Mplx ad serverwhitepaper


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Mplx ad serverwhitepaper

  1. 1. a WHITEPAPER from MEDIAPLEX By Geoffrey Katz Vice President, Client Operations ValueClick, Inc. (NASDAQ: VCLK) ASACOMMODITY STOPVIEWINGADSERVERS
  3. 3. 01STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. INTRODUCTION Many people think of the ad serving business as a relatively sleepy, commoditised space. Agencies and brands alike review their ad serving relationships periodically, playing one supplier against another with a focus on getting the best possible financial terms. I understand the need to push for great rates. As a long-time veteran of the agency-side, I worked with virtually every major ad serving company at one point or another. Getting the best value on ad serving services is clearly a fiduciary responsibility for agency teams and brand teams alike. But I do think there is a big difference between negotiating the cheapest price and identifying the best value for your brand. ARAPIDLYCHANGINGAD SERVINGMARKET While some may think the third party ad serving business is pretty staid, the reality is just the opposite. Lately, there’s been more press interest in our sector because so many of the leading companies are in flux. There has been a great deal of change in the category, much of which needs to be considered when assessing goodness of fit with the various ad server partners out there. • Microsoftisreportedlyintheprocessof selling offAtlasSolutionsinabidtogetout ofad techandfocusonothercategories. • DG, parentofMediaMind,saysthey are exploringnumerousgoingforward financial strategies,“whichmayinclude partnerships,strategicbusinessmodel alternatives,asaleorothertransaction. In connectiontherewith,[they]engaged Goldman Sachstoassisttheminexploring strategicalternatives.” • A variety ofsmallstart-upshaveentered the business,withvaryinglevelsoffunding. Many areprimarilyfocusedonadserving within aspecificchannellikeMobile. • Google continuestointegrateDoubleClick more completelyintoitsadvertisingstack, giving themmoreandmorecomprehensive visibility intobrandandagencydata. Given all of these developments, it makes sense to re-examine the ad serving category with an eye toward what really matters – to ensure you get all of the value possible out of these important digital platforms. “WHILESOMEMAYTHINKTHE THIRDPARTYADSERVING BUSINESSISPRETTYSTAID, THEREALITYISJUSTTHE OPPOSITE.” DGPressRelease:“DGReportsThirdQuarter2012Results”
  4. 4. 02STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. RETHINKINGWHATANAD SERVERDOES According to the IBM survey, 73% of marketing organisations attribute marketing effectiveness to specific tactics in some way. But delivering accurate sales impact attribution across multiple media touchpoints is rather complicated. To find out just what people think an ad server does, I asked about a dozen people to explain to me what they thought were its essential functions. The answers I got were remarkably consistent, but only told about a third of the story. Most people’s answers concentrated on the act of literally serving ads – answering “ad calls” from a variety of publishers and networks. Many also pointed to the idea that using a centralised ad server is far less complex than relying on site serving, and that the simplicity of using an ad server helped reduce costs and errors. BUT AN AD SERVER IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. ULTIMATELY IT MEETS THREE CORE NEEDS: 1. Storing ad creative and serving it on an ad call according to business rules 2. Collecting data about marketing activity – impressions, clicks, interactions, conversions, etc. 3. Reporting and auditing on marketing performance in order to facilitate optimisation As you can see, the respondents of my informal poll were absolutely correct that managing and serving creative is a very important role of the ad server. But the other core functions of an ad server are perhaps even more critical to a modern advertiser’s success. As the central tracking hub of your integrated marketing efforts, the ad server is vital in today’s world of data- driven marketing. “ASTHECENTRALTRACKING HUBOFYOURMARKETING EFFORTS,THEADSERVERIS VITALINTODAY’SWORLDOF DATA-DRIVENMARKETING.”
