Surviving The Clash Of The Titans

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davidgoliath2.jpgLast month, the digital marketplace started buzzing when AOL announced “Platform A,” their new ad platform. Between AOL’s development and the ongoing saga of Google-Double Click, agencies and advertisers alike are asking whether the new platform and the looming acquisition spells doom for independent shops.

I find this fear to be unfounded. The number of dominant players will continue to increase as additional publishers arise from the online landscape or migrate from traditional media. Rather than kill competition, this environment will actually enhance the role of independent, third party operations that provide unique value for agencies and advertisers.

Supporting the Buy-Side

Advertisers, creative studios, media agencies and everyone on the buy-side ultimately want to know that an ad solution will operate with their strategic interests at heart. An ad platform that is connected with a publisher or network – no matter how pervasive – will always have conflicted interests, and will be limited in what services it can provide to clients. 

As advertisers and agencies grow accustomed to this landscape that is dominated by publisher-dependent ad platforms, it will become increasingly evident that no publisher will be capable of cornering the market. While these large networks simplify the buying, selling and serving of some online ads, they complicate the execution of large campaigns. This includes delivering media to the respective publishers, optimizing campaign performance, swapping creative or making tactical adjustments, tracking performance through the use of multiple systems and assimilating analytics data that may reflect partiality, coming from publishers themselves. 

Proprietary formats, divergent tracking capabilities and other discrepancies in process and product will force agencies either to limit their media buy or seek out a solution that spans across multiple publishers, channels and formats. In order to maintain their productivity, agencies need comprehensive, publisher-agnostic ad platforms.

Recipe for Success

As agencies work with these large networks, the need for standardization of tracking measurements and ad formats becomes even more vital. Here’s how to make sure any ad solution will be able to perform on all networks, regardless of publisher or provider:

Video format. With various publishers providing proprietary video players that require different video specs and formats, an independent ad solution should be able to convert video files for use in any and unit, on any network – including compatibility with Brightcove and proprietary Flash players.

Comprehensive analytics. Each publisher provides different tracking metrics with varying analytics capabilities, which creates extra work for agencies and complicates the process of campaign tracking and optimization. The right ad platform will provide robust tracking tools that work evenly across all networks. In addition, compiling data and gleaning insights should be facilitated, not encumbered.

Intuitive campaign management. No major campaign will rely on only one publisher network. As such, agencies need a separate, third party campaign management tool that will enable simple campaign management regardless of channel, provider or format. Today’s campaigns need to be optimized and adjusted at the speed of light, and working with a variety of quirky campaign management tools is not an efficient expenditure of valuable agency time.

The more the major publishers try to consolidate power, the more fertile the climate is for competition among independents. Now more than ever, the industry needs competition, because competition leads to innovation, and breakthroughs in standardization and scalability will eventually help migrate budgets online more effectively – a big win for agencies as well as publishers.

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