Opti Digital's Magali Quentel-Reme on AI, Sustainability, Balancing Revenue and UX, and Innovative Ad Formats

Opti Digital's CEO, Magali Quentel-Reme talks to ExchangeWire about AI's pivotal role in driving digital ad revenue growth, emphasising its transformative impact on programmatic advertising. Quentel-Reme also highlights the industry's focus on sustainability and the importance of innovative ad formats in engaging audiences and combating banner blindness.

In what ways is AI being implemented effectively to drive digital ad revenue growth?

AI isn't merely a passing trend, it's deeply influencing the programmatic advertising ecosystem by addressing industry challenges head-on. While it garnered significant attention in 2023, particularly with the rise of conversational platforms like ChatGPT, predictive models have been a cornerstone of the programmatic industry for many years. Opti Digital has been proactive in recognising the potential of AI, developing technologies for the supply side that have combined machine learning with human expertise for several years.

One of them is our dynamic flooring solution maximising the yield. This technology uses a predictive and reactive model to establish a minimum price for the publisher’s ad inventory based on audience, demand and user value. Indeed, our segmentation process takes into account various data points, including day, time, device, location, refresh, site, placement, user value, etc., accurately reflecting the market value in real time and thus predicting the optimal floor price for each ad request, with the aim of maximising the value of publishers' inventory for advertisers.

Another use case of AI is for the ad layout definition: we use models to harmoniously and efficiently distribute ads on page. Our advanced technology predicts the reader's attention and places ads dynamically to optimise the ad revenue, while protecting user experience.

So, I think there's still plenty of room for optimisation that can be implemented thanks to AI. With the inclusion of human expertise in ad tech and media publishing, some strategies have the potential to revolutionise the industry in the years to come.

How can the industry address the challenges of implementing sustainable advertising practices?

Amidst the urgent environmental crisis, the issue of sustainability holds heightened importance within the digital advertising landscape, especially for companies committed to a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. In my view, to solve this problem, we need to abandon the idea that quantity equals revenue.

If I were to pinpoint key elements for achieving a substantial reduction in emissions, reducing ad calls is proven to be paramount. It's crucial to meticulously select partners to whom ad requests are sent based not only on the value of their bid but on their response rate also. Although this point has already been the subject of much discussion in the industry, connecting too many SSPs can be counter-productive. It often leads to website slowdowns and, consequently, lost revenue, as well as an increased carbon footprint. Yield managers should make sure to pick partners offering truly original ad experience with high bid rates and CPMs.

Taking part in conferences and collaborating with industry-organised working groups is also fundamental for establishing a framework of best practices and achievable objectives that will be embraced by the entire ecosystem. Keeping this in mind, Opti Digital has recently become a member of the French association Alliance Digitale, which addresses a broad spectrum of concerns, and which recently published an open source reference framework for calculating the carbon footprint of digital campaigns.

How are companies in the ad tech industry balancing the pursuit of revenue with the need to maintain a positive user experience and web performance?

The way the question is asked ultimately reveals what we are observing. While many may draw a distinction between revenue and user experience (UX) objectives, these two aspects are intricately linked. A website with an excellent UX tends to achieve better visibility in search engine results, thereby increasing organic traffic and ad impression numbers.

Therefore, ad tech companies must focus on developing UX-centric technologies to address publishers' requirements, which are not solely centred on ad revenues but also on audience growth and engagement. This encompasses considerations such as scripts’ sizes. In our case, we recently re-engineered the Opti All-in-One ad solution, reducing its weight to just 30KB. In concrete terms it means that with a mobile connection, our script will load two times faster than any other ad management solution based on client side or hybrid header bidding. This upgrade enhances both ad viewability and web performance. 

Also, it goes without saying that the technologies implemented must respect the media's initial layout. At Opti Digital, we offer an original ad format inspired by social media ones. Called Opti Engage, that story-like format respects the ad placeholder size in order to never disrupt the reading experience.

What innovative advertising formats are gaining traction in the industry for engaging and retaining audiences?

I believe any format capable of capturing attention and fostering engagement holds significance. Playable ads, in particular, have a huge impact, largely due to their interactive nature, allowing users to uncover certain elements through actions like scratching, solving puzzles, shaking their mobile devices, or answering polls.

At Opti Digital, we've recently introduced an engaging ad format designed to predict and captivate attention, drawing inspiration from social network design principles. Grounded in the concept of a "story" layout, users perceive these ads as a relaxing experience, thus encouraging them to spend more time on the page. The ad is animated only when it is present in the viewport, bringing an excellent viewability rate to brands, who automatically direct their investments towards the media using it. Such a technology provides a qualitative win-win ecosystem where the interests of advertisers meet the ones of publishers. Given the excellent initial results, we plan to continue developing this format by improving the display in the near future, for an even better user experience.

To fight banner blindness, innovation is crucial. With the proliferation of stimuli in television, on the Internet, and in everyday life, human attention spans are dwindling. It's essential to introduce new elements that not only capture attention but also re-engage audiences.