Ad Ops @ an Inflection Point
The sold-out IAB Ad Operations Summit themed, “Ad Ops @ an Inflection Point,” kicked off with Randall Rothenberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, IAB, proudly informing the audience they were attending the largest ad operations event in the history of the IAB. “The fact that this audience continues to grow and to broaden is a testament to the role ad ops plays in the marketplace,” he said. The community is integral to the ecosystem and to the work of IAB in setting standards and identifying best practices for the industry. Two of the most recent and notable achievements: a significant update to the IAB Rich Media Creative Guidelines to among other advances, include the six Rising Star display ad formats, and the adoption of the IAB Impression Exchange Solution—a standard mechanism designed to create immediate awareness of discrepancies—by four more member companies.
Steve Sullivan, Vice President, Digital Supply Chain Solutions, IAB, set the bar high, calling on the ad ops community to evolve processes and technology to the point that it just works. Like air in the conference room facilitates the conversation, ad operations should be “ubiquitous” and “utterly taken for granted,” “the air” that supports storytelling and storybuilding, which Rothenberg pointed to as the future of the interactive marketing and advertising at the IAB MIXX Conference and Expo in October. Sullivan ended his introduction to the day by asking for everyone’s engagement and participation.
The first featured speaker, Bill Lederer, Chief Executive Officer, Kantar Video, engaged attendees with a strong call for the industry to help the digital video marketplace continue to grow even if it means research and measurement becomes a smaller portion of the total spend. He suggested the workflow become easier by minimizing tags and data collection to become less proprietary. In addition, he asked for more standards in order to build scale. The benefits of the medium must be readily available to marketers. Too often, he said, major marketers when they’re looking at their media mix, roll video into display and therefore lose access to its real value.
Making Measurement Makes Sense, the industry-wide initiative to advance cross-platform comparability through improved digital metrics and standards, took center-stage next as a two-part session discussing the effects of a “viewable impression” standard and a digital Gross Ratings Point (GRP) metric. John Frelinghuysen, Partner, Media and Entertainment Practice, Bain & Company, opened the conversation by detailing the initiative’s Five Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement and then ignited conversation by suggesting the viewable impression standard be based on having at least 50 percent of the ad be viewable for one second. This standard, he said, would meet the needs of brand marketers as well as direct response advertisers. The GRP, he said, would be based on viewable impressions and would rely on basic demographic information.
David Cohen, Executive Vice President, Global Digital Officer, UM; Dan Murphy, Senior Vice President, Interactive Research and Analytics, Univision Interactive Media, and Co-Chair, IAB Ad Operations Council; and Julian Zilberbrand, Senior Vice President, Global Digital Director, Technology Activation Group, Starcom Mediavest Group, with moderator George Ivie, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Media Rating Council, brought the audience on a deep dive into the viewable impression. The group opened by discussing the great opportunity and challenge facing the industry in regards to the standard. If CPM is the way you’re going to conduct business than viewable impressions is the way to go, Cohen said, reinforcing that fewer buying methodologies minimize complexity. Zilberbrand pointed out it would require the sell side to adjust the tools they use for forecasting and inventory management, while Murphy emphasized how across the board adoption of IES would also be necessary.
Next on the table, the Gross Ratings Point—Mainak Mazumdar, Senior Vice President, The Center of Innovation, The Nielsen Company; Jackson Bazley, Executive Director, Advisory Services, Media and Entertainment, Ernst & Young; Jenna Umbrianna, Platform Media Lead, Hill Holliday; Dan Murphy, Senior Vice President, Interactive Research and Analytics, Univision Interactive Media, and Co-Chair, IAB Ad Operations Council; and moderator Mike Shields, Senior Editor, Digiday, began with the classic argument of GRPs relevance to digital technology. But soon the conversation shifted to data, the metric’s effect on media pricing, and the shift away from performance measurement.
After a networking refreshment break where the sold-out audience enjoyed coffee and conversation about measurement, video returned to the spotlight with a look at how VAST and VPAID, the IAB standards for communication between video players and server, solve cross-platform challenges. Teg Grenager, Co-Founder, Vice President, Product, Adap.tv, and Co-Lead, IAB VAST/VPAID Technical Standards Working Group, and Payam Shodjai, Lead Product Manager, Google, and Co-Lead, IAB VAST/VPAID Technical Standards Working Group, defined current VAST and VPAID standards and provided a look ahead at VAST 3, VPAID 2, and VMAP 1.0, which would provide support for ad sequencing when using a multi-ad playlist. Next, Mike Gaffney, Chief Revenue Officer, Auditude, which is now part of Adobe, and Atul Patel, Chief Executive Officer, OneScreen, took the audience through case studies that demonstrated the use and marketplace necessity of VAST and VPAID. The agency point of view followed, as Jay Williams, Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director, Publicis New York, emphasized that marketers have a real demand for video but the logistics of doing it are prohibitive. Standardization and simplification is needed, he said. Wayne Arnold, Founder and Global Chief Executive Officer, Profero, said standards mean the agencies are able to spend more time on ideas and creativity.
