Happy Friday 19.07.2019

The March Towards 1st Price Picks Up Pace

Happy Friday,

Over the past two weeks the pace of news has slowed a little compared with the frenetic activity seen directly pre & post Cannes. Whilst things are a little quiet I thought I’d deliver the newsletter fortnightly to keep the quality up.

The biggest news of the past 2 weeks is that WPP sold a 60% stake in research business Kantar to Bain Capital. We start the newsletter by looking at the specifics of the deal & what it will mean for Kantar.

From here we turn our attention to Google, their ad exchange Google Ad Manager (GAM) is well on its way towards being fully first price. We look at the impact this might have on buyers & the other moves Google are making to be more publisher friendly.

Next, a month after dropping the bombshell that data collection by AdTech companies was unfair, disproportionate & intrusive, UK regulators have provided guidance on when companies need to gain consent to collect data. it’ll challenge the industry, we look at the specifics.

Finally we turn to the Washington Post, who have built a platform called Zeus that’ll allow advertisers to target without the need for the aforementioned 3rd Party Cookies. The publisher owned by Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos is also licensing the tech to other publishers, interesting stuff, especially given the drive towards greater online privacy.



WPP Sells Majority Stake In Kantar

WPP has been rumored to be looking to sell research specialist Kantar for some time as part of its efforts to be simpler, leaner & more focussed. Last Friday the world’s largest advertising company announced it would sell a 60 per cent stake in the business to Bain Capital:

Bain Capital is a private investment firm based in Boston, Massachusetts. as of 2018 they had $105bn in management. They are reported to have paid a 8.2x multiplier on Kantar’s 2018 revenues.

Kantar’s CEO Eric Salama who will continue to lead the business said the new owner, will be able to “invest more in technology, people and acquisitions than if WPP kept 100% of the company”

Kantars desire for investment for further acquisitions is said to be a big driver in the sale from their side, they said without it they’d have ~ £30m a year for M&A. PE firms like Bain are flush with cash at the moment, so many believe the potential to ditch legacy systems & pivot into high growth areas like analytics & eCommerce in particular (as is the rumored) is now much higher.

Although some industry commentators have questioned why it was only a partial sale, the move appears to be a step in the right direction for WPP, who are looking to streamline the business over a three-year plan to deliver organic growth in line with their peers by the end of 2021.

Google Switching Auctions To First Price

Back in March Google announced it would be moving Google Ad Manager (AdX) to first price, given the exchanges dominance in many markets there was concerns amongst buyers that this would generate price inflation.

The market is about to find out whether these concerns are valid as July is the month Google are ramping up the number of first price auctions they are run, as you can see from the roll-out plan:

In an excellent interview in AdExchanger last week with Jason Bigler who heads up sellside products at Google, said helping publishers increase their yields isn’t the only way Google are looking to deepen relationships with Publishers, sharing buyside data is another opportunity:

SimonJHarris @SimonJHarris
2/3 Lots or detail on these changes in an excellent interview with @jasonbigler in @adexchanger
adexchanger.com/ad-exchange-ne… Also some detail on the moves Google are making to improve publishers relationships, like sharing buyside data from DV360 with publishers:

This raised eyebrows, but sharing insights with publishers is something that other exchanges do day in day out, that said Google is different from most other AdTech companies (bar AppNexus) in that they straddle the buy and sell side. Some say this means the potential for sharing data is greater & that Google called out data sharing from their platforms specifically has raised concerns amongst some DV360 buyers.

It’s impossible to know if these concerns are valid, but Google are obviously confident these disclosures won’t drive buyers away & it is likely these moves will help them cement the lead they have on the sell side in what is a competitive & crowded space:

A Big Week For Legislation

Last month the ICO put the whole industry on notice when it warned that AdTech needed to “re-evaluate their approach to privacy notices, the use of personal data & the lawful bases they apply within the RTB ecosystem”.

Late last week they provided an update to further clarify when consent is and isn’t required, this guidance will have a significant impact on the industry. In short they say “Legitimate Interest” as a means to process data for advertising or analytics is not acceptable:

This guidance highlights that advertising (& indeed analytics) are non non-essential processes & therefore consent is required as a legal basis for processing.

