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Interview: Automation, responsive solutions and the need for control

In a short space of time, digital publishing has changed considerably. The last two years alone have seen programmatic become an increasingly influential technology in the media space and in 2016, it is expected to account for half of the UK display market. As a result, publishers are reassessing their business models and reconfiguring the way they maintain the relationship between their content, user base, and advertising partners.


Those who have embraced the technology — and the ability it offers to use real-time data as a tool for creating powerful new business strategies — are at a distinct competitive advantage. That said, while change brings many opportunities, it also bring challenges.


Ultimately, publisher success will depend on overcoming these challenges by expanding upon traditional skillsets and taking a more cohesive approach that connects editorial and commercial teams. This makes events such as the AOP Digital Publishing Awards essential, not only to recognise industry excellence, but to showcase new methods of adapting to the automated era — setting an achievable benchmark other publishers can follow.


We talk to Bill Swanson, VP EMEA of Pubmatic (the leading marketing automation software for publishers) about the next few years in online and digital publishing.


Interview: Automation, responsive solutions and the need for control

Original source: WNIP


WNIP: What challenges do you think online publishers will face over the next five years – and how should publishers prepare for these?


Bill Swanson: One of the biggest concerns is control — control of brand safety, control of creative, control of pricing, control of data, and control of reporting. While I don’t think we’re in a position where we can confidently say that everyone involved in the industry is completely satisfied with these areas, I am confident great progress has been made in addressing these challenges and I expect to see the concerns around them lessen.


However, the removal of one challenge simply leaves room for another to take its place, especially in an industry as fast moving as ours. The next challenge I foresee also stems back to control. This time though, it’s control around ‘ad decisioning’ — determining who is actually making the decisions in this core area of a publisher’s strategy.


A consequence of that concern is the almost ‘three-legged stool’ type conversations we’re seeing in the market, where there is growing appetite for knowledge around the adoption of wrapper and header solutions, how best to secure upfront budgets through programmatic direct (PMP/PMPG/AG) buying, and the evolving role of the ad server.


If you take just the third leg of this stool, it’s almost impossible to believe that ad serving hasn’t really changed much over the last 20 years — what was needed from ad serving technology in the past, i.e. serving the ad in the right place and at the right time, has evolved to become much more of a requirement focused on revenue optimisation.


Therefore, I think it’s the taking back of control of revenue optimisation in its entirety that is going to be the next big challenge for publishers.


WNIP: At a time when online publishers face many challenges to revenue – whether we are talking about the so-called Adblockalypse or a potentially diminishing trust in the effectiveness of online advertising — how is the industry providing responsive solutions?


Bill Swanson: Challenges can be viewed in one of two ways — they can be seen as the end of something or the beginning of something. The feedback we are receiving from the consumer is that they’re not happy with the digital experience, leading to the rise of ad blocking. We feel this should be viewed not as a negative, but as an opportunity to innovate and create a better experience for the consumer.

The industry has a track record of doing just that. Take for example, the evolution of the digital ad banner — when it started to flash and annoy consumers it was developed, then when it began to take over the page it was changed again, and more recently its tendency to pop up all over the page and irritate consumers has been modified. You can see the pattern here. Each time consumers told us they weren’t enjoying their experience, the industry evolved to improve it, innovating to find solutions that benefit everyone.


At this year’s AOP Awards, I am looking forward to seeing the new ways in which publishers are putting the consumer’s experience at the heart of their strategy to drive the levels of engagement their great content deserves. I also believe we will see a greater emphasis on advertising being considered content and therefore, a movement towards aligning advertising messages with their context and consumer expectations.


WNIP: What do you think are the key factors that make partnerships between publishers, clients, agencies, and tech providers more successful – whether in the development of native campaigns, commercial partnerships or great tech solutions?


Bill Swanson: Unquestionably, the most important factor is whether both parties view the relationship as a partnership rather than simply an arrangement between client and supplier. The other vital factors for digital advertising partnerships are no different than those required for any other sector; aligning goals, being able to give and receive feedback, developing an environment of mutual support, total transparency, and, crucially, trust.


As the industry continues to transform at a rapid pace, it has never been more essential for publishers to strive to meet the evolving needs of consumers. It is also important to recognise the players responding to the developing digital world with progressive solutions that boost the consumer experience, provide better content, and deliver more effective advertising opportunities. Leaders not yet in the running for this year’s AOP Awards enter online before submissions close on Thursday 21st April 2016.

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