Q&A: VivaKi UK Product Director Danny Hopwood

Following on from our European Trading Desk Panel at AdWeek last month, we caught up with VivaKi‘s UK Product Director Danny Hopwood to talk private marketplaces, publisher 1st party data and what’s next for automated trading:

Can you give me an overview of VivaKi’s involvement in real-time bidding so far?

Audience on Demand (AOD) is VivaKi’s market-leading addressable media buying practice: we were one of the first entrants in the RTB marketplace, launching AOD in 2008 as we began to see the technology arrive in market. From the start, we could see its potential for increasing accuracy and efficiency in trafficking and building campaigns. In fact, we saw it as the next stage in the evolution of digital – and even then we could see a future where RTB was at the heart of digital advertising.

We are now one of the leading agency trading desks with offices around the world and in the UK we cover mobile and video as well as display. During 2012, we reached a point where we felt we had conquered what’s available on open exchanges, hence the move towards private marketplaces. During 2013 we will look at even more bespoke inventory –more innovative private marketplaces that give us media firsts, more rich media & expandables and a lot more on mobile.

To what extent is the private marketplace phenomenon a response to the requirements of the demand side?

It is to quite a great extent, for two main reasons within AOD:

  • Through monitoring what we were buying on open exchanges, we saw that we were investing a lot on particular publishers – in these cases private marketplaces allow us to better position ourselves within internal ad calls, as well as develop more valuable relationships with these publishers. To some extent it’s been a process of realising who the most valuable publishers are and formalising those relationships.
  • Our clients know very well which publishers work for them – through their prior relationships, and agencies on the brand side spending with them – both encouraging publishers to enter into private marketplaces.

Are private marketplaces really closing the gap between premium direct and automated trading?

They are definitely closing the gap, though at the same time we’re not trying to remove people from their jobs, so I should stress private marketplaces are not about taking massive creative executions or massive homepage takeovers into automated channels. We focus on activating multi-site campaigns, to leave direct more time to focus on the strategy of their buying and creative insight for the client.

This is happening very clearly in certain areas: usually those areas where you don’t need agencies devoting so much time to processes that can be speeded up. Bear in mind though it’s not just the demand side wanting to push into this space – some of the top publishers want to push premium into RTB too – the gains around efficiency are the same for both sides.

With the growth of automation, how do you think publisher sales teams need to evolve, and what will the future shape of the sales organisation look like?

Ultimately we see publishers solidifying their entire sales teams behind automated trading.

There are already plenty of good examples of direct sales teams collaborating with their ad operations or RTB counterparts, and I think we will see this more and more as they realise the potential of joining forces, of packaging private marketplace opportunities with direct.

It’s great when we see this kind of collaboration performing well – for instance a publisher is working with one of our partner agencies on homepage takeovers or rich media and in the process CC the AOD team to recommend some additional media spend via the trading desk on a brand basis: we expect to see more of this kind of collaboration in future.

In terms of the future shape of the sales organisation, it might just all become the same entity in future – a single trading team  able to offer direct packages for certain campaigns, and automated campaigns for others.

What are your views on publishers’ first party data and its place in your approach to private marketplaces?

First party data is incredibly important and valuable – publishers need to recognise this of course, but also to be more intelligent in how they cut and slice it for trading desks to buy it. Also, until publishers merge all of their data, more often than not it’s too disparate to be useful – often they need to bring it into a DMP or similar solution. We also see cases where the publisher has the data, but doesn’t know what to do with it – just saying you have first party data is not enough.

We’ve seen eBay do great things in this area, offering advertisers some incredible granularity: a segment targeted to a specific client, or users bidding on a single product. Similarly, if the Guardian could offer an audience that is about to read an article that covers a client’s product release, we would love to have a private marketplace based on that.

First party data is really all about finding how each publisher can work best for you as a buyer. They all have it, it’s just about working out when it’s pertinent for your advertisers.

How do you see this market developing in future?

The growth of private marketplaces will continue until publishers see it reach levels they’re happy with, to become another product their sales teams can offer.

We want to be working with publishers who are building a real private marketplace strategy, so that it becomes a valid revenue stream, and not those without a genuine focus on it, who don’t dedicate internal resources to it.

As for automated trading in more general terms – It’s now common to have RTB on every media plan – a good sign the market is maturing. Private marketplaces will be valid, but there’ll be other ways to approach it too. While I believe we’ll see more standardisation in deal id, exchanges are becoming more sophisticated and allowing it as functions of their technology. If private marketplaces are the way we need to bring publishers into RTB, so be it… it’s the way it happened with search – baby steps until everyone is on same page.

Pick out two publishers at random and you can still find two businesses at totally different stages of evolution – one that gets it completely, and another that is still finding its feet in the ecosystem.