So what does this mean for publishers & programmatic buying? Firstly it will undoubtedly mean the further proliferation of consent banners as publishers who’ve relied on “Legitimate Interest” scramble to become compliant.

For advertisers it will potentially lead to declining audience pools, which will likely have a deflationary impact on addressability. Falling consent rates will also likely impact tracking compounding the issues that browser features like ITP have created over the past 24 months.

Whilst opt in rates tend to be relatively high the impact will still be noticeable & in this world consented first party data like email address will become even more valuable than it is today. Brands that build a direct to consumer relationship & take full ownership of their data will benefit significantly.

Zeus & The Death Third Party Cookie

So it has been another big fortnight for regulators & many are now contemplating a world where legislation or self regulation mean 3rd party tracking is no longer feasible/legal.

With one eye on the future the Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post has developed a first-party data ad targeting tool called Zeus:

The tool they’ve built is said to monitor contextual data such as what article a person is reading, where they are on the page & the source URL they came to the current page from amongst other factors. By mapping this against user data from the past four years they can decipher what a user intent might be and target an ad accordingly.

Since their acquisition by Bezos the post has begun to resell the tech that they create, most notably Arc their paywall product. The plan here is to do the same.

The Post do not expect Zeus to replace cookie based targeting yet, but it does help them prepare for this eventuality & in the meantime they will be testing, iterating and improving a product that can be used across direct & programmatic for display, video, native ads.

This will likely give them a first mover advantage on legacy AdTech who at some point will need to build tools like this as the market embraces the need for greater privacy in its precision marketing efforts.

Okay that’s the newsletter done, thank you for making it this far!

If you want to get in touch

Twitter here: @SimonJHarris

Or LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/simonjulianharris/

If this was forwarded on to you and you’d like to subscribe you can do so here:

Thanks & have a lovely weekend


Happy Friday 05.07.2019

Just Like That It Is Q3

Happy Friday,

This week we start in agency land with one big piece of news & one whopper of a rumor. Firstly Publicis have closed their acquisition of Epsilon, we look at why they’ve paid $4bn for the data driven marketing specialist & how the two businesses will be integrated.

Next up the big rumor of the week: From 2020 WPP will allegedly not participate in pitches led by Accenture, Whilst there’s no official word from the London based giant on this, industry insiders believe something is afoot, we look at this.

From agency land we pivot to AdTech & The Trade Desk who some criticized this week for appearing to pressure their exchange partners stop syncing with some of their competitors. We look at what’s going on here.

Finally we turn our attention to a super important initiative from the @IABTechLab called the Data transparency & compliance program. It is aims to improve the transparency of 3rd party data vendors. If everyone gets behind this it will radically improve insight into how segments are collected & built, we round off the newsletter by looking at the detail.



Publicis Make Giant Data Acquisition

Over the past few years holding companies have bought data businesses with a view to future proofing their business, exactly 12 months ago IPG closed their acquisition of Axciom, a couple of years after Dentsu bought Merkle. Not to be left out Publicis have been eyeing Epsilon since April & this week completed the deal:

The purchase price of $3.95bn is a discount on the $4.4bn Publicis originally were willing to pay for the business & Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun the discounted price reflected the fact that Publicis was the "best partner" for Epsilon, even if other options could have been more lucrative for Epsilon.

One of the drivers of this acquisition according to Publicis CEO was to address the “one imperative for clients” to “take back control of their customer”, Sadoun went on to say that “a personalized experience at scale is the only way to do it”. Some industry commentators have already questioned whether using a holding companies assets is truly taking control, but regardless it does give Publicis improved data capabilities.

The plan is for Epsilon’s data & tech platform to sit at the core of the group so all advertisers be they clients from Publicis Communications, Publicis Media, Publicis Sapient and Publicis Health can benefit.

Publicis are looking integrate the businesses quickly & in fact they’ve stated they’ll roll out Epsilon to U.S. clients immediately, with international clients gaining access to its services in the coming months. Given the geographic spread of Epsilon this makes sense. 

