Microsoft At Cannes: 'Programmatic Is Only Part Of The Opportunity'

Microsoft is seeking to lay down a marker in its ongoing battle with Google, having secured a sponsorship deal giving it the moniker of ‘official technology innovation partner’ of the Cannes Lions advertising festival taking place this week, with programmatic playing a key role in its campaign messaging.

Microsoft’s three-year deal with Cannes Lions has placed its suite of products, such as its surface tablets, etc, front and centre of the conference agenda and speaking with ExchangeWire from its grand seafront cabana, it’s clear the technology giant explains how it hopes to make its programmatic offering a key part of its cross-platform story-telling offering.

Simon Halstead, Microsoft Advertising & Online, director, EMEA, says: “Microsoft has a programmatic opportunity, but that’s only part of the story and we’re here to show how Microsoft’s technology – not just the advertising technology – can enhance people’s lives.”

The answer was in response to the question of what is the role of technology companies at a creative festival such as Cannes Lions? As mentioned in previous posts on this publication, the question is increasingly on the agenda, with a host of ad tech firms occupying high profile speaking slots at the event.

Halstead is keen to point out how its ad stack proposition to advertisers is just part of a wider vision, and not something that belongs digital marketing ghetto (as are many other ad tech advocates present at the festival).

He says: “If we step back from the exchange and think about programmatic overall, so we have offerings that are RTB, and exchange-driven, but we also have offerings that we’re developing an offering around a much broader vision of programmatic.”

When speaking with ExchangeWire, Halstead is flanked by Jeff Nienaber, Microsoft, director of audience ad offerings, who has flown in from the company’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington, USA, who explains further it aims to show its value to advertisers.

He adds: “We see programmatic as representative of a sea change in advertising; it’s not just about unreserved, or tiered classes of inventory. We want it [Microsoft’s offering] to be about the entire buying experience; it’s about bringing your data to bear, it’s about being able to buy the audiences you want, and being able to buy unreserved media. It’s a full evolution of advertising.

“Obviously, we’ve partnered with best-in-class partners such as AppNexus, but we’ve also embraced the open direct standard with AOL and Yahoo, which seeks to bring the same types of efficiencies to the reserve platform as well. Through this we want to embrace connectivity for all forms of media, not just reserved.”

Halstead explains that the open direct standard is a spec co-written by the four partners (Yieldex is also a partner) that seeks to bring the same efficiencies to reserve platforms, and the same standards that can be accessed via API’s, that RTB platform brought to non-reserve inventory.

Nienaber adds: “It’s still early days, and we’re taking feedback form partners, and understanding how the API’s can evolve, but we think it’s going to be – like RTB – is going to be with us for a long time, and foundational for the evolution of our business.”

Halstead is also keen to clarify that the partnership is about “protocol sharing”, rather than a shared solution, then each company will develop its own roadmap against that API and that framework, and that’s something Microsoft is doing in the US with some partners.

Halstead says: “The goal of the open standard is that as other large-scale publishers want to build into that kind of reserve opportunity, there’s a consistent methodology into building the pipework, it’s not about the offer that goes on top, it’s about being distinct, and bespoke to each partner.

“For want of a better phrase it’s about making sure the ‘plumbing’ for each partner is consistent. The aim is to make sure the technology is seamless between the demand side and the tech side of the market. But we’ll develop our own product centre over that and this will them continue to develop over time.”

Coming back to the sorts of conversations Halstead is having at Cannes Lions, he says: “We also want to show advertisers the quality of our self-created, creative industry; such as Skype, and Outlook, plus we discuss how we do things like audit our inventory.

One of the important things we want to stress is that we’re not trying to be supply-side platform, we run a multiple publisher exchange to a degree. We then may do strategic partnerships in a given market, but it’s a very different play to the traditional SSP tech stack,” he says.

“That’s where our partnership with AppNexus can come into play, as they provide services to other publishers independent of us. So again, you get that consistency of application and integration, which brings scale.”

Nienaber concludes: “This will bring scaled access to demo and for the inventory. So we want to show people our ad products, and the that have traditionally been gated behind paper-provisioned IO’s, and we want to evolve that to be paper-free.”