Cross-channel operating system for advertising welcomed by industry

By: Lucy Tesseras  Published: March 22, 2012

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Mediaocean, the company formed out of the merger between Donovan Data Systems (DDS) and Mediabank, is to launch a cross-media platform to allow media agencies to connect directly with all the advertising technology and tools they use from a central hub.

The platform, which is currently under development and will be available within the next 18-24 months, is designed to pull together all aspects of planning, buying and optimising into one open, neutral and transparent system.

DDS, which has a 40-year history, and US company MediaBank initially developed systems and software for traditional media planning and buying before moving into the digital space.

Bill Wise, Mediaocean CEO, and former head of MediaBank, said, “Our mission is to remain strong within traditional media while embracing the shift to digital. We need to become relevant in that world.” Particularly as he predicts digital will account for 50% of ad spend over the next five to seven years.

He added, “The digital systems, the demand side and the supply side, need to have a more automated way of talking to each other. We’re embracing all innovation in digital and pulling it together into one platform because at the moment, it is very fragmented. We want to become the common currency. In essence, we want to become an app store for advertising.”

Ahead of the Mediaocean Operating System launch, the company is looking to take all its digital assets, of which is has 23 since merging the companies, and combine them to create a new digital product portfolio, which will happen over the next six to nine months.

Once the new platform is up an running, agencies will then have the option of using Mediaocean’s products, as well as those from third parties. “We would obviously like agencies to use our products but the option is there if they want to use other products too,” said Wise. “We will work with agency partners to prioritise which technology products to go after first.”

Erich Wasserman, MediaMath co-founder and general manager EMEA, reckons MediaOcean has the potential to become a powerful platform for the marketplace, but the devil is in the execution.

As well as looking to solve workflow issues, he said that the real proof of the platform’s viability will be based around three main points: “First, clearly demonstrating media performance improvements that advertisers realise as a result of buying recommendations and optimisations. Second, not alienating their principal client base – the very role of the agency is to provide buying recommendations and optimise performance for their clients. And third, providing a solution that is actually interoperable with an increasingly vast landscape of media, data, and technology providers.”

Nick Suckley, Agenda21 managing partner, thinks it is a powerful proposition that could be in response to media agencies beginning to set up their own exchanges, therefore bypassing the need to use companies such as DDS.

“The biggest difference between digital media and traditional media is that it is very fiddly,” said Suckley. “There are lots of transactions and financial processing, along with all the ad serving and trafficking of ads that you don’t have to do within traditional media. Anything that can automate that and pull it all together on one platform would really be nirvana.”

Marco Bertozzi, Vivaki Nerve Center MD, doesn’t believe Mediaocean will necessarily replace the systems agencies already have in place because they can be plugged into Mediaocean, but instead believes the company’s aim is to become the overarching system at the heart of all agencies in terms of billing and reporting.

“There has been some frustration with the amount of investment that goes into the DDSs and MediaBanks of this world,” he said. “They haven’t been that forward thinking and flexible about evolving to help agencies do what they need to do. More and more agencies need to roll up data across channels and countries, and they need these systems to help them do that. It think this is their play to keep market share and to modernise.”

Suckley reckons the move, if executed well, would benefit both agencies and media owners, but it could potentially push ad serving companies further down the value chain. “Ad serving technology has become increasingly commoditised and price led,” he said. “It’s like your brand of petrol – no-one really cares whether it’s Shell or Esso. It’s the same with ad servers, there’s not a huge amount of variation between their different features.”

However, Mathieu Roche, Weborama and Hi-Media UK MD, doesn’t agree. “My aim is to provide my clients with meaningful data,” he said. “Whether they access it through my solution or they pull it from APIs and put it into another interface doesn’t matter. The capabilities of an ad server go way beyond measuring and reporting on impressions and clicks.”

He thinks the real added value of an ad serving platform comes from managing hundreds of millions of impressions a day, computing attribution scenarios across channels and integrating with different systems.

“Generally, the principal of having different technology solutions and different platforms talking to each other is very important because digital is not just one channel separated from everything else,” he sad. “Having a holistic approach of advertisers’ investment budgets is critical and the agencies are in the best position to do that so they need platforms that are open enough to talk to each other.”