Publicis beat Goldman Sachs to acquire the business & said that other agencies nor management consultants were in contention for Epsilon. On the latter they said neither Accenture or Deloitte “understand marketing enough to go for this kind of big acquisition". Strong words & not the only shots across the bows of the big four this week from agency land…

WPP To Opt Out Of Accenture Run Pitches?

The largest holding company in the world WPP will reportedly stop participating in any media pitches supervised by Accenture starting in 2020:

WPP are alleged to be concerned about the parts of the business that work on pitches passing intel gained from this process onto Accenture Interactive who offer competitive services to them, including programmatic buying & that pricing data could then be used against them.

It’s well documented that the big six holding companies no longer compete amongst each other for the largest media accounts as consulting firms have aggressively acquiring & growing their digital advertising capabilities. This dynamic has increasingly seen rumbles of discontent from media agencies over conflicts of interest.

To date these rumbles have not impacted Accenture Interactive’s revenue which grew 30% in 2018 & are forecasted to grow a further 20% this year, but if true this can be seen as a significant escalation. The general consensus from industry commentators, appears to be all alleged stance being taken is reasonable:

If the rumor is accurate the scale of its impact would likely depend on whether Omnicom, Publicis, IPG et al get involved & to date there’s been no indication they would follow suit. If this isn’t a rumor it’ll be super interesting to see the impact this has on the market.

The Infamous Cannes Presentation

The Trade Desk (TTD) has long been a darling of the AdTech world, it’s known to be popular with traders & investors alike, on the latter its share price has doubled year to date, quite remarkable given some of the headwinds in AdTech currently.

But that doesn’t mean it is immune to criticism & it has picked up more than usual recently, its bid shading product has been criticized by some industry commentators & earlier this week it came to light that TTD had suggested participants in their Gold Standard initiative would need to stop syncing IDs with non-enterprise level DSPs:

The presentation given in Cannes outlined behavior & processes that TTD expect from partners who participate in their well-regarded Gold Standard initiative & whilst some of the asks make a lot of sense (more on this below) the one on syncing raised the specter that TTD was/is trying to stifle competition.

As reported in the excellent AdWeek scoop, TTD have said that this is a working document & indeed some have suggested post the articles publication, that the option of using an industry Standard ID instead was floated. Currently it is unclear if that is the case but if so then it might allay concerns that the TTD are trying to force their Unified ID on smaller players in the market.

This mandate appears to have been off the mark but many of the recommendations in the presentation seem incredibly sound. For example TTD have said that they “will move resellers to opt-in in 2019 to force the routing of spend” This would be a welcome nudge for publishers to remove resellers who add questionable value in the supply chain, mandates that sellers adopt sellers.json would further build on this.

Another suggestion in the working document was that sellers should support App-Ads.txt an IAB Tech Lab initiative similar to the successful ads.txt but focussed on apps. This would significantly improve trust in the Mobile & OTT ecosystem & again it’d be tough to call that out as a bad idea, it seems logical for TTD to push this standard given the direction of travel in the market around OTT.

Overall the business seems to be getting behind IAB Tech Lab initiatives which should be welcomed, but clearly they will need to consider the feedback in areas that have been less well received, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how this plays out towards the end of 2019.

Improving Third Party Data Transparency

The IAB Tech Lab recently announced a Data Transparency standard that establishes minimum disclosure requirements for audience data providers & a compliance program that will ensure the highest standards of audience data transparency:

The idea of the data transparency framework is that just like we have nutrition labels for food, we should have the same for data segments, it’ll look something like this:

I’m sure many buyers will welcome this level of transparency & insight into what they are buying, including key features such as whether the segment contains lookalikes & how often it is refreshed.

It’s worth noting that the standards & compliance program are not intended to provide a qualitative assessment of the segment e.g, if it is highly accurate or indeed whether it is performant, but to surface baseline information that buyers can use to make informed decisions about segments they deploy.

That said, this is a really important step for the third party data market that has been hit by concerns about the lack of transparency of how segments are built. Whether this is enough to tempt buyers back to using third party data as widely as they did historically now that GDPR is in full effect & CCPA is on the horizon remains to be seen, regardless my hope is regardless all the major players participate.

Okay that’s the newsletter done for this week, thank you for making it this far!

