Will Brands Pour Money into Ad Exchanges?

The $64,000 question when it comes to the ad exchange landscape is: Will brands get on board? The only way the billions poured into these precise targeting systems pans out is if they move from the real of direct-response, remnant banner campaigns and into the world of brand building.

WPP Group’s Team Detroit is ready to try it out for clients. It has linked up with demand-side platform DataXu to use its new offering for brands, DX Brand, in order to see if the efficiencies and targeting that DR clients get from DSPs can do the same for brands. The crucial difference of the system: it will optimize not to clicks but brand-sentiment goals like purchase intent.
“Machine-learning-based approaches can yield more optimal results than non-machine approaches,” said John Gray svp of interactive media at Team Detroit.
Tests of the system yielded 15 percent lifts in brand goals, according to Gray. He declined to name clients using the system. Ford is Team Detroit’s top client; others include Shell and Scotts Miracle-Gro.
The advantage is brands can begin to optimize their campaigns on the fly. Typically most optimization based on brand goals is backward looking, dependent on surveys done several weeks after the campaign began — and in many cases ended. Even newer tools like Vizu aren’t quick enough oftentimes, said Gray.
But brands remain wary of the world of exchanges, according to Joanna O’Connell, an analyst for Forrester Research.
“Quality concerns are still an issue, brands are used to running against content — choosing the site (for its audience, sure, but also for the environment it provides), and having tons of control over the program,” she wrote in an email. “The RTB/exchange world just isn’t totally there yet. It’s probably a mix of perception and reality, but for both reasons there’s work to be done.”
The foray is a significant move for DataXu in the crowded DSP market. Mike Baker, the company’s CEO, said the exchange world is mature enough now for brands to use pretty much the same approach as DR clients. There is enough quality inventory — Microsoft is pouring much of its inventory into its exchange, for example — that it makes sense. The key is whether brands follow their guts or trust the science, he said.
“We should be able to measure these things and replace opinions with facts,” Baker said. “A lot of times facts and opinions are in line but not always. We’re urging advertisers to think different. We’re in a digital world. What I’m saying is measure everything and optimize against the KPI. It seems like a quite logical way to deal w the scale of the Internet.”
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