Every year, throngs of people flock to Cologne for one of Europe’s biggest digital marketing conferences. DMEXCO, the meeting place for stalwarts in digital business, marketing and tech, celebrated its 10th edition this year and welcomed 41,000 attendees, 550 speakers and 1,000 exhibitors, including publisher tech platform, Smart.
For the first time this year, Smart organized a thought-leadership speaking series over two days at its booth. Dubbed ‘Smart Talks’, the sessions featured the company’s demand partner, Mediarithmics and premium publisher clients, Deezer, ShowHeroes and Styria Digital One. Moderated by seasoned journalist, Frank Puscher, who writes for both Adzine and Absatzwirtschaft, the sessions highlighted how buy-side and sell-side players can thrive outside of the walled garden environment with greater control and transparency.
Smart’s Chief Marketing Officer, Michael Nevins, started off with an overview of the prevailing industry challenges: “The ad industry is at crossroads. There’s an adtech overload, with too many middlemen offering too little value. In addition, only 30% of the advertisers’ spend is actually getting to the publishers. This is why both advertisers and publishers should be concerned about being too reliant on the walled gardens.”
However, Nevins added optimistically: “That said, the solution is not to put our heads in the sand. It’s for publishers to think of their businesses in a new way; to create value for themselves, advertisers, and brands.”
The future belongs to publishers with control
One key recurring theme at both sessions was the subject of control. In France for example, 25 major publishers have formed a major alliance called Gravity to change the ad industry’s value chain.
Having data control is fundamental for publishers according to Gravity’s official demand partner, Mediarithmics. Grégoire Fremiot, the data marketing platform’s Chief Revenue Officer explains: “Publishers need to be in control of their technology, they also need to control the data by learning about its value through their partners.”
To French music publisher Deezer who uses Smart’s data-agnostic platform, control is about being assured on the safekeeping of their consumer data. “Music is emotion. Users want us to find the best for them. At least with Smart, we know that data is only flowing into their platform and is not being used in a way we’re not aware of. We can be sure that it’s in a safe place,” said Raphael Hayem, Deezer’s Head of Ad Operations.
The way forward – publishers creating value
As the speakers presented their own challenges with the dominance of Google and Facebook, everyone agreed that the current digital advertising model has reached its limits and that the way forward is for publishers to create value through quality relationships, ad experiences and content.
While the digital sector increasingly focuses on high-quality ad experiences and content, ShowHeroes’ CEO, Ilhan Zengin said in his presentation, “publishers can create value by focusing on user experience and content. After all, without content, there is no revenue.”
Michael Nevins on the other hand recommends the creation of private gardens, essentially exclusive marketplaces which help publishers drive value for themselves and the industry at large.
“With a private garden, publishers are self-sufficient in understanding and nurturing their audience life cycles and delivering greater ad experiences through activating their rich audience data. Private gardens also allow publishers to better optimize yield, through improved demand platform partnerships and enhanced relationships with data providers, this is an essential differentiator for these media groups to play by their own rules,” added Nevins.
One keen advocate of private gardens is Markus Lauscher, Ad Technology Head from leading Âustrian publisher group, Styria Digital One: “Having a private garden allows Styria to act like a walled garden. We can now keep our client data safe with fuller control and transparency and capture greater advertising spend. By eliminating all redundancies, we’re truly focusing on inventory efficiency, high-quality ad formats and ultimately our client experience.”
When asked by moderating journalist Puscher on advice for publishers who are on the fence about creating their own private gardens, Lauscher responded with a resounding question to the audience: ”You have to ask yourself, do you ultimately want to be the puppet or the player?”
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