If you want to get in touch

Twitter here: @SimonJHarris

Or LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/simonjulianharris/

If this was forwarded on to you and you’d like to subscribe you can do so here:

Thanks & have a lovely weekend


Happy Friday 28.06.2019

The Cannes Hangover Edition

Happy Friday,

This week the industry has been enduring the traditional Cannes hangover and consequently the news cycle has been a little less chaotic than usual. That said there is still lots going on, this is AdTech after all...

First off Live Ramp announced they are to buy attribution specialist Data Plus Math for a whopping $150m. We look at why the identity/data on-boarding specialist paid a 25X revenue multiple for the 20 person TV AdTech start up.

Next we turn to Amazon who re-launched their Ad-Funded streaming service as IMDB TV. Amazon spent H1 this year launching new DSP features & are now look like their trying to build out exclusive inventory to point this bidder at, we look at the details of this.

From businesses in the ascendancy to one looking to rebuild it’s empire, ComScore. It’s no secret that this business has had a tough 12 months, but they are looking to turn a corner & hoping that a $20m capital injection will help them rebuild their measurement business.

Finally to ease you into the weekend, some thought leadership from three interviews filmed by the Beet.tv at last weeks Cannes event. The topics on everyone’s lips were the media agency of the future, in-housing, data, privacy & AdTech.


Live Ramp Buys Data Plus Math For $150 Million

Programmatic TV is a hot space right now as the long held mantra of programmatic that what can be automated will be automated plays out in a market worth $200bn. The big news this week was that LiveRamp acquired Data Plus Math, a specialist in measurement & attribution:

Data Plus Math is one of a new wave of TV AdTech businesses, that more established businesses are beginning to look to acquire. They offer measurement products that allow advertisers to better understand their audiences. In 2018 they launched a product called TV Pixel, part of their MediaFX platform which allows brands to connect their TV campaigns to online conversions.

It has been reported that this measurement tool will be added to LiveRamp’s products to allow advertisers to combine various data sets to understand if their campaigns really worked. The business has 20 employees who will all join LiveRamp, the 25X revenue multiple has raised eyebrows across the board, with some questioning the logic.

So did LiveRamp pay over the odds? Impossible to say but given the direction of the market the long term value looks pretty clear & I also believe the acquisition will open up significant opportunities in the short term as well: 2020 will be a big year for TV as spending around the US election is expected to hit $9bn, Data Plus Math looks well placed to help candidates advertising teams understand which audiences their messages are resonating with based on who goes on to make an online donation etc.

To me it looks like 2020 could be to TV AdTech what 2010 was for the first wave of programmatic tech. Many readers will recall that Google bought Invite in this first wave, so will be watching the moves they make in this space very closely.

Amazon Is Bringing Ad Funded Streaming To Europe

Amazon has been developing its DSP at a breakneck pace this year, in the past 6 months the Seattle based giant has released an improved UI, view based conversion reporting, incrementality reporting & most recently innovative new targeting products.

So their DSP is improving rapidly & like Google’s DV360 gives buyers access to great data, but unlike DV360 Amazon currently doesn’t have much in the way of unique video inventory. It looks to me like they plan to rectify this & make their ad funded streaming product their DSPs equivalent of YouTube. To that end they have re-branded, expanded & re-launched the service, dubbing it IMDb TV:

The service is being expanded in the US with thousands of new movies being added & importantly it will launch in Europe by Q4.

European advertisers are excited by the product as it enables them to buy quality content via Amazon’s DSP using the businesses shopper data and measure the outcomes of this effectively.

Another thing of note is that the inclusion of IMDb TV within Prime Video allows advertisers to reach audiences on Prime Video’s otherwise ad-free service, addressing a long held concern of marketers that ad free streaming services like Netflix would close off opportunities to reach users whilst they are leaning back consuming content in their living rooms.

Historically Amazon hasn’t done much to market their streaming service, but given the expansion both in terms of content & markets I’d expect this to change in the near future. But will this help it reach YouTube scale? Unlikely, but I suspect it’ll be popular with consumers & long term will provide advertisers the opportunity leverage really smart targeting to reach audiences in a brand safe quality context, which is exactly what the market needs more of currently. As always, exciting times at Amazon.

