Q&A with PubMatic’s Emma Newman

06 August, 2021 

Last month, sell-side advertising company, PubMatic, hosted a 25-hour event called “ENVISION: What’s next for addressability”. Following the event, VideoWeek sat down with Emma Newman, chief revenue officer EMEA at PubMatic to talk about how Google’s delay announcement has affected plans for alternative to third-party cookies going forward, how addressability is evolving in the CTV market, and the challenges of running an event that lasted 25-hours. 

Prior to Google’s announcement that they were delaying the deprecation of the third-party cookie, there was a sense of urgency behind finding alternate data solutions. Now that the announcement has been made do you believe that same sense of urgency is still there to find solutions? 

I think it’s important to recognise the deprecation of third party cookies is in line with broader global trends around consumer data protection. And so while Google’s timeline may have been pushed back, it absolutely shouldn’t pause the industry’s work to find new and better ways to deliver relevant advertising to consumers.

At PubMatic, our mission is, is and has always been to fuel the endless potential of the internet content creators to support a thriving open internet that can continue to deliver quality content and entertainment for free. And we do this by driving superior revenue for publishers and increased ROI for marketers and advertisers across the open internet.

We’ve been busy developing the technical infrastructure to support the digital ad ecosystem without third-party cookies. These efforts are just as important today, as they were a month ago. While Google’s cookie deprecation timelines were the spark that ignited our industry’s innovation in this area, the need for better addressability solutions isn’t new.

We do agree that the industry overall will be better served by having more time to develop and test alternative privacy-first addressability solutions. And the future of the open internet depends on getting this right. So, I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that the urgency is definitely still there.

Lots of solutions are coming to market for the cookieless future. Is there any particular type of solution that you see scaling in the future, or will there be a mix of different types of addressability solutions?

At PubMatic, we’ve recommended and will continue to recommend that publishers, advertisers and the industry at large use this extended window of time to increase their efforts to create solutions that satisfy both the requirements of the consumer, namely privacy, and the performance needs of advertising on the open internet. 

So given this, PubMatic recommends three main areas to focus on for our customers and our partners across the industry as we work to create more privacy-first solutions for safe data-driven advertising in the future. So firstly, absolutely work together to build solutions that will work long term. There are many cross functional working groups within pre-bid;  IAB tech lab, the W3C and others are actively working to create solutions that put consumer privacy and data protection at the core. Collaboration is absolutely going to be key to that. 

Secondly, a portfolio approach to addressability should be a key focus. We believe the path to audience addressability will not be one size fits all and that a portfolio approach is the most effective and balanced path forward for the whole advertising ecosystem. If you think about it, buyers and sellers can utilise a range of options including first party data segments, alternative identifiers, and contextual strategies to help drive superior performance and revenue. If we take this portfolio approach, then we can create a stronger, more sustainable addressable advertising ecosystem that delivers superior monetization to publishers, increased ROI for buyers, and strong data protections for everybody. 

Then, thirdly, work with partners that can help you test and learn. So at the end of the day, third-party cookies are already non-existent in other major browsers such as Firefox and Safari and have been for some time, so these provide the perfect testing ground for approaches without third party cookies. We recommend customers and partners test addressability solutions in these environments. If they do that, then it will help ensure publishers and buyers are better prepared for addressability across the open internet, when chrome finally deprecates the third party cookie. 

So, to sum it up I think there’s going to be a mix of addressability solutions. Because, it won’t be one size fits all, and not every addressability solution is going to be right for that particular moment in time. So our advice would be to take this extra time to test and learn, do take this extra time to work collaboratively, because I think really the future of audience addressability is going to be down to the industry working collaboratively. And including the consumer in that as well.

How is the addressable TV market evolving? Are you seeing inventory become available on the open marketplace, or is it mostly being traded via private marketplaces, direct deals etc.?

I think that we’re in a good position, we’re a global SSP, and we’ve been able to see firsthand the surge in CTV ad dollars moving through programmatic pipes. The majority of CTV transactions occur within curated private marketplaces at the moment, giving buyers greater control as to how they structure deals and more insight into how their ad dollars are being spent. 

CTV inventory in Europe is pretty scarce, so not as much is available on the open market. Broadcasters will typically go for programmatic guaranteed, with some one-to-one preferred deals, but we are seeing this change, and more are opening up private marketplaces (PMP). OTT-first publishers will tend to offer PMPs as their preferred route to market. 

I think that the lack of both open real-time bidding (RTB) standards in the open marketplace and a reliable definition of OTT across ad tech platforms has combined with the TV publishers desire to maintain control over their inventory to produce a closed deal based economy when it comes to OTT and CTV specifically.

That sort of deal based economy typically takes three forms, so PMPs, which is a deal based method for suppliers to offer ad inventory packages built around audience data, impression attributes, content type, etc. to a group of buyers who are pre-approved by the publisher. 

