This edition of Real-Time Banter features a conversation about mobile programmatic advertising with Marco Bertozzi, CEO of Global Performance Marketing for Starcom Mediavest Group, previously President, Global Clients at VivaKi. Marco was interviewed by Jennifer Lum, Chief Strategy Officer for Adelphic. [Note: This interview was conducted prior to Marco’s promotion.]
Jennifer: What is VivaKi?
Marco: The way we look at VivaKi’s role in the group is we’re really there to help our agency brands scale in the areas of paid media, ad tech and data sophistication infrastructure, with the view to accelerating adoption by taking areas of innovation and building on and expanding them across the groupe. Our aim is to be an engine for all the work that goes on around ad tech and programmatic. Agencies have so much on their plate in terms of focusing on strategy, planning and client services as well as their own product development. So, within the programmatic data and technology space, we’re there to really help do certain roles and just do them once, with the view to then letting any of the agencies tap into it.
What was your role at VivaKi?
As president of global clients, I worked with the structures that Publicis Groupe agencies, including Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia, have around their global clients. They both have teams of people that are focused on making sure they’re really delivering for their biggest clients. Of particular interest to me were the global ones, and really working on programmatic strategy with those guys. I had the luxury of really being able to focus on this one particular area and work with them on pushing things forward and designing for the future, particularly the programmatic future that we are in.
You’ve touched on this a little bit, but how does VivaKi work with media agencies such as SMG, ZenithOptimedia and Digitas?
Last year we decentralized our trading desk so that the planning and buying function now sits within the agencies. Prior to doing that, you could describe VivaKi as a product and service business very much focused on the programmatic space, and data and technology more broadly. Post-decentralisation, that service element has moved back into the agencies and sits very much closer to clients. We now operate as a hub and spoke model, working closely with the agencies to build out solutions for clients that can be accessed across the groupe.
Within VivaKi we have two divisions— VivaKi Exchange (VX) and VivaKi Operating System (VOS). The VX encompasses all of the group trading functions, i.e., the aggregation of spend that we work with media partners on and enables partners to engage with one, unified voice while providing the agencies the framework to partner individually where necessary.
The VOS has a number of functions that help gather and accelerate the agencies in the programmatic space. We aggregate all the data from all of our programmatic activities. In addition, we continue to build on and expand VivaKi Verified, which is our verification process across media, technology and data, and building tools off that. The way I look at it is we’re trying to solve for some of the big topics in programmatic. So, if you think about the debates on fraud and viewability and so on, we’ve taken a stance with a proprietary tool called Quality Index where we’ve built a platform that allows us to aggregate data from multiple verification companies, append it to all the URLs that we have in our warehouse and create a planning tool based on whatever KPIs the agency is looking for around viewability, fraud and so on. That then allows the agency to upload URL lists into the DSPs to act upon.
You have one choice where you can just do a deal and run with it, but our view is that you have to look at some of these big topics and go deeper and create a little bit more sophistication for the agencies to be able to play with. That’s now our VOS platform which the agencies can log into and get help with their planning of programmatic campaigns. We also manage and centralize the ad tech partnerships, so again, we’re always working on behalf of the agencies but it’s just a way of having a single relationship in regard to contracts and product roadmaps and making sure we’re giving good feedback to all of our tech and media partners. It’s what I would describe as infrastructure and management which we do just once in the centre and everyone plugs into. It creates efficiencies and powers a better programmatic offering for Publicis Groupe.
VivaKi’s structure does streamline activity and creates a center of excellence for the media agencies. We’ve found it much easier to work with the Publicis agencies by being able to understand that there is that one point of contact at VivaKi for us to work with on product-related initiatives and then from there, with their help and in partnership, branch out into the media agencies. I think it’s a structure that works quite well.
It’s a good combination. Obviously we wanted people to be able to talk and the point of the changes we made is to enable conversation directly with the agencies, but then as a part of it, VivaKi helps to streamline things that you don’t want to be going to an agency for. So I think it’s a good combination and approach.