Comscore Looks To Re-Build Its Empire

Comscore was once the de-facto platform for digital media planning, but as programmatic disrupted digital ad buying some felt the incumbent didn’t react quickly enough to this change or indeed the threat that new entrants into the the market like IAS & DoubleVerify posed to the status quo.

2019 has been equally tough for the storied/beloved measurement company, In April their Chief Exec left less than 12 months after joining, because of “irreconcilable differences over how to execute the company’s strategy” & their president followed shortly after.

Given this many (myself included) were pleased to see a positive news story for the business this week: ComScore is looking to stage a comeback, announcing they had raised $20m via a private placement deal to rebuild its digital measurement empire:

Interestingly the business did not confirm how they plan to invest this money, but given the direction of the market one imagines cross environment measurement, TV & Audio might be a focus given the direction of the market.

Unfortunately news of the investment wasn’t well received by the markets & this sent Comscore’s stock fell by 18% on the day & it has fallen further since. Its unclear if this was due to the lack of clarity on where the money will be invested, or the nature of the deal itself (details here).

The business has now lost 62% of its market cap YTD so I’d imagine they will be looking to make announcements on how they’ll use this investment soon.

It is worth noting they have the option to more than double the investment from the unnamed institutional investor should they wish to & hopefully they can close the book on a tough H1 and begin to rebuild in H2 & beyond. Everyone loves a comeback so I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing them well, I look forward to seeing this story pan out.

Thought Leaders At Cannes 2019

Last week the great and the good from Agency land & AdTech de-camp to the Côte d'Azur, in order to celebrate the best in creativity & chat about the future of the industry. As always Beet_TV had amazing coverage of what was on the minds of some of the industry’s thought leaders & below are three of the best.

Where else to start but industry sage & S4 Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell. The interview covers everything from how & why the media market is changing, to how businesses will need to adapt in order to be successful:

Next up Erin Matts the former Annalect supremo, who became is the CEO of Hearts & Science in the US this February. She talks about data, privacy, the expectations of a modern media agency & the in housing trend:

Xandr launched at Cannes last year & the last 12 months have been busy for the AT&T owned AdTech business. CMO KirkMcDonald talks through how the business has progressed in the 12 months, it’s fair to say they’ve achieved lots:

If you want to check out more of the Beet.tv’s content from Cannes you can do so here whilst you’re there the channel is well worth subscribing to, the content is consistently great & it’s a really useful resource for keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry.

Thanks for making it this far. If this has been forwarded on to you & you want to get it sent to your inbox direct, you can sign up easily here, by hitting this button:

If you want to get in touch & say hi I’m @SimonJHarris on Twitter or you can find me on LinkedIn here Thanks again for reading.

Happy Friday 21.06.2019

La Croisette Edition

Joyeux Vendredi!

It’s that time of year when the great & good from Agency land & AdTech de-camp to the Côte d'Azur, in order to walk La Croisette & chat about the industry over a glass of rosé. Whilst this years event was again somewhat muted, it has still been a very interesting week, that has been packed full of news.

First up we look at one of the big announcements from Cannes: The Global Alliance For Responsible Media. The alliance is made up of a host of the worlds largest Advertisers, Agencies & AdTech businesses joining together to improve privacy & brand safety online.

We all know that rumors & Cannes go together like rosé & sunshine, the hot rumor at the event this year is that Teads owner Altice is looking to offload the native video specialist it bought only 2 years ago for a 6x multiple, a whopping $1.85 billion to be precise, we look at the details of this potential mega sale.

Next up we cross the pond to the US & look at the latest news in the Sizmek saga, it appears that their contextual targeting business Peer39 is going to be spun off into a separate business. We consider what the long term future of this business might be.

Finally we hop back on a red-eye to the UK to look at the initial findings from the Information Commissioners Office investigation into RTB & the AdTech sector. They found that the creation & sharing of personal data is intrusive, unfair & at times potentially illegal. We round the newsletter off by looking at what will happen next.


