The skies above programmatic advertisers and publishers have for a while seemed to be naught but rolling dark rain clouds, laden with the rains of industry challenges such as lack of transparency and budget squeezes. Positive results for ad spend budgets, although not having lifted the pessimism among the ad tech weather forecast, show that the sunbeams are at least creeping through.
Aside from the weather analogy, new technologies and initiatives are emerging at a rapid rate; moreover, collaborations between publishers, marketers, and the tech layer are continuing to be formed and can result in positive results on a company level.
For example, global media platform Teads recently reported a revenue of €365m (£314.8m) in 2018, representing a growth of 30% from the previous year. Moreover, new publisher partnerships, such as working with Guardian News & Media, continue to be brokered by the firm. Hence it is easy to conclude that there are significant opportunities still to be had within the industry for publishers, despite challenges such as the need for transparency and user verification. To establish what these opportunities may be, ExchangeWire speaks to Pierre Chappaz, executive chairman at Teads.
ExchangeWire: What has been the secret to Teads’ success over the past year?
Pierre Chappaz: 2018 was an incredible year for us; ultimately, because we maintained our unparalleled level of innovation. It is this speed and agility that means we are helping to drive change at the forefront of the online advertising industry. We are historically well known for our advanced video advertising capabilities. At the end of 2017, we introduced viewable display solutions – baking in creativity and interactivity to a previously dying format – this has improved user experience and, therefore, brand performance. We also brought in a performance product last year, True Visits, which only charges clients for incremental visitors on their websites. We are now capable of offering comprehensive customer journey solutions, from awareness, to consideration, and conversion.
This is all in addition to giving clients access to some of the best media inventory in the world – including new global exclusive deals with the BBC, VICE, Economist and, most recently, the Guardian. All of these things together means we can deliver global scale (1.5 billion users per month) combined with an extremely high level of quality – all powered by our AI prediction engine, which optimises delivery according to the advertiser’s KPIs.
We have also finalised last year our 'interest graph', our unique first-party data resulting from the analysis of each user’s content consumption, which we combine with third-party data from the likes of Oracle, Nielsen, and Liveramp and leverage for targeting.
What we have been building is a global media platform: a single point of access to some of the world’s most premium publishers combined with innovative ad experiences and sophisticated targeting capabilities. This is why some of the largest brands and media agencies in the world believed in us to deliver that 30% growth in 2018.
What were the most significant opportunities within the ad tech industry as a whole in 2018, and will new avenues develop during this year?
There were two big opportunities in online media last year. The first was the continued resurgence in online media. The public are craving real news over social feeds more than ever – whether it's the Trump Bump in the U.S., Brexit in Europe, or any number of issues around the world – and publishers have been refining their revenue streams to ensure they are here for the long term. Having successful publishers means there is more content for users which, in turn, means more touchpoints for brands to engage with those users. We are proud to be part of that sustainable business model.
The second opportunity was the ever increasing cracks appearing in the duopoly. YouTube has been working hard to address its brand-safety concerns, but we know that the sheer volume of user-generated content being uploaded every minute means that they themselves have admitted they will never be able to guarantee brand safety. Every month brings a new scandal; and this is before we even start talking about the problems that Facebook has faced.
Clients are crying out for a platform that can deliver measurable brand safety, guarantee viewability, and is free from fraud. Our platform distributes ads within professionally produced content, which is brand safe – and we aim to go even further by filtering out topics that are inappropriate for an advertiser – and so when agencies and brands have wanted to invest money from social into quality environments, we have been able to offer appropriate solutions for them.
How do you envisage publishers, marketers, and the tech layer working together to combat the market share of Google, Facebook, et al.?
The market needs alternative platforms with sufficient scale; and this is what we aim to provide, having united many of the top publishers in the world. This gives us more reach than Facebook in many countries, including in the UK (according to comScore, Facebook reaches 85.6% of UK online population vs Teads’ 90.1%).
I am also watching with interest the potential regulatory measures that should push more responsibility on to these platforms for the content they are hosting. Germany is taking action against them and the UK and Australia are in the early stages of doing so. As governments put in barriers and begin to break the grip of walled gardens, it will allow quality publishers and responsible platforms to thrive, which is great for the wider industry and, in fact, society in general.
Do you expect to see similar continued growth in 2019, or will further industry challenges, such as the increased need for transparency and user verification, prove restrictive?
We are feeling very bullish on growth. These industry trends are beneficial to us, as contrarily to Facebook and YouTube, we are actively promoting independent third-party verifiers such as IAS, Moat and Double Verify.
Since we created the company, we have been committed to delivering clean advertising experiences and promoting independent measurement. It's why we were one of the first to be certified by the IAB for their Gold Standard, it's why our platform is opened to verifiers – to ensure we're not checking our own homework but meeting the very highest standards for our clients.
How should the programmatic industry be approaching and overcoming these challenges?
Programmatic has been bringing unprecedented capabilities for audience targeting, but buyers should not forget the crucial importance of context. Not only because, as Marc Pritchard (P&G) declared at a recent conference: "Brands are judged by the company they keep", but also because premium context delivers superior results.
Ultimately, buyers see that quality inventory allows a better viewability and attention, more time in-view, and more engagement. Pritchard also said that he is calling on all brands, agencies, and publishers to create "a new media supply chain that levels the playing field and operates in a way that is clean, efficient, accountable, and properly moderated for everyone involved. A new media supply chain that is both a force for growth and a force for good. Good for consumers, our brands, our industry and society".
This is the benchmark for the future of the ad tech ecosystem, and it is up to us to meet those standards.