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Industry Contributor 24 Jun 2020 - 2 min read

Alternative advertising solutions urgently needed for the Open Web

By Sam Tan, Senior Director, Market Development - Xandr JAPAC

Key points:

  • The future of identity and monetisation for digital advertising is under a cloud
  • Walled gardens tick some boxes for reaching audiences at scale, but at a cost to independence and innovation
  • Publishers need a more balanced demand-supply equation to assert themselves collectively
  • Viewer fragmentation across devices means a unified option is needed to reach consumers across devices and platforms, at scale
  • When there is an open media ecosystem, everyone benefits

Digital advertising was originally a great democratising force, granting consumers access to quality, free content – news, videos, music and games - all while funding media newsrooms. Now, the evolution of the internet has brought audiences unprecedented choice and access to premium content.

There are, however, several factors now contributing to substantial unknowns about the future of identity and monetisation. The recent ACCC inquiry into the digital platforms giants, the unprecedented move by the Australian Government to force Facebook and Google to pay Australian media companies for publishing their news stories and the forthcoming decline of third-party cookies as an identity solution as well as ISBA’s recent investigation into the programmatic supply chain, all contribute to this.

In the midst of this rapid change, open, efficient and transparent advertising technology is needed more than ever; technology that improves return for buyers and sellers, while helping consumers manage the costs of subscriptions to the growing pool of online content.

Dominant platform offerings, such as Google and Facebook, provide solutions, but at a cost. In aligning with two companies that control the vast majority of digital advertising spending, publishers and advertisers find themselves at the whims of policies and product decisions which often restrict their independence and innovation. Recent research by US-based tech policy organisation Public Knowledge further explains that such dominance is actually harming marketers and publishers.

However, if an advertiser is looking for the ability to deliver their message to their desired audience at scale, then ostensibly the walled gardens tick those boxes pretty well.

They have an incredible amount of targeting data but in return for accessing this, advertisers have to give up a lot in terms of control and transparency. Some understand the trade-off better than others, but with the huge amount of scale these platforms have, working with them has previously been nearly unavoidable.

Marketers and publishers keen to relinquish their reliance on the tech giants will need to seek alternatives to understand their customers, activate their data and monetise their assets. One option for publishers is adopting a subscription model to fund content production and gather their own first-party data. This strategy, however, poses a risk to free access to content by audiences that is enabled by digital advertising, while advertisers could encounter restrictions to the inventory available to them.

For large publishers, subscription models, while successful, have come with challenges, like ensuring enough consumer interest for substantial spend or managing sustainable margins. But if the demand-supply equation can be better balanced and publishers can assert themselves in a collective sense, then audiences will follow them away from the walled gardens. Publishers across the Asia-Pacific region are starting to lean on technology platforms to redress that balance.

We believe that collaboration among participants in an open market will challenge the dominance of the walled gardens, create viable scale and keep publishers in good financial shape by providing the simplicity buyers value.

A major challenge that must be addressed is fragmentation. Viewer attention is increasingly difficult to capture and hold, as consumers access content on a myriad of devices, often flipping fluidly from one screen to another or multiple screens at the same time.

This behaviour is driving convergence in the way people experience advertising, and so we need to introduce a unified option for those who want to reach audiences at scale across devices, platforms and formats. 

Everyone in the media ecosystem benefits when more of the advertiser’s spend makes its way to the publisher. For us, working with open internet players who want to engage beyond the walled gardens is key. These are conversations we see happening across the world, but there are very few platforms that can facilitate this level of collaboration at scale and that’s where we aim to play.

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Sam Tan, Senior Director, Market Development


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