Facilitating Transparency: Interview With MediaMath’s Daniel Bougourd

Spurring the flow of transactional data

“No transparency!” must be the most common complaint around the RTB space. Buyers feel short-shifted in terms their ability to get insight into the inventory they’re purchasing while publishers are concerned with the advertisers grabbing their stock for cheap and the quality of the creative coming through the pipes. Oh, did we mention the lurking threat of malvertising and malware?

But while many in the space lament the lack of transparency in the programmatic bid arena, it’s a bit harder to find technology firms actively working to improve the flow of information between transacting parties. I caught up with Daniel Bougourd, Director of Business Operations, EMEA & APAC, at MediaMath, to hear how that DSP is partnering with The Media Trust to facilitate transparency in RTB transactions, the obstacles in getting there and how premium publishers view data in the programmatic market.

Do the premium publishers you work with have data policies in place?

Publishers and marketers alike have similar needs and objectives when it comes to protecting their data. Fortunately, the MediaMath platform provides safeguards to meet these needs. Increasingly, buyers and sellers are becoming more educated around transacting in an automated and real-time environment thus data policies are being put in place. It is the smart thing to do in order to protect your brand and MediaMath encourages it.

We often advise publishers in how to craft their own polices through our OPEN partnership program. Safeguards within these policies vary widely depending on the publisher but the most common in terms of private marketplaces include prohibiting the collection of PII, maintaining a safe environment when it comes to ad quality and maintaining an written consent when tracking tags are used. Through a combination of terms and conditions, core platform capabilities and integrations with partners like The Media Trust, MediaMath offers a buying platform for marketers that publishers can feel confident in.

Could you describe your relationship with The Media Trust?

The Media Trust is a partner through our OPEN Partnership Program. Our integration with them focuses on keeping publishers’ ad environments safe. Prior to a buyer’s ad being delivered through our platform, The Media Trust scans the creative tags checking for malware and other harmful elements. This ensures a safe experience for the end user while also protecting data from harmful third party calls. The scope of this integration includes all creative within our system and operates across all of our inventory sources globally.

Historically, premium publishers have been concerned about working with demand sources through supply-side technologies because of the lack of control, not just around pricing, but also safety. MediaMath has made a proactive investment in working with The Media Trust to provide the quality and safety experience that these premium publishers require.

MediaMath is differentiating itself by making sizable monetary investments in technology, process and people to help monetize premium publisher inventory through programmatic channels all while creating a safe environment for publishers.

Do you feel like your competitors are making similar investments in this space?

I can’t speak for our competitors but I can speak for MediaMath and what we hear from our buyers. Marketers are asking for an easier way. They want the ability manage 100% of brand spend through a marketing platform. They are asking for workflow automation and efficiency that isn’t just a single channel but goes cross channel to advertise to consumers across all touch points. MediaMath provides this via our platform and is focused on expanding these capabilities through substantial investment.

In the coming months, you will see the release of enhanced capabilities making it even easier for our buyers to purchase “programatic guaranteed” media. This will include the RTB-savvy buyers and trading desks as well as appeal to more traditional marketers.

So at the heart of these initiatives is the effort to facilitate transparency.

For sure. Transparency and control will replace terms and conditions. We want to give our buyers the ability to understand and know the value of the media they are purchasing, and enable publishers to know what they’re selling and understand why and where the buyers see value.

That almost sounds like it’s outside a DSP’s comfort zone.

Actually, we’re completely operating within the philosophy of the company: bring accountability and ROI-level intelligence back to the buyer. The only way to do that is to facilitate this kind of transparency within the transaction to the buyer and seller. Value is achieved by connecting both the buyer and the seller, and providing them with all the information needed to facilitate a sell and a buy simultaneously.

As a technology company, we must discover and promote value through information, rather than reduce value by omitting information. This was the belief MediaMath was founded on, and we’re investing in the technology to further realize that.

The added value, then, is increased spend going through your platform?

Our focus is the value brought to the buyers as in an improved return on investment. The value to the sellers naturally manifests itself in the form of incremental yield. If additional spend goes through our platform, then it is good for the entire ecosystem ~ buyers, sellers and MediaMath. The best analogy for this would be a tour guide. A tour guide enlightens a tour of a magnificent monument for tourists which benefits both the local economy and the visitor’s enjoyment. 

What have been the biggest challenges in facilitating this level of transparency?

Timing and the ever maturing ecosystem. Global RTB spend is estimated to be $5 billion in 2013 (PDF), up from $401 million in 2010. It was a matter of RTB adoption and the overall programmatic approach to marketing. Over time, the traditional players have become comfortable with, and understand the value of automated transactions.

Now we are seeing a tremendous push for not one large marketplace but a serious of smaller private marketplaces in which buyers and sellers have special relationships. This may sound like we have taken steps back however what is different now is the underlying automation, efficiency and speed at which these transactions can be facilitated and managed. 

Do you have any advice for premium publishers dabbling in this space? 

Give programatic premium a trial. Moving transactions out of a manual IO based world into a world of programmatic buying will benefit everyone through increased scale, lower operating costs and increased insight about the inventory. Sellers should speak to buyers about selling programmatically, and speak to one of the many supply side technologies regarding a test.

When selling via an exchange, sellers are not required to sign up all of their placements. You can even take a hybrid approach if you are outside of your comfort zone. This will allow sellers to understand the benefits whilst removing any anxiety they might have regarding revenue risks.

Where do you hope to see this initiative in a year?

I hope to see thousands of global premium publishers communicating in an automated way with MediaMath platform buyers. As the underlying buy-side marketing platform working with exchanges/SSPs, it is our job to facilitate this communication in a subordinate way to the actual business discussions that should occur between buyer and seller.

What’s the biggest obstacle in making that a reality?

I honestly believe it’s primarily education. The market has come a long way over the last five years but we still have a long way to go. This means we need to educate the masses while also making the workflow easier. Focusing on the technology aspects of these solutions only leads to confusion. We should be focusing on the business aspects and benefits that can be achieved for both buyers and sellers.