It’s a parallel to my past year as an American expat in London. I led the programmatic and ad ops teams for the world’s most-visited English language news site, while leveraging the strengths of two digital continents going through a tectonic shift.
Returning to the global ad center of New York, I bring knowledge from my continental adventure and EU counterparts on surviving and capitalizing on the expanding new media opportunity.
1. Focus, and don’t get out of your depth. Underwater survival is simple: focus on the fundamentals of breathing, pressure and equipment, and live. Get distracted by complexities like near-freezing water or dry suit compression, and risk injury or death.
Survival in digital is thankfully less cut-and-dry.
But a risk exists for publishers that are staffing up to enhance site architecture and user experience while keeping ad tech stack teams lean. High-visibility front-end initiatives often take priority in the dev queue over back-end stack updates. Just when the tech across ad platforms, products, data and partner integrations are getting more complex.
One “leak” in the ad stack left unchecked can turn into many, resulting in impression loss, poor user experience or structural failure. Ad operational efficiency is the difference between margin erosion or revenue gain.
In the UK, 50% of total ad spend in 2015 was in digital versus 31.3% in the US, per eMarketer. When US pubs debate using ad tech innovations like header bidding, their UK counterparts may already be actively leveraging them. It’s less about tech know-how; more the opportunity cost of lean resourcing and slower implementation. By supplementing yield staff with new media technologists and engineers dedicated to fine-tuning pipe performance in real-time, the upside at scale can be exponential.
2. Collaboration gets the job done faster. Whether suiting up for a dive in restrictive dry suit rubber and 50-pound-gear, or troubleshooting a publisher stack issue impacting global revenue, team collaboration gets a complex task done faster.
In the UK, collaboration over individual achievement is central to business dealings. Try giving one team member an idea to research; five may brainstorm a solution. Appointing only one or two experts to manage emerging business, as we often do in the US, may not realistically address the increasingly real-time, always-on demands of new media.
Encouraging our resident experts to engage in cross-team collaboration can help yield rapid-fire, intelligent solutions to complex issues. In programmatic and audience targeting, which can touch multiple revenue lines, an added benefit is getting more staff vested in more sides of a rapidly changing business. Are you incenting performance individually, across teams or a combination? Encouraging cross-team engagement can create upside in multiple areas of your business.
3. Transparency makes for a better user journey. Transparency can provide unique insight to divers and digital buyers alike. Divers seek crystal-clear conditions for a more compelling view of the landscape. Similarly, digital buyers targeting unique audiences across the vast ocean of programmatic inventory will search out environments curated by publishers or technology companies to offer transparency around content pages and behavioral data. From them, buyers can derive more compelling customer insights.
Buying target audiences publisher-direct is an obvious route to transparency, but then scale can be tough to find. The “super-size” walled gardens offer marketers mass scale, but often less granular insight. To close the gap for buyers, more US publishers should explore alliances with complementary partners.
Through them, they can curate and control product mix and contextually relevant inventory at scale, while offering the transparency, data and impression-level insight marketers want across the digital user journey.
The EU is well versed in alliances to scale across smaller markets. Now select global publishers are dipping their toes in the water with the Pangaea, AOP and LENA Alliances, all largely UK/EU driven. US publishers outside of local media have been slow to embrace alliances, due to concerns of competitive differentiation, data protection and sales channel conflict.
But since they’re already testing ad sales in third-party walled gardens, why not also explore an alliance in the open ecosystem leveraging partners innovating in tech? Timing couldn’t be better with the launch of initiatives like the IBM Universal Data Exchange and Consortium for Cross-Device Measurement, both promoting data portability. Publisher alliances of the future could look less like inventory pools and more like a network of common protocols between publishers and platforms.
Where to from here? Whether embarking on a new outdoor adventure or digital undertaking, publishers can research what to expect or study others; but you won’t know the impacts until fully submerged in it. The point is to invest in new media resources dedicated to digital stack optimization to more nimbly navigate through unfamiliar conditions.
Knowing USdigital ad spend is pacing to eclipse TV by 2018, per eMarketer,a are publishers ready to capitalize at scale on the automated buy? Is programmatic TV on your road map? And are you aligned with EU counterparts in a global offering? It’s a good time to revisit practices to promote more fluid processes, innovation and collaboration to prepare for the coming market shift.