News&Events News&Events | September 22, 2015

Takeaways from ATS 2015: Digital Duopoly, Future of Agencies, the Great Ad Blocking debate & more…..

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Director of Agency Sales @ Media iQ, John Danby shares what caught his attention at ATS London 2015…

This year’s ATS was definitely one of, if not the very best.

The day started with Terry Kawaja, who is a well-known digital investment banker, most famously known for designing the Lumascape chart that we all know and cherish… I found his observations around the Digital Duopoly and Future of Agencies particularly interesting.

Walled vs Open was talked of throughout the day at ATS, particularly because as an industry, we are finding ourselves in the likely situation of certain big, US  dominated players closing off their access to any form of third party, unified (cookie based) tracking.

Essentially if you want to work with Google & Facebook (with others looking at  this too) in the coming months it is very likely that you have to accept these terms and be forced to use multiple ID solutions, combined with unworkable retention equations to work out if they are delivering the ROI they say they are.

This is going to cause huge duplication issues with it becoming impossible to dedupe performance based campaigns holistically as you can right now with any simple ad server.

Facebook have adapted Atlas to help you dedupe these spends, using their tech, however when deduping it will never be as reliable as universal cookie tracking and it still cannot work if there is not a unified tracking function in place across all suppliers on a plan. Which is why, I would assume, that take up of it as a server has not been too strong to date. As you can tell, I am still very much a fan of cookie based tracking due to its simplicity and universality.

Agencies are therefore looking for differing, innovative offerings outside Facebook and Google (especially Google in some cases), with some spends already being reduced, certainly across display areas and agencies transferring their adserving from DFP to the likes of Sizmek and Flashtalking. This says to me that the agencies are keen on working in an open environment as we do so today, so this can only be a good thing for smaller players that have great solutions and products, wherever that may be.

There is also real desire from holding groups to become defined as technology and/or data businesses with this leading the media function and we have seen a number of leaders in this field being invested in or acquired such as WPP’s 25% investment in the DSP business, Appnexus and Publicis’s outright purchase of programmatic platform RUN. To add another layer of confusion to the sector, you now have tech/auditing businesses such as Deloitte entering the fray, without seemingly the pressures of the traditional agency model who are already seeing spends of $1.5M+ alone. That’s an awful lot of money being removed from the traditional top 6  groups and this is just one company we are talking about here.

What is an agency and what does is look like at the end of this decade?

Terry Kawaja believes the days of Mad Men are due to return (minus the 10am Old Fashioned, sadly…) in that there is likely to huge M&A numbers within the sector, reducing the fragmentation and allowing agencies to do what they do best, which is design, build, plan and buy fantastic creative, delivered in the right environments. Who they buy this media from is still very much up for debate. TV is becoming more fragmented day by day with the larger companies beginning to lose significant share to the likes of Netflix and Amazon, with Apple TV surely to increase its share, however they don’t have the best reputation within the ad sector (or maps). Display/Mobile is more complex than ever before and Agency Trade Desks are understandably taking more and more budget due to continued investment in technology, infrastructure and people. However, I certainly believe there will always be a place on any schedule for a company that delivers genuine, incremental value for an agency, client and their campaign(s).

Finally, Ad Blocking was a very heated debated and certainly the one which was both eagerly anticipated and attended – and it certainly delivered!

We had a few publishers on the panel, which was hosted by Business Insider and had The Telegraph, Ben Barokas (wearing flip flops) famous for selling AdMeld to Google for $400M and currently building an ‘Ad Blocker Blocker’ as well as a lawyer, Dan Smith, from Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co alongside Roi from Shine Technology. Shine are the largest Ad Blocking business in the world with 200,000,000 devices actively using their technology. There was a clear divide – the entire room and ROI!

I happen to agree with the publishers perspective of regarding ad blocking as theft of content. In my opinion, as an individual you have every right to not use a site if the experience is dreadful but not to block what pays the bills (clue : ads) – if no one is paying the bills, there won’t be any content left to deliver. It was interesting to note that Shine technologies regard tracking users and blocking ads as something as strong as personal abuse, which understandably caused a huge gasp across the seminar but he went further by saying that if a user does not wish to be tracked they should also not see adverts. ‘A No means No.’ which is pretty much where the panel ended, I’m not entirely sure if he attended the networking drinks.

This debate will be going on for a long time with strengths and weaknesses focused on all sides being capitalised on so, watch this space, this one is definitely here to stay but what impact it has for publishers and advertisers alike is still unknown.

There were  some further talks about DMPs amongst others during the day, however these were my key takeaways for the day.

Like I said, a very good summit and something I’d recommend anyone looking to cut their teeth in digital media should attend.

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