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An ad tech red envelope for you

You’ll probably be one of the billion+ people who will be sitting down to New Year’s Eve dinner later today to welcome in the Year of the Dog and celebrating with a number of time honoured traditions, the most anticipated of which is the giving of red envelopes.

Whilst we are no longer keeping children safe from demons (according to Chinese legend, the tradition started as a way to keep children safe from the Chinese demon Sui who would come after sleeping children on New Year’s Eve) we relish sharing blessings with family, children and employees alike.

As a way of sharing our blessings (and learnings) with you we’ve set out the 10 most important things to look for in an ad-tech vendor to help ensure prosperity in 2018 – consider it our red envelop for you. And whilst we naturally wish you good luck, our red envelope should eliminate the need for you to rely on good luck alone when selecting partners. It may even help save you from ad tech demons.

Our Top Ten
1. People: Adtech is still relatively nascent in terms of its evolution so it’s important to look for a partner that has an experienced and innovative team to support their technology. The quote “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man” (Elbert Hubbard) is apt here. The ‘rules’ that determine the success of adtech algorithms are defined by humans; the right formula is driven by man and not by machine.

2. Openness: Many column inches have been written about transparency during 2017, predominantly because trust has been eroded by a few high-profile vendors and issues. Personally, I prefer the term ‘openness.’ If people are open about what value is created and the way it will be created with clients then any residual trust issues fade. Open dialogue is key.

3. Quality: Success or failure most often comes down to quality; especially when it comes to programmatic Early programmatic took more of a ‘stack them high and watch them fly’ approach; cheap inventory and undiscriminating distribution. Results today should be tethered to a considered and targeted approach that relies on the quality of publishing network, data integrity, creative and targeting capabilities.

4. Data: Data matters. A lot. Where it is from, how it is cleaned, how fresh it is, who the third party partners are, how it is used to segment – it has a significant effect on performance. Make sure your partner is getting it right and telling you how.

5. Insight: You need to work with a partner who is strong on providing actionable insights. Post-campaign audience knowledge is incredibly valuable as it is strategically useful for future campaign optimisation. Learnings from campaigns can also be applied to other client campaigns. For example, geo-information can be used to inform direct mail campaigns.

6. Performance: Not all algorithms are created equal. And this loops back to my first point about people. They shape the technology. You should look for a partner who continuously invests in its technical platform and technical talent pool.

7. Education: We are still a relatively new industry that is constantly evolving. This means vendors need to ensure they help clients stay on top of changes in the industry, offering ongoing recommendations and updates.

8. Challengers: If your partner always says yes to you then you may have a problem. Perhaps somewhat counter intuitively, you should be looking for a team that is robust enough to challenge some of your requirements with insightful reasoning and alternate suggestions.

9. Future proofers: Mobile. Audio. Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) and Over-the-Top (OTT). While the shift towards mobile and audio has been slower than display, that’s changing and fast. Ad-tech is shape shifting across multiple mediums and you want a forward-thinking partner who has one eye on what comes next (and the ability to connect the bridge between your objectives and the potential of each platform).

10. Alchemists: The last but most important thing you should be looking for in a partner is the thing that you didn’t know you wanted until they offered it to you. It’s the secret-sauce that both combines and transcends technology, chemistry, proactivity and expertise. It’s a partner that will never rest on its laurels or commoditise its relationship with you.
If you look for strong performers in each of the above categories then your ad-tech lunar new year will be one of prosperity and harmony.

We hope this extends to the rest of your professional and personal lives as well – Happy New Year from our house to yours.

Liam Lucas

Liam Lucas is Senior Regional Director Asia for Rubicon Project.