The Global Alliance For Responsible Media Launches

Whilst the Extinction Rebellion movement grabbed the headlines at Cannes towards the back end of this week, the opening day announcement of The Global Alliance For Responsible Media made all the early headlines:

Alliance members are pledging to work collaboratively to better protect consumer privacy online & to create a media environment where hate speech, bullying and disinformation is combated. The partners in this global initiative are most of the key players in terms of Advertisers, Agencies &AdTech:

As I mentioned above brand safety is an area of focus & one that key alliance members Google & Facebook have continue to be embattled with despite improvements & employing an army of content moderators. On this area a super interesting mini documentary on the human cost of moderating these platforms was released this week, it illustrates just how challenging meeting the brand safety pledges will be for the alliance members like Facebook & the non trivial human costs involved in doing so:

That the Alliance is so wide ranging & is supported by a broad array of industry bodies including this ANA & IAB should help the fight in this complex area & whilst some have already raised concerns that it is unclear of how success will be measured & how goals will be achieved, my take is this is an important first step in a safer more sustainable ecosystem.

Cannes Rumor: Altice To Sell Of Teads

As the rose at Cannes flows, the rumors tend to get stronger. This year has been no different. It was reported yesterday that the French & Dutch Telco/Media business Altice is looking to offload Teads which it acquired 2 years ago:

Teads have not denied the rumors & it’s believed that a range of businesses both in the US & Europe are interested, bids are expected next month for significant multiples on what the company was acquired for. Altice bought Teads for $300m just over 2 years ago & are said to expecting bids of $1.85bn (yes Billion!) for the business.

Clearly if they were able to achieve a 6x multiple over two years post acquisition, it’d be very good business for Altice, but some have questioned whether it would be a sound acquisition for the purchaser, in a world where there’s increasing pressure for supply path efficiency from exchanges.

Certainly the supply-side is a very competitive space at the moment, but Teads has forged a very successful business in this area over the past 24 months. It’s worth noting Teads doesn’t just operate on the sell side, it has a nascent buyside product called Connect & a popular managed service proposition. Whether this will allow Altice to command the lofty valuation remains to be seen, but it’ll certainly be interesting to watch this story play out over the next couple of months.

The Latest On The Sizmek Sell Off

From a potential AdTech sell off, to one the other side of the pond that is currently playing out publicly. The last couple of weeks have been very busy for Sizmek. As many of you know there have been both last minute bids & rumors of spin-offs. On the spin-off front it appears that Peer39 will be re-launching as a standalone business:

AdTech historians will recall that Sizmek bought Peer39 in 2012 for $15.5m. With 20/20 hindsight it looks like a relatively astute acquisition post GDPR & with CCPA looming. This is no doubt why Oracle paid $325m for Grapeshot in 2018 & it seems almost certain that the long term goal, would be the sale of the business to one of the other marketing clouds. It will be super interesting to watch this play out.

On the news of last minute bids it now looks like Amazon will proceed with the acquisition of Sizmek’s DCO products after an attempt to snatch the assets by Weborama’s owner Ycor was pulled:

It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon use the Sizmek’s DCO capabilities to improve their offsite remarketing, but even more interesting to see what becomes of the remaining assets including their DMP x+1 that was acquired for ~$230m in 2014.

The ICO’s Findings On Privacy In RTB

This weeks newsletter isn’t all sunshine, rumors & rosé, in fact for AdTech another potential privacy storm appears to be drawing in. Yesterday in the UK the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) a regulatory body responsible for data protection, made the initial findings from their investigation into real time bidding (RTB) & the AdTech that underpins it public:

The findings of the report that focussed on RTB will concern many, as the ICO said they believe “the creation & sharing of personal data profiles about people, to the scale we’ve seen, feels disproportionate, intrusive and unfair, particularly when people are often unaware it is happening”

They noted the market was still immature & went on to say that the complex nature of the ecosystem meant there are businesses using programmatic without fully understanding the privacy & ethical issues involved.

The ICO have said that they hope & expect data controllers in the AdTech industry to “re-evaluate their approach to privacy notices the use of personal data, and the lawful bases they apply within the RTB ecosystem” stern words, that many think foreshadow consequences for those who chose not to listen & act.

