Digital ad fraud continues to be a global problem, with brands increasingly concerned about bot clicks and the accuracy of traffic numbers. It does not help that Asia’s ad tech industry still looks at clicks as the primary metrics, which is exacerbating the region’s ad fraud problem.
As it is, six markets in Asian are among the world’s top 10 in terms of click fraud, notes Grace Liau, Vivaki Asia-Pacific general manager, pointing to figures from the 2015 Apsular Fraud Index.
In this Q&A with ExchageWire, Liau explains why the region needs to establish a more comprehensive ad performance metrics strategy, as well as adopt a more generous way of managing its audience data.
ExchangeWire: It has been a year since Vivaki restructured and reassigned its ad traders to Publicis agencies. How has this move worked out for the company, including here in Asia-Pacific?
Grace Liau: The aim of restructuring was to bring ad tech closer to our clients. While this has worked well for us in other markets; here, in Asia-Pacific, we’re looking at a more phased approach.
In many ways, this region’s digital advertising space is still emerging. We still need the ‘training wheels’ transition phase to smoothen the process and help instill confidence and better support agencies. Changing the culture here requires a lot of moving parts, and we want to be sure we’re creating that culture of reliability and transparency we’re known for, whether at VivaKi or within the agencies themselves.
Agency feedback, so far, has been positive. They were surprised at how much work goes into programmatic and are evolving their media practice accordingly.
What were the rationale and objectives behind this decentralisation? And were these achieved over the past year?
The decision to move programmatic down to the agency level was driven by an aim to integrate programmatic planning and activation services into the media planning processes. By bringing programmatic ad buying closer to individual client teams, Publicis’ agencies are able to respond to each market and agency’s needs better.
Since VivaKi’s restructuring, we’ve been able to provide clients with greater insight into issues that were not clear before, such as agency fees and pricing, as well as data privacy. After moving the trading to individual agencies, we’ve also been able to focus more on training and educating personnel by giving client teams more access to digital buying activities.
We have come a long way, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. Programmatic is very dynamic and changes quickly, so there is a constant need to keep clients and our agencies up to date on the latest.
What are your thoughts on Asia-Pacific brands moving their trading desk operations in-house, in a bid to gain more transparency and insights into agency fees, and better data privacy management?
The attention on ad fraud and lack of transparency lately has been pushing brands to move their trading desk operations in-house instead of outsourcing their business. With the challenge of gaining access to audience data across Asia, brands are increasingly interested in taking charge of their media and gaining ownership of their customer data. In addition, the rise of new digital channels and technology has given brands the ability to obtain inventory via automated self-service tools.
If integrated well into the organisation, in-house teams can help to achieve cost savings, greater advertising effectiveness, and control over first-party data. However, we believe agencies still wield the power, given that brands may not wish to handle all the hard work and negotiations on their own, and agencies will not want to carry out those services for free.
What challenges have remained unresolved, and continue to hinder programmatic adoption, in the region?
Digital ad fraud continues to be a problem globally; with companies becoming concerned about issues, such as fake clicks and traffic numbers. According to the 2015 Apsular Fraud Index, six countries from Asia made the list of top 10 countries with the highest rate of click fraud. The region’s industry still tends to have a primary focus on clicks as metrics, which is driving fraud in the region. It’s not just the brands and agencies that need to be involved in combatting click fraud, publishers need to play a part, too.
Limited access to audience data across Asia tends to be a problem, due to publishers’ unwillingness to share first-party data with partners and third parties. The lack of programmatic education and development in the region can also make it challenging for advertisers to understand the value chain of programmatic and the ecosystem.
To see growth in the programmatic space in the region, the industry needs to be able to simplify the technology and make it more readily available to marketers.
What new challenges do you foresee emerging this year?
We’re already seeing a wave of consolidation in the programmatic industry. Recent shifts, in companies like Turn and PubMatic, are symptomatic of this shift. Only so many players, in our already complex industry, really have the expertise and differentiation factors (which are mainly the technology) that set them apart.
The rest have similar value propositions and are trying to either diversify their suite, or go after client-direct money. Of course, as a result, these players are realising that sometimes they simply do not have the clout and consulting ability to handle the load.
We’re also seeing large players like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo buying up smaller players, and continuing to build their own stacks and walled gardens. This, again, contributes to the problem of the medium-sized and smaller players not having the clout to fight back.
Discuss some potential growth drivers for programmatic in Asia-Pacific this year, and what market players need to do to help push adoption.
With the level of transparency it offers for both publishers and marketers, the emergence of private marketplaces could be a strong push for programmatic media buying in the year ahead. Seeing that quality data is hard to obtain in the Asia-Pacific region, marketers may look to private marketplaces for greater control and an easier way to obtain premium inventory. To drive adoption, market players need to look at helping publishers and buyers understand the buying and selling side of things and to help align the expectations of both parties.
Mobile has become the new desktop and the main way in which people consume content. Capitalising on mobile programmatic will provide marketers with new opportunities to engage with consumers in a timely and relevant manner, through the use of technologies such as geolocations. Mobile programmatic campaigns seemed to have shifted from the testing phase and are now headed for the investing phase. Marketers should tap into mobile from the consumer-side of things in order to drive growth in this space. They could look at relevance and timing to maximise reach, and how to tap emotional states of consumers, to drive marketing activity.
Will concerns over ad fraud and brand safety continue to plague programmatic adoption here?
At the end of the day, education is the problem we need to address as an industry. In Asia, particularly, clicks are still a key metric for ad performance; but clients need to understand that a click means nothing without conversion.
While mature markets have moved towards taking a more comprehensive view of metrics, brands and publishers in the region still lack the education required to tackle this problem. Until they begin looking at having the right infrastructure to track clicks to conversion, rather than focusing on one metric, ad fraud concerns will still continue to plague programmatic adoption.
What are some interesting technologies or tools Vivaki are currently developing and testing?
We are doing a bunch of interesting things right now, from a Quality Index tool that will introduce a better CPM model that helps our agencies and clients gauge the value of media, to an Analytics Toolkit that will provide out-of-the-box solutions for our agencies and clients to better use data.
How will these cater to the Asia-Pacific market?
These tools will be specifically localised to the Asia-Pacific marketplace, powered by data from the region and not gleaned from other markets. This will make the tool relevant to this marketplace and the insights actionable for the nuances that are specific to this region.