The innovative ad tech world has had its fair share of ups and downs. From being adland’s new shiny play thing, to being the naughty opaque kid on the block, ad tech companies have risen, fallen, been sliced, diced, re–jigged and spurted back out.
Whether it be Videology’s US bankruptcy last month, Rocketfuel’s job cuts and share price quibbles in 2017, or AdRoll’s shock Australian staff cull, it’s been a challenging path for certain ad tech companies.
However, it’s important not to let the negative overshadow some of the great success stories, such as the way certain firms are tackling transparency head–on and the way companies are becoming braver at speaking out against the challenges they face, such as the duopoly of Facebook and Google.
Despite some woes at ad tech companies, with AdNews also recently hearing about Australian redundancies at another ad tech business (keep an eye on AdNews for more), there has been interesting acquisitions. Take Oracle having recently bought brand safety and pre-bid contextual solutions firm Grapeshot, which it says will “dramatically expand” its ability to improve marketing outcomes - and more recently AT&T buying AppNexus. There’s also performance marketing business, Impact, now headed up by ex RadiumOne boss Adam Furness, which has doubled its team in the past three months.
The Australian market is also not short of talent, with scores of proactive execs queueing up to help educate the industry. Taking a glance at the Sydney scene alone, the mobile marketing, ad tech and video tech meetups have a total of more than 5,000 members who meet quarterly, in their own time, to educate themselves.
There are also strong signs of publishers swatting up on the ad tech landscape they were once so shielded from, with many digging deeper and asking more questions.
Industry meetups grow in popularity
When looking at the current state of the ad tech market in Australia, Samuel Tan, director of market development ANZ at global programmatic advertising business, AppNexus, said he believes the industry is standing on the precipice of further consolidation.
“Major buyers and sellers are uncertain about who they can partner with in the long run. Who will be left to help them take on the duopoly, and increasingly, Amazon?” Tan said.
“That said, while some of the bigger decisions are on hold, there’s lots of exciting things still moving forward. We’re excited at the application of machine learning to enable marketers to achieve better outcomes that justify their investment and help publishers, broadcasters and app developers fund the creation of compelling content that audiences know and love.
“Additionally, the emphasis on rebuilding trust and moving towards greater transparency across the board is an extremely positive step. Significant work remains, but we’re heading in the right direction."
Tan also said it’s encouraging to see publishers around the world taking back control of how they monetise their inventory.
“This requires strong leadership and an appetite for change, which isn’t always easy. But, in doing so, they give themselves the best chance of creating a thriving business that isn’t beholden to the duopoly,” he explained.
Matthew Joyce, country manager of programmatic software business DataXu, said the market here “is in great shape” and this cannot be overlooked. He firmly believes there’s a lot of sophistication amongst both the major players in the space as well as marketing professionals.
“One of the challenges I can see though at the moment is the tension around digital transformation for both brands and agencies and how to best utilise data, achieve marketing ROI and meet the needs of the digital–first consumer,” Joyce said.
The land grab is on
Rohan Creasey, country manager at ad tech business Rubicon Project, said “transparency” is actually a current market positive. And, while that may seem counter– intuitive “with all we hear in the media”, he said this now puts smart buyers in the box seat.
“They are locking down publisher rates, evaluating SSPs and exchanges and demanding simplicity,” Creasey explained.
“We have taken transparency a step further, allowing our clients to see everything that happens to every single dollar that they put in, including auction dynamics,figures around costs and returns,as well as fees.
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“It’s wonderfully liberating for all of us and the ripple effect will do great things for cutting through the industry noise and exposing the charlatans.”
Creasey said while Australia and New Zealand’s ad tech markets are “wonderfully strange, diverse and full of rare things you don’t see anywhere else”, the market is doing things the rest of the world hasn’t thought about.
“However, it’s not quite the harmonious region it once was — there’s a lot of noise and distraction, a very high level of fragmentation for such a small market, and new players attempting a land grab,” he said.
“Everyone wants a slice of the market, but sadly they often want it without really being willing to contribute to its maintenance.”
With industry issues such as transparency, it seems some ad tech players have taken it upon themselves to beat the transparency drum to ensure intentions and company workings are all above board.
“Education is always the biggest challenge,” Creasey said.
“We are all part of a complex and rapidly evolving ecosystem, so understanding it takes patience and effort. That means it’s ripe for invasion and for nefarious activity such as companies cherry–picking targets or markets for example. I’m not convinced everyone is in the market for the good of the market.”
Damien Thomson, general manager APAC at Sizmek, argued the most positive aspect of the Australian ad tech market right now is that there are several independent ad tech vendors championing transparency and working in the best interests of agencies and advertisers.
“We’re trying to ensure that there’s a level playing field, greatervisibility into the media supply chain, and that clients have access to the data they need, to make more informed decisions on how media is transacted,” Thomson explained.
He added, to the benefit of advertisers, the industry is also focusing more on brand safety to ensure brand messages appear in the right environments and inspire consumers to action.
Tan said it is pleasing to see the high level of co–operation between various players in the ecosystem. “Businesses that would traditionally consider themselves to be ivals are finding ways to partner–up,” he revealed.
“You see this with broadcasters teaming up around addressable TV solutions; publisher coalitions (KPEX in New Zealand, SMX in Singapore); and with broader industry initiatives such as the publisher identity co–operative.
“If we are to ensure that the internet remains open and free, we need companies across the spectrum to continue to pool their assets and ideas towards creating competitive centres of gravity.”
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