PubForum Memories: Reflections From Sonoma, March 2015

Takeaways and Videos From the Event

It’s been a bit of a crazy time in AdMonsters-land – besides merging with Access Intelligence, I’ve been heavy into programming the upcoming OPS conference, June 9 in NYC. However, I just received a bunch of video clips back from our most recent Publisher Forum in Sonoma and it made me reflect on those three and a half days in early March. 

It usually takes a few weeks to process all that I learn at a PubForum, and this was no exception – sad thing is the digital advertising industry moves at a pace that doesn’t allow for much rumination about the past. But as we wanted to share these interviews from the Sonoma PubForum, I thought I’d reminisce about my learnings – and not just those related to the quality of cabernet…

Melissa Chapman At Publisher Forum Sonoma from AdMonsters on Vimeo.

Language Lessons: “If we were going to compete with radio, we needed to speak the language,” former Pandora VP of Sales Operations Joanna Bloor commented during the Digital Media Leadership Award (DMLA) winners’ panel. She was referring to when Pandora opened jumped on the advertising train – once it started competing with radio, it had to confer with radio advertisers in a tongue they understood.  

This was a sentiment repeated many times – particularly when it comes to GRPs, typically considered the realm of TV. Even if you’re not part of a broadcast operation or you don’t do all that much video, you need to understand digital GRPs because that is the language that advertisers want to speak. GRPs are coming to all points digital, especially as viewability providers and GRP measurement companies partner up and tie together their services.

Tagless Is Madness! Well, no – mainly tagless is very complicated and there are a lot of tags involved despite the name. (Don’t ad tech vendors know that irony is so last decade?) Still, tagless is exciting, a major breakthrough – the technology is basically a stepping stone on the path to the so-called meta-auction where publishers can shoot an impression simultaneously to all the SSPs they work with and let the ad server pick the best fit. That may not necessarily be based on price…

Matthew Corbin At Publisher Forum Sonoma from AdMonsters on Vimeo.

Powering Through With PMPs. At least one publisher casually mentioned that it’s running hundreds of private marketplace deals at a given time. Publishers are much more comfortable with PMPs now, even if the frustratingly manual setups still give them headaches. However, Keynote Mike Smith, General Manager of Hearst’s Core Audience Platform, was quick to note that the private marketplace has not developed to its full potential and that far more money is flowing through open exchanges. He also said this will change, and AdMonsters contributing writer Brian LaRue lately illuminated some of the reasons why.

However, private marketplaces still have a big challenge that’s real straightforward – publishers need advertisers to share objectives and data with them. During our programmatic breakout, it became clear that this was key for publishers to insert their first-party data to optimize campaigns and drive respectable performance. With PMPs, many advertisers have been content to get the advantage of “first look” (let’s be honest – it’s “priority,” which is still vague) in their cookie hunt, but that can’t be enough to awaken the viability of this channel.

Video Gone Prog. It’s still pretty early days for programmatic video, but some ops people are really getting a handle on it. It’s really a channel of particular interest to non-broadcast video creators – a convenient way to monetize a blooming stash of video inventory and give advertisers a taste of the audience that you can deliver.

Dan Murphy Interview v2 from AdMonsters on Vimeo.

Data Is for Sharing? Oracle Marketing Cloud (you might remember when it was called BlueKai) offered a fascinating look into the potential of second-party data – basically two parties sharing their owned data. Yes, advertisers and publishers matching up their first-party data in a secure environment to optimize targeting within campaigns. We’ve had sessions in the past about the potential, but it was fascinating to see a workable demo. And there’s further potential with non-related pubs matching data with each other within programmatic alliances – or supply-side trading desks, because that acronym (SSTD) makes me giggle every time.

Also, a bad joke during this breakout led to the quite fun hashtag #opspickuplines.

The DMP Team. Everyone wants a DMP, everyone needs a DMP, but just how do you get one? Santa ain’t dropping one off under the office tree (digital fir?) anytime soon. A breakout session revealed that teaming up with other departments – particularly marketing – is a great way to show the value of a DMP to the organization and get buy in from higher up. But that can’t be the end of the partnership – marketing, ops and other departments should develop their DMP skillsets together and share learnings and tracks on a regular basis. This can be done through meetings, lunches, drinks – whatever will keep the conversation going.

John Jenks at Publisher Forum Sonoma from AdMonsters on Vimeo.

Woe Is Not Ops. During the DMLA panel, I jokingly tweeted: “Nobody puts OPS in the corner – well, everybody tries.” Someone replied along the lines of, What are you talking about? Ops is viewed as a major part of every media organization.

To an extent, that person has a point. Most of the keynote from Imgur’s Steve Patrizi heralded the importance of ops in opening revenue streams in the many startup media operations he had been involved in. Increasingly salespeople are becoming marginalized, especially if they don’t have the tech know-how to drive bigger, better deals. While in some organizations sales is treated like the great bringer of revenue and light and joy, you have to be pretty short-sighted not to see ops’ good deeds. 

You heard it here first: having that woe is ops, we’re just the guys in the corner no one listens to attitude is passé. Ops is highly essential and visible within the digital media organization. The department is likely driving the programmatic business at least and bringing in larger and larger pieces of the revenue pie. 

That’s right, ops: you got the seat at the table. Now whatcha gonna do with it?