“I think 2015 was a more positive year….advertiser conversations were a lot more productive and positive, and many companies are now starting to appoint people to lead these practices….with that continues incredible growth for the whole industry.” – Marco Bertozzi, VivaKi
In your opinion, what is the state of audience-based buying today?
If you look at it from an overall industry perspective, I think 2015 was a more positive year tonality-wise, in terms of what people were saying and what the headlines were. 2014 was a bit of a lost year to headlines around transparency and the like, which is a shame in a way because to some extent it was a distraction. Where advertisers could have been having pretty straightforward conversations, there was this feeling that all the questions were about that topic and less about strategically what you can do within programmatic.
In contrast, 2015 felt a bit calmer. Advertiser conversations were a lot more productive and positive and many companies are now starting to appoint people to lead these practices, and that gives them a chance to scope out the marketplace and ask all the right questions and understand what was true and what was false in all the rhetoric. So in that respect, that’s really positive and with that continues incredible growth for the whole industry.
I think we’re starting to get to the point of mass adoption, which means there’s still a lot of relatively straightforward programmatic buying such as using a bit of third-party data, doing a bit of retargeting and so on. Again, we are seeing a selection of clients that are now starting to branch out to see how an enterprise DMP can help them, or even just how an audience DMP can help them become more sophisticated about what they’re doing. And that’s always exciting because once you go down that road, advertisers tend to get really involved and I think that’s always a good place to be when you’re working side-by-side with them.
So I feel really good about the industry and I think it’s only going to get better and I think that the sophistication level will come as advertisers invest more and more in the space. And from our own group perspective, we hope now that with the integration of so many experts into businesses plus the experts they already have, we will see the agency landscape evolve into a much more data-driven, programmatic one as well.
As you have been working with global brands and global clients across the agencies, how are you seeing them factor programmatic into their new processes?
I think, at the moment, a lot of people are trying to work out if they’ve got that sort of readiness in their major markets. They’re trying to understand the basics first in terms of what we are doing at the moment, what platforms we’re using and what we are doing with data. It started there and that’s still probably the primary thing that they’re taking their time with but then at the same time, advertisers are expecting their agencies to come back with ideas that are very much data-driven first rather than some of the previous methods using more survey-based planning. So the advertiser expectation is that data and real-time buying should feature in a lot more of their activities, which is a good place to start. And then of course with the clients and the agencies—there is a big and never-ending education and training job to be done. I think both advertisers and agencies are looking to find ways to really build the skillset into the wider group. Both SMG and ZenithOptimedia have great training programs which they have developed in collaboration with VivaKi. All of this adds up and overtime will ensure that the use of data for planning and buying is part and parcel of what everyone does.
What’s working well in mobile programmatic?
I think this question and some of the other questions about challenges are linked. The mobile side of things has always been on paper something that makes sense and everyone completely acknowledges that there’s a big shift of usage onto mobile, so the question has been around how do we take advantage of that? We all know it is happening and we all know people spend on their phones and tablets, but how do we make the most of it? As more companies have dedicated themselves to answering the big challenges—which still exist around cross-device, cross-channel and all of the other things that people continue to have a problem with—I think some of those are being answered slowly and as they are, that allows us to start talking more confidently about what advertisers can do with mobile and the geo-location nature of it, where and how it fits into our lives as we go through the day. These are all the things that advertisers want to make use of. We still need the right technology to give them the confidence that what we’re telling them is true and it’s doing what they want. Most companies are working on that, so there’s no doubt that we’ll definitely be able to make the most of what’s being offered in a pretty short period of time.
You just mentioned some challenges, but are there any other notable challenges with respect to programmatic?
