Programmatic Trends in APAC: Interview with Rahul Vasudev, Scibids


In association with Scibids.

Ahead of the start of ATS Singapore 2022, Rahul Vasudev, managing director, APAC, Scibids, outlines key trends in programmatic from the region, and how artificial intelligence can be used to effectively address market challenges.

What are the main trends in programmatic and AI that are currently being observed in APAC?

Trends we see across APAC in 2022 are that media buyers are steadily moving from just driving a vast quantity of results to a deeper focus on the quality of results. Increasingly the conversations we are seeing are about Cart Size and ROAS. Even branding budgets are being evaluated on Incremental Brand Lift rather than just reach.

A drive amongst brands to gain control of their marketing is also taking place in APAC. Marketers are increasingly taking up some form of in-housing, getting better measurement tools setup, etc., and moving buys away from black-box media vendors.

At Scibids, we interpret this as a level of sophistication that brands and media buyers across APAC are building towards. Advertisers lacking advanced data science and engineering capabilities are looking to bring business metrics into the buying process. When it comes to more sophisticated buyers, we see their desire to build tailored media buying strategies for advanced business outcomes. In either scenario, they must leverage AI to grow and scale.

How can APAC marketers successfully leverage metrics beyond reach, such as cart size and ROAS, in the post-cookie era? How can smaller advertisers, and those which lack advanced data science and engineering capabilities, incorporate these metrics into their ad buying processes?

Rahul Vasudev

Rahul Vasudev, managing director, APAC, Scibids

APAC marketers have spent the past years building up their tech stacks, that include planning, activation, and measurement tools. The challenge today is to make sense of these different signals and extract value out of them, especially when they are privacy compliant and not based on user tracking.

At Scibids, we believe one of the most critical parts of the ad stack is also one of the most underexplored, i.e., the activation part, where marketers have the opportunity to leverage all the signals coming from planning and measurement to inform accurate and impactful advertising decisions.

We believe that the answer to this challenge is technology, particularly artificial intelligence, which has the potential to ingest terabits of data signals and make sense of them in an automated manner, which allows for combining performance and scalability.

AI is transforming industries around the world, and digital marketing is no exception. We believe that marketers have to equip themselves with the right tools and technologies to thrive in today’s world. Productised, “as a service” AI solutions, like the one we develop at Scibids, don’t require advanced data science and engineering capabilities to take advantage of.

Similarly, what tailored media strategies are larger and more sophisticated advertisers building in the post-cookie era?

Sophisticated buyers are crunching numbers and looking deeper into the data now more than ever before. They’re leveraging AI, which is extraordinary at making sense of the programmatic possibilities that are out there. This means using AI to filter through the noise of countless signals to find where optimizations can not only improve results two-fold but bring efficiencies too. Sophisticated AI can be trained to go after vast datasets and impact business outcomes to make digital communications, like online ads, more effective. Tailored media strategies usually involve multi-KPI optimisation scenarios beyond standard CPAs or just reach. These KPIs can include a combination of upper funnel signals or unique Q-CPMs (quality CPMs), including variables like brand safety, in-target reach, custom viewability, etc. They can also involve measurement data like attention metrics or brand lift studies results.

What is the importance of operating a non-siloed analytics solution in APAC, both pre- and post-identifier deprecation?

With the deprecation of identifiers based on PII, there will be a lot fewer data points to target. At Scibids, we’re not worried about this because the AI we develop has been future-proof from day one. Our AI does not require user tracking or profiling for performance and is capable of learning from non-user-related metadata found in bid requests to base ad decisioning on. With this in mind, media buyers need to ensure that data across their ad stacks, 1st party or CRM data for planning purposes, and measurement data for reporting purposes can be interoperable. This means that it should not remain siloed in the ad stack but unified across the ad stack by becoming actionable information that makes the buying process more efficient and performant.

Beyond more sophisticated analytics solutions, what developments need to be made to further justify investment in advertising technology in APAC, given the global economic turbulence?

We think that well-engineered AI, purpose-built for the mounting challenges facing digital marketing, provides the enabling path. AI will be a requirement for respecting the environment, consumer data privacy, and the human beings responsible for running and delivering digital ad campaigns. In all three instances, AI offers a way forward for marketers.

Recent research commissioned by Scibids found that reducing carbon emissions from digital advertising is regarded as the most important market trend by business leaders in the UK. Scibid’s response is to serve fewer, but more impactful ads. To achieve this, media buyers need to be able to know beforehand which impressions are going to be worth a lot to them and which are worthless. This is knowledge that AI can provide.

Simultaneously, marketers are being asked to respect the personal data of consumers with their campaign targeting and measurement methods. The trend toward ‘cookieless’ advertising means that Contextual Data is making a comeback and there will be less data for targeting. AI will be required to make sense of the privacy-preserving signals that are left.
Respect for the human resources at the heart of your campaign planning and execution includes giving them the technological tools they need to elevate their capacity and effectiveness. When a whole industry cites scarcity of expertise as their main challenge, every manager should give their team the tools they need to ensure that their work is meaningful, insightful, and responsible.

AI is not intended to automate most of what industry experts do. Rather, AI is better than humans at specific tasks, such as computing optimal prices to respond to bid requests or building models that get automatically pushed to DSPs, and making data actionable. Even more importantly, AI is also able to increase the quality of insights for humans to leverage. It can elevate our work, thus allowing us to use the human touch more effectively.