOUGHTS Native advertising is, by definition, non-standard. However, when selling these solutions programmatically, most suppliers have come up with ways to standardise creative components, so that they can be easily integrated into the programmatic buying ecosystem. The problem appears when standardisation kills creativity and makes every ad look the same. In order to avoid this, every player

Programmatic access to in-image inventory is of great importance to seedtag and all five disruptive video and display solutions are now available to be bought. This allows brands to be flexible in targeting their message to highly relevant users. Plus, our in-house design team have a wide expertise in their field after creating more than 3,000 campaigns, which have been delivered across both the European and the Latam markets.

in the market should keep in mind the basics of creativity. Style, tone, copy and images should be designed according to the media placement where the ads are shown and, of course, the audience that will see them. For this purpose, the most powerful data and insights should be leveraged, right from the start. Boosting creativity will lead to better results and provide users with a positive brand experience.


Seedtag was founded in 2014 when two former Googlers saw great advertising potential in editorial images. In its first year, the company exceeded its break-even point, and in the second year, seedtag multiplied its turnover by a factor of five. 2018 was the year in which the company achieved its largest growth and international expansion, with offices in Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Benelux, Mexico and Brazil.

Seedtag’s in-house Cognitive Content Analysis technology, combined with the power of machine learning, provides humanlike understanding of the content and an unmatched contextual targeting accuracy. It identifies thousands of features within text and images and provides three key targeting capabilities: Brand




018 was another amazing year in sport. There was a plethora of events offering advertisers opportunities to engage with fans, such as the Winter Olympics, the Fifa World Cup, the Ryder Cup, Wimbledon, the Masters and F1, to name a few. What we noticed as the year progressed was an increased appetite from our advertisers to buy event packages and execute utilising programmatic guarantee (PG) deals. To give some context, in 2017, 5–10 per cent of our inventory was bought via PG around events, versus 73 per cent of our event inventory shifting to PG in 2018. This demonstrated what we already knew: that sport is a fantastic area to work in. It has a highly engaged, emotive audience that advertisers can reach in a brand-safe environment. Add to that a rise in contextual targeting, which it’s my firm belief came about due to GDPR, and it’s clear that sport was – and will continue to be – a real winner.

A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME From an industry point of view, there were two marquee events that come around every four years which grabbed my interest in 2018. Both the Winter Olympics and the Fifa World Cup were broadcast via virtual reality (VR) for the first time. Modern sports fans were excited and salivating at the prospect of getting closer than ever before to the action, teams, stars and stats. Both events gave us a glimpse into the future fan experience and perhaps the advertising opportunities that could come about with this new viewing platform. VR has the potential to offer an unparalleled fan experience. However, it was evident this year that we are not quite ready to switch from screen-based 2D viewing just yet! With all its promises of being more immersive and offering unique viewing options, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. However, the various VR activations this year did give us fans and industry bods an inkling as to what we can expect in the future from this embryotic tech.

A NOVEL PROGRAMMATIC OFFERING? For VR and programmatic to work in live sport and on demand requires speed, scale, simplicity, data and technology. There is



Ryan Skeggs, general manager of GiveMeSport, reflects on the past year, and explains how programmatic and VR are offering advertisers new ways to engage with sports fans a major development which will assist with speed of delivery and of processing data: the introduction of 5G across 16 major UK cities in 2019. 5G will enable broadcasters to offer a minimum standard for speed, and to cover more camera angles, matches and players. This will reduce the lethargic viewing experiences we sometimes saw with both the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. To scale VR and drum up interest among advertisers, broadcasters and franchises need to ensure the experience is far superior to the 2D alternative. Advertisers must be hoping this nascent form of media consumption becomes more mainstream, as the potential to interact and engage with consumers will be taken to a whole new level. There are obvious programmatic media buys, such as CTV, which I can see slipping into VR seamlessly. What is really exciting is the raft of new potential programmatic executions. In the virtual world we could have the capability to sell programmatic placements from shirt sponsorship positions, advertising hoardings, camera views, social placements, clock, replay and seats – all of which could be bought via programmatic channels. We’d have the data and the scale across live events and on demand, the speed from 5G, the technology enhancements, and hopefully, with the latter, a simple execution model.

FROM GIMMICK TO GAME-CHANGER For all the excitement around VR, brands should approach this area with caution. Despite the investment, experimentation and buzz around this undoubtedly progressive tech, there are a few challenges blocking fan adoption. First, the accessibility of VR, which is mainly driven by price. Second the design: we all want to look good, but it’s hard with a lunchbox attached to your head. Last, the amount of quality content built for this platform and the network infrastructure to enable it are still limited. Having said all of this, it is my firm belief that VR in sport will move from being a gimmick to mainstream over the next three to five years. It is inevitable that the hardware for VR will become less clunky and more accessible, hopefully meaning there’ll be a new programmatic medium on the block. 2019 will be another highly anticipated year on and off the pitch, court or circuit. I, for one, can’t wait!


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