Anthony Blackford, Director of Advertising – AMEA at Dubizzle/OLX, explains how programmatic advertising is the solution for publishers looking to sell large inventories.
As a publisher, how do you approach programmatic?
Programmatic advertising is a core pillar of our advertising business and one which we are increasingly focusing on, both from a direct and indirect perspective.
Direct is a managed service, where we work with clients on campaign-specific, targeted buys transacted via Programmatic Guaranteed or a Preferred Deal. In Indirect, the focus is on yield optimization, by working with the leading ad exchanges to maximize the volume of buyers we connect with, selling our inventory at the optimal price.
Both channels are of huge importance to us. At Dubizzle, we generate close to 400 million impressions per month, so increasing the volume of connections to buyers is very important, whilst offering flexibility in the way we transact to help maximize return on investment for our advertising clients.
How is your programmatic business split between the two?
That really depends on whether we’re in a seasonal high or low month for ad spend. In terms of revenue, indirect can account for 30-50% of ad revenue, and direct accounts for 50-70%. During the low season, say July or August, more inventory is taken by the exchanges; and during the high season, over Ramadan or in November, December, we will sell more inventory to advertisers directly. During those times, high-interest areas of the site are often sold out.
Of our direct business, the volume being executed programmatically is increasing and will continue to grow. In some months, we find that over half of our direct business is being purchased programmatically.
How did having to build programmatic capabilities transform what a publisher like Dubizzle actually does?
Advertising is an important revenue channel to us, and one that complements our core business, which is to connect buyers and sellers, whether that is B2C – where we work with clients from real estate and automotive industries – or C2C – where we have millions of people buyers and sellers on Dubizzle.
Having said that, it has enabled our advertising business to become more efficient in how we do things. There are many benefits you get with programmatic buys over the traditional insertion order business. The campaign set up time is a lot quicker, with less steps to take. There’s no contracts or paperwork involved so less admin. Payments are managed via your tech provider, who is Google for us, so less work for our finance team. Plus, this tech provider absorbs the risk of non-payment, which is obviously very beneficial to any publisher.
As there is no contract involved, you can be a lot more flexible in how you price and package your inventory. We’re able to offer any section of the site or any custom audience segment almost instantly to all of our partners programmatically at scale. If something isn’t working or we want to try something different, we can change it – although, equally, the advertiser can pause or stop a campaign just as easily, so there is more risk as well.
Does programmatic actually make you a better publisher?
Yes, and I would say that unless you’re a really niche publisher, setting up programmatically will benefit you in the years to come, simply because the efficiencies of programmatic media buying will massively outweigh the alternatives.
Having a solid programmatic offering has also helped us become more user centric with our advertising. As a portal, we have access to a large amount of data that we collect and can use for our advertising partners. Our advertisers are further able to layer on their own data when buying our inventory, which isn’t possible unless you plug them in programmatically.
Over the last four years, we have focused a lot on building our programmatic advertising offering by incentivizing the sales teams, and today, we’re at a place where if the client wants to buy directly or programmatically, we’re able provide the offering and at the same price.
How do you interact with other stakeholders within the programmatic ecosystem?
I’d like to think we have good relationships with media partners across the Dubai media scene and globally. We try our best to attend as many ad tech and networking events as we can to keep up with the industry, and many of these are programmatic specific now. These are the usual places where a lot of conversations happen between different stakeholders on how certain products are being adopted or what challenges they are facing. Google is great at putting on these events for the buy side, sell side, or sometimes both.
On the day-to-day, for indirect sales, our yield manager speaks to various exchanges and demand partners on a regular basis. Going forward, we will also be doing more around packaging our audiences for different agency trading desks; so, we will be reaching out to them as well.
The sales team continues to deal mainly with the planners and buyers to negotiate the campaign-specific deals. It’s not uncommon for them to negotiate a campaign with the planner, then once all terms are agreed, it will be the programmatic team at the agency who executes.
We often see budgets being split within an agency between the traditional planning teams and programmatic performance teams. A planner may choose which publisher to put on plan, where the buy is executed by the programmatic team, but the decision sits with the planner on where that budget goes. Then, another part of the budget may sit with the programmatic team which is also executed programmatically, but it’s the programmatic team’s decision on where that budget is spent.
How can this ecosystem be improved further?
There’s always room for improvement – for example, introducing new buy types programmatically, such as cost per click (CPC) would be interesting. Some performance products work better on CPC for our clients.
With collaboration from both sides, we can share data and really drill into what has worked and what hasn’t. We often see a campaign which has performed really well – high reach, high CTRs – but we don’t have conversion pixels – tracking actual conversions – because the advertiser, for whatever reason, has restricted that. But with those restrictions in place, how do we know what is or isn’t converting? We could be optimizing towards a high CTR and turning off placements with a low CTR, although it could be the low CTRs that are driving the highest conversions.
What advice would you give to advertisers and agencies about advertising on Dubizzle?
Know what you want to buy as the site is so big. There’s a difference between buying Dubizzle programmatically on the open auction and buying Dubizzle via Programmatic Guaranteed or Direct. We would recommend highly targeted programmatic campaigns, as through an open auction: you could be at the bottom of the page in a 50% viewability placement, in a category like Jobs, Office Furniture or Ride Sharing – which may not be relevant for your ad getting the 20th or 30th ad impression to that user.
The results are incomparable to the performance of a campaign that is highly targeted, to a specific placement in a specific category, with a certain targeting criterion applied.
Dubizzle has a huge audience with a lot of fresh data. People come to transact, to buy, to sell. It’s a marketplace full of engaged users. My advice would be: Leverage that potential.