WireColumn: A Look Back At French Media Trading In 2012

Sylvain Deffay is Country Manager France at Infectious Media.

This September I cut the ribbon on Infectious Media’s Paris office. It is a really exciting time to be opening an office in France. Q4 has been packed with news about RTB and programmatic buying, with new exchanges, new technology suppliers and signs of advertisers buying into the benefits. All of which has pushed RTB right up the press agenda.

Looking at the figures, global market intelligence firm IDC’s recent report shows French display ad trading spend more than doubling this year, with RTB based ad spend increasing by 120%. To put this in context, the whole French display market only increased by 1% in 2012, with recent reports pointing to the display market in France shrinking year over year in September and October. So with this dramatic growth, RTB in 2012 has increased its share of display sales from 4% to 8.6%.

For me, the most dramatic change, and the most positive, has been on the supply side. The year has come to a close with two, new, enormous private marketplaces, Audience Square and La Place Media, something unseen in Europe. If we add to this eBay, Orange, 247 RealMedia and Facebook launches, we have the top 100-150 online publisher sites now being openly available through RTB. So the opening of AppNexus in Paris this year comes as no surprise.

Each publisher has a different angle, but it is interesting to examine the two premium private marketplaces in detail. I truly respect the decision from competing publishers to band together to channel their indirect sales through a common ad exchange. By combining their unsold inventory under a blind offer (with at most a category or audience targeting layer), they very effectively protect their premium offering. And by transferring their sales to ad-networks into the ad-exchanges, they are maximising the benefit of the auction model.

Changes in the French supply side can be seen in our own data. According to our own Impression Desk technology, there was a 68% increase in the number of inventory sellers in France in the first three quarters of this year. This increase in inventory gives trading desks like ours more and more granularity to make campaigns effective for clients.

The number of intermediaries in the RTB market is ever growing with more trading desks opening throughout the year, including independents like ourselves and OneSixty2, as well as agency trading desks (the big 5 holding companies are now represented). Even affiliate platforms have launched into the market. The question of whether there is space for all these intermediaries is difficult to assess. But it certainly won’t be easy for advertisers to evaluate their options in this potentially confusing ecosystem.

My concern is whether all these intermediates are making use of RTB in the best way for clients: as a new and improved way of running display marketing, and not just focusing on cost-cutting. Advertisers need to know how real time impression level decisioning, fuelled by data insights makes advertising more relevant to the user and therefore performs better. It is important that as an industry we unite in this direction to ensure we are contributing to the growth of display and digital advertising as a whole.

However the French advertisers themselves are split, between pure players who are fully embracing RTB’s potential, and the more traditional advertisers, who are yet to fully grasp the benefits. The good news is as agency trading desks increase their share on the 2013 media plans, advertiser attention is being focused on RTB, a pattern already evident in the UK. In France I think this was highlighted in a recent article on JDN where Didier Beauclair from the UDA (the voice of France’s leading advertisers) reminded us of advertiser expectation of added value by intermediaries. For me, signing up to a DSP is fairly easy, it is the next steps where the value is added.

A similar question is being asked about data. This is a hot topic, with first party data and its immense potential, but also third party data. A new entrant in 2012, Ezakus, has had impact in this space. After deploying the audience segments from Audience Square, they recently announced that they were also putting Experian segments online. A company to watch in 2013.

However with all these advances what is the experience of the consumer? I don’t think they have seen any real improvement from our RTB revolution in 2012. At Christmas I’ll be heading home, and when talking about my industry to friends and family I know I will be defending it from allegations of “…so you are the one following me round the internet!” Clearly the balance is not there yet. Let’s make 2013 the year where we revolutionise the user experience.