The consequences of ad operations industry consolidation were next on the docket. Mike Leo, Chief Executive Officer and President, Operative, introduced the upcoming session by questioning whether the industry was really dealing with large-scale consolidation and then distinguishing between marketplace fragmentation and specialization—two distinct perspectives on the same landscape, one negative, the other positive.
A feature presentation by Chris LaSala, Director, Mobile Partnerships, Google, re-activated audience engagement after a networking luncheon. He applauded the recent release of MRAID, the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence’s project to define a common API for in-app mobile ads, and then provided valuable mobile marketing advice tailored to marketers, publishers, and ad ops professionals. Publishers, he said, should build for the mobile experience without fear of cannibalizing their desktop business. Marketers he said should build mobile-optimized websites—roughly 79 percent of Google search advertisers don’t have one. Ad ops professionals, on the other hand, need to work toward the same top-level goal of marketers and publishers; they must make it all work seamlessly.
Next a news-making solution to lessen supply chain friction was announced by Todd Teresi, Vice President, General Manager, Media Solutions, Adobe. Project Adthenticate from Adobe is described as a hosted service for ad validation and optimization that enables publishers and agencies to test and certify ads against a repository of specifications. Richard Nguyen, Director, Ad Technology, Yahoo!, and Todd Pasternack, Director, Creative Technology, PointRoll, joined Teresi onstage for a conversation about managing and minimizing the creative spec roadblocks. Nguyen described the problem. If we get a bad creative, he said, we’re either going take time to try to fix it, kick it back and get scrutiny from the sales team, or to use it and compromise the user experience. Pasternack said even little things like making sure an HTML file has everything it should or that its API implemented properly add up very quickly as far as time goes.
Adrian D’Souza, Director, Media Revenue Operations, Google, and Co-Chair, IAB Ad Operations Council, opened the next discussion about verification services by defining the landscape, informing the audience of the history of the services, and the content and status of the new IAB Ad Verification Conduct Guidelines now open for public comment. Todd Kosenski, Director, Global Strategy and Enablement, Microsoft; Grace Liau, Senior Vice President, VivaKi; Zack Rogers, Senior Vice President, Revenue Operations, CBS Interactive; and Mitch Weinstein, Senior Vice President, Director, Digital Ad Operations, UM, then joined D’Souza to debate the value of verification services. Kosenski warned of the ongoing lack of trust between the buy side and the sell side. Liau said agencies are spending a lot of time working to assure brand safety, and verification services minimize their time spent. Rogers emphasized that verification services are creating a currency and that care must be taken in defining next steps forward. Share shift has resulted from verification, Weinstein said, as it made marketers more comfortable buying through real-time bidding.
Following a Q&A with the audience and an afternoon networking refreshment break, Bill Simmons, Chief Technology Officer, DataXu, ignited a discussion about OpenRTB, a project, recently taken over by the IAB, to unlock growth in the real-time bidding marketplace by providing open industry standards for buyers and sellers. Neal Richter, Data Scientist, the Rubicon Project; Roland Cozzolino, Chief Technology Officer, MediaMath, and moderator Steve Sullivan of the IAB joined Simmons onstage to delve into the advantages of real-time bidding, including the granularity of the targeting, and the issues, such as the valuation of publisher inventory.
Drum roll, please. The winners of the Impression Exchange Implementation Challenge were revealed. The industry’s buy side ad servers were presented with the challenge of quickly implementing the IAB’s Impression Exchange Solution to industry specifications. The winners were selected based on the aggressiveness of their implementation planning and their level of adherence to the specifications.
After Paul Martecchini, Head of Marketing, OpenX, described three major benefits of IES: to catch and count discrepancies early, to accelerate payments, and keep publisher’s reputations intact during the delivery process, winner number one, Matt Timothy, President, VINDICO, took the stage. He jazzed the crowd by having a group of publishers and a group of agencies stand opposite each other in front of the stage and throw stress-reducing squeeze balls at each other. But it wasn’t to reduce stress. Each ball signified an ad getting through back and forth, often times too many for either side to catch, as they tried to manage discrepancies. Winner number two, ADTECH with AOL. Matt Mager, Product Manager, ADTECH; Richard Bush, Director, Product Management, ADTECH; and Lucas Black, Director Advertising Systems Product Management, AOL came to the stage to discuss the advantages they have found by embracing IES.
More recognition was given as Adrian D’Souza, Director, Media Revenue Operations, Google, and Dan Murphy, Senior Vice President, Interactive Research and Analytics, Univision Interactive Media, both long-time co-chairs of the IAB Ad Operations Council were each given a Lifetime Achievement Award and grand applause for their many years of service to the industry and the IAB.
The day concluded with a vibrant Town Hall Meeting where attendees shared their thoughts, ideas, and insights with each other and a group of experts featuring Adrian D’Souza; Michelle Burnham, Burnham Marketing; Zack Putnam, Disney; Grace Liau, VivaKi; and Dan Foehner, Facebook. The subject matter started with social media and marketing, and extended to RTB, challenges of remarketing, training and career life cycle of an ad ops professional, and consumer privacy protection.
Industry Announcements at Ad Ops
IAB News Released at Ad Ops
IAB Ad Ops Press Coverage