  5. 5. 03STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. THECONDUITOFUSERDATA Certainly the act of serving ads is key to what an ad server does. But what often gets far less attention is that an ad server is (or should be) the centralised conduit of user data into your organisation. An ad server collects critical information on how consumers are viewing and interacting with your brand messages. It accumulates the data that enable a detailed view into your customers, their needs, and their actions. That’s why we need to take a broader view of what “best value” means in this category. In the course of my career and experience, I developed a set of the criteria that are critical to selecting the ad server that delivers the “best value”. Developing a broader understanding of the critical role ad servers play in a brand’s marketing success will help you make a more informed choice when selecting a supplier for your business. ADSERVINGATAGLANCE CENTRAL CREATIVE MANAGEMENT AUTOMATED CREATIVE OPTIMISATION UNIVERSAL CREATIVE RETARGETING CENTRAL FREQUENCY CONTROL IMPRESSION /CLICK COUNT VERIFICATION CROSS-CHANNEL DATA COLLECTION UNIVERSAL MEASUREMENT AND REPORTING CENTRAL USER DATA MANAGEMENT FOR TARGETING AND BID OPTIMISATION REDUCED LABOUR COSTS THROUGH CENTRAL CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT BETTER CAMPAIGN PERFORMANCE THROUGH OPTIMISATION BETTER MEASUREMENT AND REPORTING THROUGH CENTRAL DATA COLLECTION COREBENEFITS COREFEATURES
  6. 6. WHATMATTERSINANADSERVER 04STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. IN MY VIEW THERE ARE 8 THINGS THAT MATTER WHEN CHOOSING AN AD SERVER. EACH WARRANTS YOUR SERIOUS ATTENTION. 1.THEBASICS A traditional ad server hosts advertising creative, and delivers it to web browsers for display when visitors arrive on publisher webpages. Ad servers also collect data about campaign execution, counting impressions, clicks and other measures relevant to a brand and its marketing programmes. On the most basic level, the ad server you choose needs to deliver on these basic tasks. To do so effectively, it must be: • Certified by all leading web publishers • Able to store and deliver a wide variety of creative types • Accurate and timely in collecting and reporting data • Highly secure and reliable • Simple to configure and use Many ad servers meet these baseline hurdles, but you might be surprised to hear that some do not. In particular, some of the leading ad servers are rather problematic to deploy, exposing clients to long delays and the very real possibility that they will lose critical marketing data. 2.MULTICHANNELCAPABILITIES Related to integration is the need for a multichannel approach to collect, report, and analyse consumer data. We all complain about silos in marketing – the idea that display, search and the rest should be managed separately. Picking the right ad server is the first, and perhaps most important step in doing something to break down silos. Multichannel is about more than just display, search, video, mobile, and social. Many supliers can address these 5 channels, at least in some way. Without a doubt, a combined measurement system for 5 channels is better than 5 separate systems. However, this does not go far enough to achieve the greater goal of moving beyond channels to a user-centric approach to marketing. In addition to collecting data, you need to be able to correlate multichannel data at a user level. This type of user-level data correlation is critical for precision targeting and advanced attribution tactics. “USER-LEVELDATA CORRELATIONIS CRITICALFORPRECISION TARGETINGANDADVANCED ATTRIBUTIONTACTICS.”
  7. 7. 05STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. Collecting data is far less difficult than associating it across channels with particular web users. When you choose an ad server that can actually connect someone’s PC browsing data with their tablet browsing data and their smartphone browsing data, you gain a startling competitive advantage. Consumers don’t think about or classify personal experiences in channels or devices. Our understanding of them should not be limited in that way either. I can’t stress how important it is to get this right. This user-centric data strategy forms the foundation off all your data-driven marketing efforts. If this data is compromised, it can negatively impact the effectiveness of all of your data-driven programmes. To do it right you really need expert guidance from your ad serving supplier on how to implement proper data collection and management. This is a key place where hands-on support and service can help ensure you get the maximum benefit from your technology. 3.PLATFORMINTEGRATION Many supliers in the ad server space, especially new players, are focused on providing point products for particular types of ads, like mobile, rich media, or video. When companies begin to advertise in new media types or channels, such specialised systems can be simpler to implement. For example, deploying a mobile-specific ad server may appear to be the path of least resistance for ramping mobile efforts. But those short-term time savings are far overshadowed by the inevitable challenges that multiple supplier platforms create in realising a user-based data strategy. When information is difficult to get from one platform to another, the likelihood of integrating user data across platforms to build robust user profiles dims. These types of silos make it far more difficult to harness the true value that data can provide. “SHORTTERMTIMESAVINGS AREFAROVERSHADOWEDBY THEINEVITABLECHALLENGES THATMULTIPLESUPPLIER PLATFORMSCREATE.”
