Taking Back Control with Curation: Q&A with Greg Williams, Audigent

In this exclusive Q&A, Greg Williams, president of Audigent, discusses the development of curation and identity in ad tech, how curation can bring control back to the advertiser, and more.

How has the role of curation and identity evolved in advertising over the years? What are the most significant changes you’ve seen?

The evolution in/around curation is ushering in the next wave of programmatic, creating a method of real-time media and data activation that will lead us into the new world of browser and regulatory changes without cookies. Where once open-auction programmatic buying was sufficient, scaled technology driven media and data curation is now driving better performance, with far more scale and addressability. This solves the challenges of the new 2024 paradigm and beyond, as the industry moves into a world without cookies in which 70-80% plus of all programmatic ads are no longer addressable through traditional programmatic approaches. It’s a challenging outlook for advertisers and for publishers but the process of curating media and data into a single package with a powerful privacy forward identity backbone offers the opportunity to overcome these challenges and continue to drive the necessary scale and performance that marketers demand.

While the concept and buzzword of “curation” has been around and used in trades for some time, real, scaled, sophisticated curation has not. With its earliest roots in advertising starting from the simple manual packaging of publisher ad slots into a single deal ID, it has now evolved to real-time bid enrichment at the point of activation to account for consumer privacy and drive the necessary marketer performance so critical to campaign success today. As the leading curation, data activation, and identity platform, we see applications of curation across all aspects of the ecosystem, from core components of retail media driving a monetisation strategy to marketers desiring to reach their best customers at scale with improved performance to publishers and the traditional data companies  looking to enhance monetisation and yield of data through audience extension and channel expansion programs.  

Curation has become the driving trend in advertising. Every leading ecosystem company has adopted a curation strategy/offering. Those that delayed have fallen behind or worse. Curation is the natural next step, bringing more control and intelligence to the programmatic ecosystem.

In a digital age where consumers are inundated with content, how can curation prove an effective tool in ensuring ads sit near quality content?

Greg Williams, president, Audigent

The open programmatic ecosystem is still all about pursuing an audience target above all else. That version-one DNA has given rise to ads on longtail sites and made-for-advertising sites, which has in turn given rise to verification and safety tools. Curation eliminates these issues through the use of massively scaled multi-publisher private marketplaces (PMPs) that pair audience insights with premium content, ensuring the combination of quality and reach that advertisers demand.

Curation works in three ways to deliver control back to the advertiser. First, curated media and data packages are composed of multi-pub PMPs which are, in effect, uniquely instrumented  marketplaces of hundreds and often thousands of publishers, purpose-built for a marketer's specific goals with their quality standards built-in. In this way, the marketer has complete control over the inventory and the data. Second, because the process of curating media and data packages is activated on the supply-side, it allows for real-time signals to be incorporated into the bid stream thus eliminating the need for the traditional off-line data matching that is so costly and privacy risky today. Third, the process of curation enables real-time optimisation of media and data elements both individually and in combination.

What role does data and analytics play in the curation process for advertising? How can advertisers leverage data-driven insights to enhance their curation strategies?

Data and analytics are the lifeblood of any successful curation program. Given that our platform is purpose-built to activate from the supply-side, signals and data from across the ecosystem are mission critical in closing the loop on both pacing and performance. As we work with and advise our clients, best practices for success include reviewing settings in DSPs and enabling data feeds from both sides such that our optimisation has a complete 360 degree view of the supply and demand chain.

Unlike the old way of applying data, curation provides insights on data, inventory and the combinations of data and inventory packages in real time. This unlocks insights in three ways: first, insights are identified in real time and utilised by advertisers for live campaign optimisations. Second, insights are passed back to the DSP and third, insights are used to inform and advantage future programs.

As advertising platforms and formats continue to diversify, how do you envision the future of curation in advertising? 

The importance of curation is only going to grow. Although curation started from the supply-side, the future of curation will be both from the supply side as well as from the buy side.

Beyond that, there is a reckoning coming to the ecosystem with platforms and channels that do not or will not conform and focus on interoperability. Marketers want advertising to be simpler and more streamlined, and the idea of platform/channel diversification that does-not or will-not work collaboratively only perpetuates the problem and stifles innovation. While incorporating new channels into the programmatic ecosystem is never a bad thing, we (as an industry) can’t stop innovating until we arrive at the necessary interoperability between systems/platforms which manifests as an ecosystem that is fully addressable, consistent and scalable. This is what will drive more investment into the space, and will power growth and innovation.   

The most notable challenge over the next year is cookie deprecation and while open-auction may not exist in a post cookie world, curated media and data packages built atop an interoperable identity stack that spans the supply/demand ecosystem absolutely will be here and will thrive as this approach scales and meets marketer objectives in a simpler way.

Are there emerging trends or technologies that you believe will have a significant impact on this field?

The advertising industry is still trying to figure out the next identifiers that will help them replace the cookie, but the truth is that no single identifier is likely going to win. As such, a future that is solely deterministic and scalable is highly unlikely. Especially as AI becomes more sophisticated and widely deployed across our tech stacks, probabilistic identity is going to play a critical role in the future and the industry will need to end its unhealthy addiction to PII.

Importantly, beyond scale, a privacy-safe future for advertising also depends on embracing new models, such as predictive and probabilistic data, all of which is dependent on finding new methods and places to apply those data sets to media. Curation will be one of the only ways to apply and use the data in this next chapter of digital advertising which both delivers addressability, delivers performance and does so with or without cookies and with or without deterministic identifiers.

In the next 6-18 months, many companies will find that changes to landscape have created tremendous challenges to how they apply data and maintain addressability. That said, companies like Audigent have been focused on this moment for years. So, when client systems start to fail, Audigent is certainly one of the first places brands and agencies can turn to and rely on to ensure everything works.