So what happens next? The ICO have said they need to further explore the data protection implications of RTB & are going to move into a phase of “targeted information-gathering activities”. Here their focus will be on the data supply chain, profiling, privacy controls in place & DPIAs undertaken. This work will commence next month & the findings which will likely be published will be as fascinating as this initial report.

Thanks for making it this far. If you’re one of the two thousand people, that gets forwarded this newsletter and want to get it sent to your inbox direct, you can sign up easily here, by hitting this button:

If you want to get in touch & say hi I’m @SimonJHarris on Twitter or you can find me on LinkedIn here Thanks again for reading.

Happy Friday 14.06.2019

The Future Of Programmatic

Happy Friday!

Last week it appeared that Amazon had sealed the deal for Sizmek’s AdServer, but late Friday Ycor owned Weborama announced it had put in a last minute (& larger) bid for the same assets. Ycor was founded by Maurice Levy (the former Publicis Chairman) & we look at what it & Weborama might be up to.

Secondly there was a tinge of sadness for some this week as we learnt the AppNexus brand is being retired. The demand side product will now have the rather grandiose title of “Xandr Invest”. Some don’t like the name, but I think it is fitting for a business with such lofty aspirations & to go with the flashy new name there’s some neat new product features, so next up we look at these.

From this we turn our attention to not one but two significant developments in the Programmatic TV space. Firstly Hudson MX announced its buying platform had facilitated over $2 billion in local TV advertising buys this year in the US & secondly Google announced a partnership with WideOrbit to bring programmatic linear to DV360, interesting stuff.

If all that wasn’t enough finally take a look at the two major industry reports that were released this week, GroupM’s excellent “This Year Next Year” & Mary Meeker annual Internet Trends Report. There’s lots of detail here so I’ve included a video of the internet trends report keynote to save you all from information overload.


Last Minute Bids For Sizmek’s Ad-Server

Last Friday we covered the news that Amazon had agreed to acquire Sizmek’s Ad-Server & DCO products. Late that very day European Ad-Server Weborama’s parent company Ycor said that it had “decided to top Amazon’s bid”. Here’s what Weborama had to say on the subject:

Whilst the last minute nature of the bid is odd, the benefits for Weborama are clear, it would extend what is a largely a European offering into new markets, that is of course if the acquisition were to be a success.

The business making the last minute bid has tried to pitch this as David vs Goliath battle for the open internet with Alan Levy (son of Maurice) saying that beyond growth, keeping the Sizmek ad server from “disappearing into a walled garden” was an important goal as well. A noble goal, but have they left their bid too long?

It certainly looks this way with AdExchanger reporting that FTI Consulting who are overseeing the sale of Sizmek’s assets asserting that the sale to Amazon was going ahead “We’ve signed an agreement for Amazon to acquire Sizmek’s ad server and DCO assets and are seeking expeditious Court approval for it."

I suspect this is the outcome many in the industry will be hoping for as as a number of industry commentators have said they feel the Seattle based giant is much better placed to make the most of the acquisition & the assets moving forward.

So was this as some have suggested an elaborate ploy by Ycor & Weborama to gain publicity? Or as others have suggested an attempt to boost Weborama’s share price which had fallen 52% YoY? I’m not sure on either front to be frank & the latter does strike me as a somewhat cynical suggestion, but whatever the truth is, it’ll certainly be interesting to watch this play out.

Finally if that wasn’t enough excitement for one story there were rumors yesterday evening that Sizmek’s contextual targeting product Peer39 will be spun off into a separate business run by Mario Diez an AdTech veteran who was formerly at Sizmek. This is something we’ll look at in detail next week.

Farewell App Nexus

This time last year Xandr was so new that they rocked up to Cannes without their own branding finalized. Well what a difference 12 months makes! This week Xandr76 announced it was re-branding AppNexus DSP to "Xandr Invest"

The platform features a streamlined interface & Xandr believe it will re-affirm their commitment to the buyside, which is something that buyers had increasingly questioned over the past three years. Xandr Invest offers improved connectivity to video inventory, which had long been an challenge for the platform & it will also feature Warner Media O&O.

