ATS London took place on 14th of September in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Our Paid Media consultants Jaakko Puuronen and Anna-Liina Harrivaara attended the event arranged by ExchangeWire.

The whole day was full of interesting topics around programmatic buying and ad tech subjects. Almost every subject was considered from different angles of the digital playground: agencies, publishers, ad techs and advertisers. During the day, a lot of fears but also possibilities came up in the ad tech area. Here are the main takeaways from ATS London this year.

What is needed from the platform?

The debate was about SaaS (software as a service) and if the word “platform” is misused these days. Generally platform means the base which you can build everything on and collect all the data you have in the same place.

So, what is needed from a good platform? A good platform should be agile enough to develop with new innovations but strong and advanced enough to collect all the data from any kind of channel. The main requirement was that the platform has to be open, even if the new innovation may conflict with its own innovation. Because a good platform should be flexible, there was a lot of discussion if giant companies like Google and Facebook are able to keep up and be open to new innovations, which are coming from outside their own companies in the future. Five years ago start-up companies did benefit from being able to be agile. Nowadays in the US markets 70% of all ad spend is going to the biggest companies in the digital field: Google and Facebook. One of the ad tech fears was the digital duopoly and how to avoid it. Everyone are looking forward to see if that is the trend and where we are going in the next five years or are there new players coming out to play? Or the possibility of an open trade between different platforms.

Rising programmatic

At most of the speeches during the day the growth of programmatic buying was a clear agenda. One affecter for growth was the recession in the US markets in 2009 when all other media spending except  search decreased. Because of highly measurable results and return on investments, search managed to justify its existence and effectiveness. The same applies to programmatic buying these days, it’s more quick and easy to optimize as well as transparent.

In the US market, already 52% of all display marketing was bought via programmatic in 2014 and the growth keeps continuing. Programmatic buying is also developing in an interesting way: when previously offline media was used to drive online sales, online media with programmatic buying is now used to drive offline sales. In Finland, programmatic was only 7% of all display in 2014. However, programmatic is growing very fast in Finland as well: the freshest study from H1/2015 shows that programmatic has doubled during the first half of this year and its share is already 14%. Growth and different possibilities of programmatic are definitely one of the most interesting takeaways from the Ad Tech Summit and in Finland we can benefit from findings in larger markets and make use of them here.

Ad blocking – a wake up call. Threat or possibility?

An entire panel was arranged around this topic and rightfully so, as ad blocking is one of the fundamental threats that the industry is facing. People have found ways to block ads via third party ad blockers for a long time but as we go along, big players are going to make it easier to leave advertisements out of the picture; as for example Apple provides ways to block ads in iPhone.

This dilemma has deeper effects on the industry as publishers are posed with a major threat within ad blocking as content in the sites in many cases are presented free in exchange of ad serving, which is understandable as content usually requires investments. In the future this develops to be an even bigger issue as todays trend is rising in terms of ad block active users. With this in mind there are already movements to block the ad blockers other than whitelisting, which in many cases are held as “blackmail” based by the panel.

This problem has opinions for and against (not only among the panelists) the questions but there are solutions as well. One of the panelists, Ben Barokas from Sourcepoint approaches the dilemma from a dialogue point of view between visitor and publisher. In this example the visitor/adblockerer is able to choose between multiple options how to act with possible ads via persuasion that they once have been blocked.

It’s still open which of the parties will lead in the future but in conclusion the situation challenges advertisers to provide more targeted content and quality on advertisement.

Fraudulent traffic – Bots among us

There are lots of threats that are facing the digital marketing ecosystem and fraud traffic is (still) one of them. Fake web traffic was inevitable in the beginning, due to the miscellaneous field of ad tech but luckily the possibilities and tools to tackle the issue is developing beside the fraudulent side within platforms.

The presentation regarding this was presented by Appnexus that have developed a model to their network that’ll make cleanup efforts against the possible bots that have been discovered by IQ, supply hygiene initiative. The numbers through the effort were fairly heavy to say the least: Impressions volume dropped 65%, view-trough-rate increased by 75%, CPM levels increased 175% and most importantly post click conversions improved by 130%.

Even if this wasn’t the first effort in terms of cleanups within platforms/networks, this is the direction that needs to be taken based on the summit. This type of cleanup reflects to the transparency and inventory accountability that will increase the confidence towards advertisers.

Based on the summit, there is lots to be excited about but also things that are good to keep in mind within digital marketing. Even if the ecosystem faces lots of threats, there are impressive amount of possibilities that will guide the trends as we go along.

Anna-Liina Harrivaara & Jaakko Puuronen

Posted by Jaakko Puuronen

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