  8. 8. 06STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. At Mediaplex, our approach is very different. We designed our ad server with integration in mind. With comprehensive data collection and ad execution capabilities, it is a foundation for a complete data strategy and action plan. Mobile, video, rich media and other forms of marketing data all come together in the MOJO® Adserver platform. Our ad server includes an integrated Data Management Platform (DMP). The DMP stores a wealth of cross- channel first- and third-party user and campaign data that powers both true algorithmic marketing attribution and bid optimisation for managed DSP services. This sort of integration is invaluable as companies recognise the need for more holistic and user-centric approaches to data management, performance analysis, and data- driven execution. With a less integrated solution, you ultimately raise your cost and risk due to less accurate data collection and application. Whether you choose our ad server or another, make sure that platform integration is a real strength for the supplier you choose. 4.CUSTOMISATION Ad servers tend to have standardised approaches to recording and presenting data. For some clients, such approaches are quite beneficial because they make it easy to get up and running quickly. But many companies find a big gap between how their ad server “wants” to present information and how their company wants to consume it. To address this challenge, Mediaplex has developed a platform that enables its clients to customise every aspect of their instance. This sort of customisation has helped a number of our clients save time from not having to reformat, combine, or otherwise manipulate ad server data in order to meet their company’s reporting needs. Here you’ll need to consider whether your business will benefit more from platform flexibility or a template UI that is easier to use. “COMPANIESRECOGNISETHE NEEDFORMOREHOLISTICAND USER-CENTEREDAPPROACHES TODATAMANAGEMENT, PERFORMANCEANALYSIS,AND DATA-DRIVENEXECUTION.”
  9. 9. 07STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. 5.INDEPENDENCE When Atlas was owned by ad agency Avenue A, there were many agencies that chose an alternative because of a concern that somehow their client data would end up in the wrong hands. While all ad server suppliers provide assurances that client data are protected, some people still have understandable concerns. Today, DoubleClick is a part of Google, and Atlas a part of Microsoft. That’s something that may trouble some agencies and brands. Further, some also may have a concern that Google’s incredibly broad access to brand data gives them ever more power as a media supplier. After all, they often have access to most or all of a brand’s SEM activity and (for those brands that use it) Google Analytics data. Mediaplex, by contrast, is part of ValueClick, Inc. It is managed as a separate unit from all other ValueClick divisions and those divisions have absolutely zero access to Mediaplex data. In our view that sort of independence has real value – it’s something that we are very proud of. 6.CORPORATECOMMITMENT The technology of ad serving is constantly changing as new channels, ad formats, interactions, and placements are devised by brands and publishers interested in attracting more user attention. Staying ahead of those developments requires real commitment from your supplier in the form of technology and people investment. The best ad server for you should be making significant and sustained investment in people and technology, to keep you ready for new marketing opportunities and market circumstances. Start-up ad server companies are naturally full of commitment, but may lack the resources to keep their products current. By contrast, ad servers that are owned by large companies can get short shrift on investment if ad serving is not core to the company’s overall business. At Mediaplex, ad serving is at the centre of what we do. Our mission is to help marketers maximise return on their marketing investments. In order to achieve this goal, we need to be able to understand “what works” for a brand at the user level. Over the past several years, our parent company has made major investments in our ad server platform. Dozens of new people including respected, long-time “THISSORTOFCUSTOMISATION HASHELPEDANUMBEROF OURCLIENTSSAVETIME.”
  10. 10. 08STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. industry veterans have joined our team. New technology capabilities have been layered onto our core ad server to better meet the needs of today’s data-driven marketers. We may not be the only company investing seriously in their ad server businesses. But whichever supplier you choose, make sure that it is making the financial investments necessary to stay ahead of marketing developments. 7.COMPANYSTABILITY Your marketing data are absolutely critical to your future success. Many suppliers in this category are new companies, bootstrapping or relying heavily on venture capital investment to cover costs. Sweat equity and VC money have done very positive things for digital. Do consider, however, that many start-ups have an exit strategy focused on getting acquired by a larger company. In a number of cases, in the ad serving category, that hasn’t been a positive for customers. Sometimes those larger companies lose interest in a platform and reduce investment in its workforce and technology. Make sure that whomever you work with has enough money to get off the ground and sustain themselves, while they get market traction. It may well take years for them to sign the clients needed to fully sustain their business. Switching costs are also an important consideration. When you change ad servers you must retag your site, and also retrain your ad operations and analysis teams in using the new platform. For agencies, an even greater challenge is integrating a new platform with existing work flows and accounting systems. While there are certainly good reasons for changing ad servers – reasons that are worth the switching costs – you’ll want to minimise the number of times you switch. It’s simply a hassle you don’t need year after year. By choosing a stable supplier, you go a long way toward reducing future headaches. The most stable companies in our category, in my view, are DoubleClick and Mediaplex. DoubleClick is part of Google, so there’s no chance of them running out of money any time soon. Mediaplex has been in business for more than 15 years, and is a division of ValueClick Inc., a large, profitable, publicly-traded company focused entirely on digital marketing. “OURMISSIONISTOHELP MARKETERSMAXIMISE RETURNONTHEIR MARKETINGINVESTMENTS.” “BYCHOOSINGASTABLE SUPPLIER,YOUGOALONG WAYTOWARDREDUCING FUTUREHEADACHES.”