On the relaunch Michael Rubenstein said “We’ve brought a platform to market that doesn’t just meet advertisers where they are now, but sets them up to capitalize on the future of advertising as digital and TV begin to converge”

As mentioned above the platform has a number of new features & additionally it gives buyers access to Xandr Audience Segments which have been built from AT&T’s 170 million direct-to-consumer relationships in the US.

Beyond offering feature parity for video Xandr Invest also features a programmatic guaranteed offering that enables buyers to reserve access to premium supply with no manual tags to traffic or additional invoices to manage which brings it inline with competition such as Google’s DV360.

I’ve consistently said for US buyers that this is shaping up to be an exciting alternative to DV360 & Amazon & now I’m most interested to see how things shape up outside of AT&T’s home market.

So outside of a consistent offering across markets as per Google & Amazon, what is it missing? Well one article noted that it didn’t give buyers access to Warner Media’s linear TV inventory currently. This will change the VP of buyside product at Xandr recently said they had “plans to add it in the future” So the key question now is when? That remains unknown & whilst it’s probably a little soon Xandr is hosting an event at Cannes with Warner Media, a knock out announcement on a Yacht moored just off the Côte d'Azur would be fitting given the significant developments in programmatic TV we’ve already seen this week…

Programmatic TV Is Going Mainstream

For the past 18 months the Programmatic TV market has been like the mobile market was half a decade ago, huge potential, that was not fully realized. This is changing though, this week we saw two big announcements the first was that Hudson MX publicly stated that its platform had facilitated over $2 billion in local TV advertising buys this year alone.

The platform which many buyers outside of the US will not be familiar with, is called BuyerAssist. Beyond the epic scale of investment Hudson MX said the platform now has over 700 buyers & is used by all 15 of the largest ad agencies in the U.S. Check out the the link in the Tweet below for a tonne of interesting detail on the business including a new integration with WideOrbit:

As you can see from the cheeky Tweet above, Hudson now counts Rubicon veteran Jay Stevens as their President & without doubt this is a company is a company to watch.

From a business in its ascendancy, to one at the very top, Google. The second big announcement this week in the programmatic TV space was that the Mountain View based giant are partnering with WideOrbit to bring linear TV buying to DV360. As is often the case JamesHercher from AdExchanger had the scoop:

I found it interesting that Google are working with 3rd party exchanges in this space & that their own SSP (Google Ad Manager) isn't currently part of the push. This I suspect is due to concerns publisher side about Google’s dominance, but I wonder how long they will stay out of the action on the sell side, especially given that some major players like Disney have just signed multi-year deals with them.

The Digital Market In 2019 & Beyond

For those of you obsessed with where the market is heading, the past seven days have been heavenly, jam packed with trend reports. Earlier this week Mary Meeker gave her annual Internet Trends report at Recode Media’s Code Conference & yesterday GroupM released their always excellent “This Year Next Year”.

If you’ve not seen the GroupM report yet, I recommend you do so, it’s full of insight, you can access it directly here The report shows growth in 2019 across Western Europe & North America, but it is worth noting these key markets are growing at a declining rate vs 2018:

By medium, it should be unsurprising to all reading this newsletter that internet related advertising now accounts for the largest share of advertising activity tracked by GroupM, capturing 50% of the world’s total spends in 2020, up from just 25% in 2014. Equally obvious but still of note is that digital continues to have the largest share of advertising spend in both the US at ~52% & in the UK at ~62%.

GroupM found that one driver of this growth was shifting spends amongst traditional advertisers, but another reason which is often less well explored is the emergence of internet-endemic app developers as advertisers, several of whom spend more than $1bn annually on advertising, who spend predominantly on digital advertising. One can only see this trend accelerating as time marches on.

Other channels most notably print but also television are still in decline, but Brian Wieser of GroupM noted “Connected TV and other “advanced” forms of the medium are helping to improve sentiment among advertisers toward television”

So that’s the advertising stats covered, but if you’re hungry for more & are looking for an overview of the general state of play, in what is now unquestionably the most important media channel, look no further than Mary Meeker’s Annual internet trends report:

Lots in there & if you’re looking for the slides that accompany the presentation you can find them here.

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If you want to get in touch & say hi I’m @SimonJHarris on Twitter or you can find me on LinkedIn here Thanks again for reading.

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