I’d really like to see some robust work around brand building. I’m sure that pockets of it exist. I think there is a slight confidence gap with advertisers that mobile advertising generally can contribute to branding. One could argue that as a whole there are still some question marks over it, but I think for mobile in particular, we can set some really clear KPIs that help advertisers feel confident in investing bigger sums. They’re all comfortable investing in mobile; it’s just how you get them to sign off on the big ticket campaigns on an ongoing basis.
We still have the industry display issue generally, and we still have the tracking issues that are being solved but don’t go away in the minds of advertisers because they’re incredibly complex in that they’ll speak to one company that says this is all solved, and then they’ll reload the headlines or go to a conference that says it’s not actually being solved. That kind of stuff does make it a bit unnerving for them. But there have been such big strides in terms of companies solving for these issues and I think we will see for the first time a real shift away from cookies. I think that’s where, if mobile can be the driver of that with device IDs and so on, then that puts them in a strong position for a future cookie-less world.
“I think everyone knows that the mobile element probably plays a part in almost everything.” – Mario Bertozzi, VivaKi
That’s right, and enabling the development of more holistic, behavioral profiles capturing mobile behavior plus behavior on other connected devices. I think that’s a huge opportunity. To your other points, the two are really tied. If the industry overall is able to push forward with developments and progress in measurability and attribution that should naturally raise the level of confidence for marketers in understanding how to measure the impact and the ROI of their marketing initiatives from branding, anywhere down the funnel to other more performance focused initiatives.
I think everyone knows that the mobile element probably plays a part in almost everything. It’s just being clear about where it is most important. I know I’ve seen presentations from people like Yahoo! where a person starts on the phone, ends up on the tablet or the desktop and vice versa. Advertisers like seeing that stuff, because it makes sense to them and it gives them some confidence even if it’s not yet what you would describe as a true planning tool or attribution model, it starts to give them confidence that these campaigns are really making the difference.
Are there any emerging formats that you are particularly excited about?
I’m starting to see more and more of the formats that are really linked to your behaviour on the page, the ones where you’re reading an article and they expand out or you click to expand the article. I think that those ads are making an effort to keep you—let’s say uninterrupted. They have good visibility and impact, just from a personal perspective. I’ve always been a firm believer in fewer but bigger ads, and I think a lot of these formats are trying to play to that and it makes sense. I think generally speaking we’ve got to find a way of avoiding the interruption because no one’s ever going to wish that back. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong to find a way of having a big message without interrupting.
In the next 12 months, what percentage of Publicis’ spends will be in programmatic and then in 36 months, do you have an estimate?
I think—and I’m talking about all spend, that 8 cents on the dollar will be programmatic. That will probably double in 36 months. But that is, to be clear, all spend. If you’re talking about percentage of digital display or about metrics closer to home, those tend to be higher.
Do you have a percentage for digital display?
This year you’re probably looking at 40% and I would expect that in another 18 months it would comfortably be into the 60%.
The next two questions are personal questions but I think they are fun facts for people to learn about. What was your first mobile phone?
So my first mobile phone—I researched it because I couldn’t remember it clearly—was something called a Motorola N300, which was in the UK and it came with unlimited calls after 6 o’clock and on the weekends, which at that time was a big deal, because in those days you paid for all your calls. It was one of those semi-flip phones where you pulled the speaking bit down, and I think it was in the early 90s. They got rid of that contract very quickly, so anyone who had retained the contract was selling it in various ways for good money years later.
It looks like it would’ve been a pretty slick form factor for that time, especially because it was a flip.
Yeah, it was definitely considered—well any phone was because no one really had mobile phones—and I’m pretty sure I was in university so it must have been somewhere in the early to mid-90s.
Final question, what is your favorite mobile app?
I’m going to have to say twitter since I’m such an avid user of it. I use it for all my information sources. If it wasn’t twitter, it would have to be a map app. One can actually read the world and the other gets me around it.
Is there one mobile mapping app that you prefer?
Of course you are! This was great and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts and your insights on both VivaKi but also the programmatic landscape. Thank you Marco, we really appreciate your time.