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Empowering the MENA Programmatic Ecosystem


Empowering the MENA Programmatic Ecosystem

Bruno Bianchini, Head of Global Partnerships MENA at Google, talks buying models, challenges, opportunities and solutions for a growing programmatic landscape in the region.

What are the benefits of programmatic advertising in your experience?

Media consolidation is one of programmatic’s main benefits. When advertisers consolidate their media into a single platform and optimize the buying across different platforms, they manage their reach and frequency much more efficiently. Research showed that, a few years ago, 64% of impressions were out of frequency – people seeing too few or too many ad impressions. Programmatic allows the buyer to avoid these extremes.

The second benefit is better operational efficiency for both agencies and publishers. Research we conducted with BCG showed that, with programmatic, agencies and publishers were saving respectively 29% and 57% of their time, and this extra time can in turn be dedicated to high-added value types of activities.

The third benefit relates to publishers’ financial considerations. When a publisher uses programmatic with Google as the intermediary, Google collects the payment from the advertiser and gives that money to the publisher within 30 days, removing the risk of delays and non-payments.

What are the challenges to the adoption of programmatic in the region?

There is still a lot to do in terms of education. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing programmatic 101 classes – we already hear advanced conversations around programmatic here – but rather ensuring that everybody in the organization, from the CEO to the day-to-day contact, knows what programmatic is and what its benefits are; because if you don’t have a full buy-in, there will always be some resistance.

I personally supported the Buyer Academy for Publishers initiative in January – a three-day in-person educational program where publishers heard directly from advertisers. Google’s role is not only to provide the technology, but also to facilitate such interactions.

However, education is not Google’s responsibility only. Agencies, publishers, advertisers and tech providers need to get together to make sure that we grow the market in the best and most transparent way, so that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where some players are very advanced and others are not, which would lead to frustrations.

A byproduct of education is ensuring that we streamline conversations and that communication is flowing. With time, technology has been allowing publishers and agencies to troubleshoot much better, but they sometimes get stuck on issues mainly because they are not speaking the same language. For example. an agency puts a filter on certain parameters and because the communication is missing, the publisher isn’t aware.

And challenge #3 is, for a tech provider such as Google, to develop the technology that will allow this conversation to flow. We can start utilizing better machine learning systems to identify and flag some of these mismatches. We need to do a much better job here as well.

What are the pros and cons of the various programmatic models?

Each model has different uses and different goals.

Programmatic Guaranteed allows you to build brand awareness, to reach as many users as possible, to control the inventory that you buy, to know the price, the dates, the duration, etc. Programmatic Guaranteed is also on top in terms of priority, and the more you go down, the less inventory you see.

The open auction has less and less fresh inventory, but when it comes to performance, it tends to be more effective. It gives you really high reach because you’re not focusing on a few selected websites only; you’re telling the machine to go and get users wherever possible. Because the buying algorithm utilizes its full force, it can adjust the campaign by the hour around which creative works better, which type of users works better, which URL performs better.

However, these are averages. There are beautiful Programmatic Guaranteed campaigns that outperform auctions dramatically.

What can or should be done about ad fraud?

We take ad fraud very seriously, because we know that if there is no trust in the ecosystem, everybody loses, except for bad actors. An advertiser wanting to appear on a certain publisher may show up instead on a non-brand safe website, and the money is diverted from good publishers.

This is why we are protecting advertisers and publishers equally. For example, we track invalid clicks – bots clicking on an ad – in real-time and we take very strict measures, such as disabling invalid accounts or withholding payments to the publisher. In 2019, we blocked and removed 2.7 billion bad ads; that’s more than 5,000 bad ads per minute.

In 2017, we also endorsed the IAB Tech Lab ads.txt project, a simple text file that publishers and distributors post to their domain to publicly declare the companies they authorize to sell their digital inventory. The buying platform reads that file and won’t buy this inventory from anyone who’s not on it. The publisher only need to make sure that the list is updated. If you cannot sell counterfeit inventory, nobody can buy it.

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