  11. 11. 09STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. 8.TRACKRECORDANDPEOPLE As I’ve outlined, the ad server is a critical source of valuable marketing data, and your brand’s marketing data is a critical driver of modern marketing tactics. As such it is important to select an ad serving supplier with a strong track record of service, support and reliability. One of the leading companies in the category owes much of its success to an extremely appealing dashboard. But when it comes to implementing its technology, they frequently fall far short of client expectations. Integrations tend to be slow, incomplete, and filled with small points of aggravation. A great UI can be tempting, but make sure you take into account the broader role an ad server will play in your brand’s success. All of the dashboard bells and whistles in the world won’t help you make sense of incorrect or incomplete data. And the process of implementing a new ad server isn’t something you want to move forward with only to find that the supplier cannot provide the correct information and level of service you require. In ad serving, incorrect or incomplete data means huge problems in campaign management, budgeting, auditing, data collection, and reporting. It also prevents you from deriving the data insights needed to optimise your marketing investments. Mediaplex has always believed that flawless execution and strong customer service are the keystones of any business, but this is particularly true in ad serving. We have many clients who will attest to our on-going strong service and support from sign-up. Other large players in the category tend to offer their best service for very large customers only. It stands to reason, of course: big advertiser = big revenue. But for advertisers that aren’t as gigantic, service levels can be questionable. I believe that you should ask a prospective supplier for references from advertisers of your size; not their three biggest advertisers, unless that’s what you will be. But if, for example, you spend £10-£15million in advertising annually, ask for a list of clients that do the same, and then quiz those references on the service level they get. “ALLOFTHEDASHBOARD BELLSANDWHISTLESINTHE WORLDWON’THELPYOUMAKE SENSEOFINCORRECTOR INCOMPLETEDATA.” “FLAWLESSEXECUTIONAND STRONGCUSTOMERSERVICE SHOULDBETHEKEYSTONES OFANYADTECHNOLOGY SUPPLIER’SBUSINESS.”
  12. 12. 10 CONCLUSIONS STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. I don’t claim to be an unbiased observer of the ad server category. I joined Mediaplex because I believe in its vision, its model, its products, and its level of client service. There are other good ad serving products besides Mediaplex. Every company has strengths and weaknesses, and your choice of an ad server should be made in consideration of those. Ultimately your choice of ad server is an extremely important business decision. By carefully considering alternatives and asking the right questions, you can make a choice that represents the best value for your brand and company. I welcome your comments on this paper and on the ad serving category. Please e-mail me at GeoffreyKatz@
  13. 13. 11 ABOUTMEDIAPLEX STOP VIEWING AD SERVERS AS A COMMODITY © COPYRIGHT 2012 MEDIAPLEX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MEDIAPLEX AND MOJO ARE REGISTERED TRADEMARKS OF VALUECLICK, INC. MEDIAPLEX:THEDIGITALRETURNON INVESTMENTSPECIALISTS We create massive returns for famous clients across their multi-channel digital marketing strategies. We work at the leading edge of online marketing, creating customised optimisation strategies that enable clients to precision-tune every campaign and out-perform their competitors. We take a holistic approach to real-time optimisation, combining data analytics with expertise in re- targeting, dynamic messaging and real-time performance measurement to create a tailored approach to every client challenge. We’re part of ValueClick Inc., the world’s leading online marketing company and the results we achieve speak for themselves. Our clients like Dell, eBay and Betfair have been with us for years, would love to keep us secret. Geoffrey Katz is Vice President, Client Operations at Mediaplex. He began his career as a software developer, and in 2000 transitioned to the digital marketing field when he joined Mediaplex as Product Manager for the MOJO® Adserver. In this role he was responsible for developing and leading the development roadmap for this flagship Mediaplex service. In 2008, he joined Razorfish, where he was the New York office lead for campaign management and ad operations. He was later promoted to a national role for Razorfish as Director of Tools and Technology. In this post he was focused on finding and influencing the best solutions for ad serving, ad verification, OBA compliance, tag management, dynamic creative and rich media. He rejoined Mediaplex in 2011. “ULTIMATELYYOURCHOICE OFADSERVERISAN EXTREMELYIMPORTANT BUSINESSDECISION.”