Steps to Simplification: Q&A With Matt Barash

Why's RTB gotta be so complicated?

They say it will be a love fest, but we’re all secretly hoping for a round of sparring – on Wednesday, April 18 at OPS Markets in New York, Matt Barash, digital media adviser and entreprenuer previously seen at Forbes and Fox Audience Network, will join pal JR Randall, Director of Partnerships & Ventures for VivaKi Nerve Center, to discuss how to foster better relationships between pubs and agencies. But before then, he’s shared with us some thoughts about simplifying the RTB marketplace, the importance of personal relationships in programmatic buying and what keeps him up at night.

There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace between publishers trying to create smarter revenue groups from their “private marketplace” and the roles of ATD and DSP in how they generate more business. How can the RTB marketplace be a simpler business?

#Mythology: My favorite band of the past 18 months, “The Acronyms,” are not in any way a prohibitive issue for a publisher, nor are they a one-hit wonder – they actually offer tremendous benefit when properly recognized for their distinct potential to change generations of advertising practice. The market is littered with duplication and not plagued by fragmentation and clutter, as many are led to believe. Perception and reality are in the eyes of the beholder – and as seen through the lens of the progressive publisher, the advantage of an emerging ad tech marketplace, well stocked with options by which to drive a smarter business will inevitably help to shift marketer spend through these new channels of advertising interaction. 

#Leverage:  The first step in simplification is by creating definition and industry wide understanding of what it all means.  At it’s most basic, the Agency Trading Desk is the sophisticated buying group of the future – a business unit within a holding company which makes educated investments based upon their respective clients’ goals, objectives and targeting criteria and thus leverage aggregated spend and insights across any number of digital media options. 

#Snipers: The Demand Side Platform acts as the ATD’s preferred delivery engine or what I like to refer to as the “brainy piping” – the agency ad server of the future.  The technology behind the DSP is intense and the byproduct of the efforts of brilliant statistical minds to solve for the probability that a user will take action on a specific ad, at a specific time, based upon a cocktail of context, content, data and algorithmic special sauce.  Marketers are no longer shooting fish in a barrel and John Wannamaker, if he were alive today, could feel confident that half of his ads aren’t wasted.  

#Geese?:  Private exchanges have popped up over the past year to enable big brand publishers to take back control of who has access to their inventory and how it is made available. Savvy pubs, with hand holding and guidance from third party supply side platforms and exchanges, are building comprehensive business rules around who can access their inventory at precisely specified levels of pricing, campaign delivery and transparency. The more granular the publisher is in their willingness to expose their assets, the more fruitful their return has proven to be.

While still a nascent notion, the challenge with the concept of the Private Marketplace, as it exists today, is the lack of standardization and conformity across the market.  I bet if you ask 10 people what a Private Exchange is, you’d find yourself with at least 7 different answers (then imagine yourself in the ATD and DSP role trying to sort through the partnership options). Point of fact, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Publishers need to work together to get on the same page, and need to do so in partnership with the buy side to establish maximum transactional efficiency.  

What does the marketplace need most to see an influx of spend across programmatic mechanisms?

#Friendships:  While we all wax poetic on an ongoing basis about the emergence of machine based buying as a transactional tactic, personal buy side/sell side relationships will still reign supreme in the long run.  If you ask the key players at trading desks and demand side platforms they will enthusiastically share that they want to get to know publishers who have a strong story, an attractive audience and perhaps even a few non traditional bells and whistles to find new and interesting ways to work collaboratively and build healthier, more robust partnerships.

There’s been an inherent fear over the past few years on the supply side that programmatic buying will create downward pricing pressures – I’m not so sure I buy that. Publishers who have quality audiences and content will be rewarded with higher paid rates by allowing access to their real estate via RTB. Publishers who pimp and push littered sites and don’t manage towards metrics that matter (i.e. frequency, clicks, engagement, brand awareness, etc), lack quality and miss their mark will suffer the consequences of historical misrepresentation and inflated pricing. The algo doesn’t discriminate, nor does it lie.

And leading publishers with direct-to-agency sales teams will be rewarded with a new shiny red object to bring to their customers in the form of increased access to premium inventory, rather than increased headaches over channel conflict worries. Roll the dice folks, you might just yell “Yahtzee!”  

When thinking ad tech as a big picture business, what keeps you up at night?

#Insomnia: Misconceptions and unfounded fears. Publishers should really be bullish on the opportunity at hand, and I’m not sure I sense whole hearted universal confidence in the marketplace. You might not blow away your goal and win mega millions by solely lighting up your business through programmatic channels today, but you’ve gotta be in it to win it if you want to achieve long term viability and success. For spend to flow and for brand dollars to scale, publishers will need to be progressive and not rest on their laurels.

Be bold and assertive. Operate with a little less fear and much more of an open mind and a willingness to experiment. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen – you might get burnt once or twice in the trial process… but you live and learn, and your business survives and soon trends up and to the right as a result!


OPS Markets

Catch Matt Barash and JR Randall dissect agency-pub relationships at OPS Markets, which will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for operational excellence in the evolving automated landscape. Register today for OPS Markets, which will be held April 18, 2012, in New York.