While the predictions business might be a particularly fraught one these days, it is still necessary for us to have foresight as we plan for 2021. On our final day of SpotX Connect: Sightlines, I hosted a panel with some of the leading women in the industry from GroupM, Tru Optik, Proof Advertising, Discovery, and DISH Media.
Read on for some of the key insights, or watch the full discussion:
This year forced us to act swiftly, think creatively, and embrace flexibility. Aside from everyone wishing they bought a more comfortable desk chair earlier on, the lessons we’ve learned from how we’ve been able to adapt will serve us well into the future.
One of the most important things this pandemic emphasized across the board was just how powerful having the right people on your team can be, especially as the ad tech industry moves quickly even in normal times. Jessica DuFresne, General Manager, Sling Ad Tech and Yield at DISH Media said, “It’s our core philosophy to always be nimble and quick, and be able to adapt to all these changes. It doesn’t even matter if it’s the middle of a pandemic or not, those are skills and qualities individuals and businesses need to continue to grow and be successful.”
This extends to your partners as well. Ly Tran, CMO of Proof Advertising, pointed to the importance of assessing who is at your table and if you have the right partners in place to work with you in times of need.
Maintaining a consumer-centric focus was what helped GroupM respond quickly. Esra Bacher, GroupM’s Managing Partner, Programmatic, shared that they’d already seen the data indicating changes in consumer viewing habits and had begun adjusting accordingly. “COVID-19 just accelerated those trends within the market, abruptly. What we achieved in 10 days could be achieved previously maybe in 10 months,” she said.
As we carry these lessons with us into the future, we also need to anticipate how our businesses can respond to some of the most top-of-mind trends in our industry today, including the sharp rise in cord-cutting, the evolution of the upfronts, and the scrutiny on data and consumer privacy.
New consumer viewing habits
Audiences increasing their content consumption across a variety of screens and platforms has impacted brands’ media plans and will continue to do so, particularly at a local level. All advertisers needed to pivot in response to changing viewership, but the pandemic also caused national advertisers to take a hyperlocal approach as messages needed to be catered to the unique situations at a city or even zip code level. “We want to ensure we’re reaching the demographics in the right cities, so having media partners that allow that level of granularity is going to be key for 2021,” said Ly.
Data and measurement in OTT
The conversation around data activation and measurement has evolved as OTT has grown and programmatic has become a larger part of the digital mix. “The increase in OTT users has made OTT targeting really truly scalable for the first time,” said Jessica.
“As buyers start to understand the tool they have at their disposal and take advantage of the OTT data points provided, it’s becoming easier for them to prove out the ROI of their OTT buys,” she added. This became especially important as the pandemic squeezed budgets.
Holistic data strategies
Speaking of data, Michelle Swanston, Chief Client Officer at Tru Optik, recommended that businesses start to consider the less-talked-about second-party data. Most marketers are focusing their strategies on first- or third-party data sets. The next step is forming what she calls a “mix-and-match data strategy” that combines first-party data with third-party assets to create a unique second-party offering.
“What folks need to be able to do moving into 2021 — or if they’re not doing these things now, Q4 is a great time to start — is testing out some of these different strategies so you can have a combined holistic approach to data,” said Michelle.
Programmatic guaranteed and upfront commitments
The upfronts looked drastically different this year with uncertain programming and premiere dates, which helped shed light on how programmatic will continue to play a larger role in upfront buys. “It’s only natural that we’re progressing to a point now where programmatic is being negotiated as a means of execution and as a means of budget through the upfronts,” said Jill Steinhauser, SVP Ad Sales Revenue and Planning at Discovery.
This is the second year Discovery has had real conversations about programmatic guaranteed during the upfronts. It’s taken time to educate agency partners on the true meaning of a programmatic guaranteed commitment, the rules around it, the pricing, and so on, as well as ensuring all technology partners have agreed to and can execute on the deal points. Jill is optimistic for the future, saying that she expects more and more spend will flow through programmatic guaranteed deals in the coming years.
Ever-changing media environments
When COVID-19 hit, GroupM moved to a dynamic approach to help clients identify opportunities to reach their audiences, whether that was shifting from out-of-home screens to in-home screens such as CTV, moving budgets to programmatic, or changing campaign creative.
Programmatic helped maintain a data-first approach in finding relevant audiences while still using digital measurement and targeting. “It allowed us to easily bring relevant data for our clients into our buying workflow while optimizing campaigns on the fly and shifting budgets quickly,” said Esra.
While 2020 was a challenging year for all of us, we’ve accomplished more than any of us could have imagined and are well prepared for the many exciting opportunities ahead in 2021.
Kelly McMahon is SVP of Global Operations at SpotX, directing all enterprise-level pre-and post-sale revenue management activities, and leading all operational initiatives for brands, agencies, media owners, and programmatic traders to drive incremental ROI. In doing so, Kelly manages a team of nearly 60 talented account management, planning, ad operations, and customer success professionals. Prior to SpotX, Kelly managed online planning and publisher relations for National CineMedia and led ad operations at Altitude Digital Partners, before breaking out on her own as a career consultant.
With more than 15 years of experience in ad tech including nearly six years at SpotX, Kelly is recognized as an industry thought leader and has spoken on stage at the Lotame Spark Conference, AdMonsters Publisher Forum, Advertising Week New York, General Assembly Denver: Women in Tech, and several SpotX-hosted events. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder: Leeds School of Business in business administration and marketing.