Commentary

Heineken USA's Ron Amram Says 'Walled Gardens' Will Open Up

RTBlog spent some time chatting with Ron Amram, senior media director, Heineken USA, about how the programmatic media landscape is shaping up for 2016. Amram said Heineken has passed “Programmatic 101” and is ready to move to the next level. To date, the brand hasn’t used header bidding. Here are Amram’s thoughts:

1. Viewability is a given.  “Digital effectiveness hasn’t lived up to its expectations in terms of the ROI that TV offers. One of the main reasons is the lack of viewability in digital advertising and clutter. There are issues with browsers and what counts as a viewable ad from the perspective of effectiveness and impressions.

"In 2016, I think we’ll start to have one common language on what’s a viewable ad and what’s not -- so going forward, we’re all talking about viewable impressions. We’ll have an understanding of what makes an ad campaign work or not. In 2016, advertisers will only accept viewable impressions.”

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2. Walled gardens will open up. “I think a lot of advertisers rush to work with the big platforms to learn quickly, and there are benefits to leveraging the scale of a Facebook, Google or Yahoo, etc.

“However, large platforms don’t allow any pixeling or tracking from other vendors into their walled gardens. As marketers increasingly look to understand how their communications plans can become more efficient and effective using the vendors we select and getting the right KPIs in place, we need to have a holistic communications plan where we’re optimizing for what’s working. That’s only going to happen when we shift away from the walled gardens. We have to get the big platforms to understand our need to get the tracking and still leverage the strength, scale and content they provide.

“Nielsen acted as a third party that sat between advertisers and networks. The reality is that in the digital space, marketers can’t access third-party data.

"We are making progress, though: In the first quarter of 2016, Moat and Integral Ad Science will have tracking and tagging on Facebook and Google. The new year will start with a focus on viewability and expand into pixel tagging and different KPIs that we need to track, such as closed loop measurement, a better understanding of non-viewable traffic or fraud, and holistic reach optimization for all media.

“The platforms that lower their walled gardens will reap major benefits from advertisers, similar to TV. Advertisers can optimize reach across their entire ad buys when the walls come down. This will support true audience optimization -- and publishers who play ball, will get the lion's share of investment.”

3. Ad-blocking will become less of an issue. “Why do I think that? Advertisers need to improve their content; we have to create better experiences, and publishers need to offer less cluttered environments. There needs to be a quid pro quo where readers understand that free content is subsidized by advertising. We need to respect consumers’ desire to have a positive experience....

“Ad-blocking hasn’t affected our media inventory or our buys. We’ve been fortunate to have great content for the last four or five years. Internally, we have a very high bar with our advertising and content. If it’s not engaging and entertaining, it doesn’t fly. The goal is to have a very high bar in terms of what we will allow and won’t allow.”

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