You’ve then got preferred deals or direct deals. So these are one-to-one deals established between a publisher and buyer for a fixed price cost per thousand impressions (CPM). And you’ve also got programmatic guaranteed deals, which are deals established between a publisher and a buyer for a fixed price CPM that guarantees access, so in effect it reserves traffic to a minimum number of impressions for the buyer, and also guarantees a minimum spend to the publisher. 

Now that said, as advertisers and publishers are embracing programmatic in CTV for its ease of use, agility, and data driven buys, we will see more and more buyers experiment and manage some of their CTV budgets through the open market where possible.

Recently you put on a 25-hour ENVISION event about the future of addressable advertising. It must have been challenging to put on such a long event, how did the team go about organising it?

ENVISION was a major global virtual event that has received a lot of positive feedback from both our contributors and our audience, which is great. When we were planning the event, we were obviously very aware of the fact that by now, a lot of us are pretty tired of sitting in front of the screen and interacting virtually. Zoom fatigue hits even the most loyal of event attendees. So we felt that, in order for this to be successful, we needed to shake things up a little bit. We wanted to create a virtual event that would get our participants engaged, moving and talking.

The first talking point was really the fact it was going to be 25 hours of content. We followed the sun. Starting in Australia, and then ending up in California. Now to pull that off, I think it’s fair to say it required a military-style operation between all the PubMatic teams, from the leadership team, who opened up their contact list to help us secure speakers, to all the hosts who kicked their kids and their pets out of their homes to ensure quiet, to our inspirational speakers. The list just goes on and on. It was truly an enormous team effort.

I can’t talk about this without really giving a huge thank you to the events and the marketing team who banded together across the globe, to make the whole thing happen. We’re really proud of what we accomplished as a team. 

The content from the event is still available on-demand. It features more than 120 speakers, including industry experts, thinkers, and dreamers, from around the world who discussed the pressing issue of addressability and debated the various paths to success. We had some really big names, which is part of how we pulled it off, by having really engaging speakers

We had keynote speakers from different perspectives. We had Scott Galloway, who’s a professor of marketing at NYU School of Business. We had serial entrepreneur Kim Portate, who’s the CEO of ThinkTV. We had the ex-CMO of Nike. We had Duncan Wardle, who was head of innovation and creativity creation at Disney.

There was this whole plethora of big interesting speakers that helped us pull it off. It really brought the best minds together to discuss the right approach for audience addressability at scale, or just addressability at scale. Because you start to think about contextual, it’s bigger than just audience. It’s about addressability, both for today, and also for the future. 

What were the emerging themes from the event? What were your key takeaways from the event?

The content was very consciously split into six main themes. Addressability was the overarching theme, but there were lots of pillars underneath that. They were addressability, privacy, mobile, CTV, creativity, and attribution. I think against each of those six themes, or six pillars, there were some really interesting points.

If we think about addressability, one of the key things that came out of that was the whole value chain needs to be aligned. Every player in the chain needs to understand the value and contribute to the chain, including the consumer. I think from a publisher perspective, they want to see it as an open field, it is not just about the consumer, but also about the publisher taking back control. 

In terms of data ethics, one of the themes that was apparent is that the industry should shift the conversation and stop talking about data privacy, and start talking about data ethics. And work to give people real information which then gives control back to the consumer. Another thing that came from the privacy conversation was that the old internet had a problem of consent. That’s the biggest issue or opportunity, depending on your point of view, that we have to resolve now. And explaining the value exchange to the consumer is definitely key. 

If publishers invest in brand safety, and adhere to all the rules, which they are happy to do, they also expect some positive return from the buy side. For transparency to be effective, it needs to be a mutual act between advertisers and publishers. And if you think about attribution, there’s been a fundamental shift in how we transact, which was accelerated by COVID, resulting in a lot of brands increasing their presence online. Those brands need to understand how to invest to take advantage of this consumer shift. And many are also looking to better understand how to increase or develop a direct to consumer offering. The other thing under attribution that came across was if you could apply the retailer’s data to marketing campaigns then that’s a huge opportunity. 

In terms of mobile, some of the key themes were around in-game formats. In-play formats are definitely big this year, but brands are yet to discover all of the benefits. So more education is definitely needed on this element for the buy side. Linear TV is declining and CTV can’t provide all the scale. So, therefore video dollars will also shift to gaming in the next 18 months.

Audience adjustability with linear TV was always limited. So contextual targeting is going to be absolutely key for the relatively new video space of CTV. Understanding what a person is watching is a great proxy for interest and intent. 

And then the final pillar was really creativity. And there was a great quote, which is “empathy going forward is so central to brand building of the future. It enables you to go beyond the surface to gain greater understanding of an individual community and what their needs are, and this will then allow for more meaningful conversation.”

I think there’s hope that there will be a move in media companies’ thinking, in shifting from their key stakeholder being the advertiser to their key stakeholder being the end consumer. This goes back to my point at the beginning, if you think about the consumer, that’s also going to be good for the advertiser.

2021-08-17T17:33:52+01:00

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