Talking Programmatic with…Oath

Ahead of our Programmatic Lunch on 23 November, we have been talking to some of the event’s partners to get their thoughts on the current programmatic landscape. Here we talk to Lewis Sherlock, head of demand platforms, EMEA, at Oath.

MM: So Lewis, what’s your take on 2018 from a programmatic perspective?

LS: 2018 for us has been a year of consolidation. At the start of the year we had four or five DSPs running, so this year has been about delivering on our promise to bring it down to one unified stack, which we launched in September as our new Oath Ad Platforms DSP – bringing mobile, video, display and native together into one, powered by our industry-leading algorithm AdLearn. So there has been a lot of focus on migrating customers on to one stack, but also to deliver innovation at pace. We ran a roadshow last week that was around all the innovative stuff we have been working on, where our engineers have been working hard to deliver points of difference that address what the market needs.

MM: What are these points of difference?

LS: There’s a lot of stuff around transparency, trust and verification. If you look at supply side optimisation, we have built dashboards into the platform to help people understand what inventory is being sold and what the hidden fees are. We have also brought in brand safety and fraud protection features such as ads.txt, we utilise both external vendors like Double Verify and IAS as well as running our own proprietary filtration software, we are fully accredited by JICWEBS and are in the process of completing the IAB Gold Standard in the UK. These are big moves in the way we are tackling transparency and they have been developed around things the market was crying out for.

On top of that, we had a lot of people who wanted to buy Gemini, our native marketplace, within the DSP, and you can now do that today. There are five different formats, including mobile and video mobile in a native environment across our huge owned and operated marketplace, running across a nice, broad network of inventory, and this is available exclusively in our DSP.

We have also launched Programmatic Guaranteed on our own offering and third-party inventory, effectively reserving inventory as if it were hand-sold but through our self-serve platform, so we are moving as quick or quicker than the market in that respect. And we have all our data assets under one roof, including search, email purchase receipts, location targeting, and our app interest targeting capabilities. And from an Identity Graph point of view, we have at least a third of the UK population in there.

But the crown jewel is our performance engine, powered by our AdLearn algorithm. This was predominantly on the AOL platforms and only in our display offering, but we have moved this into our new DSP structure, which means campaigns across all those formats I mentioned now benefit from this powerful machine-learning tool. This has location data, mobile data, and Yahoo data points to run its models against. Also within that is predictive audiences: we can create audience segments that we know have a high propensity to convert because we run the model across all our host audiences so we can get a good predictive engine based on this audience panel, and this is available on a self-service basis.

On top of all this, we really feel that we have got to parity with the competition over the last three to four months on things like inline editing, bulk uploads, workflow and inventory management. Post-GDPR, we have made a lot of fixes, and we feel like we have created a lot of points of difference that will allow us to take market share in 2019.

MM: I can sense the excitement you feel having built this stuff, but equally I guess that will be tempered by the fact that it’s all still shiny and new and as clients start using it they’ll tell you exactly what they like and don’t like about it.

LS: It feels like the opportunity is ahead of us on the platform side, and we are going to hit bumps of course, but I know we have a lot of engineers focused on getting things right, so those bumps we will encounter, I feel we will get over them pretty quickly.

On transparency, we are building a platform that’s not a walled garden. We have this idea of bring your own algorithm and the transparency that comes with that, allowing businesses to use an API to sit on our platform and inform some sort of bidding logic to create a bespoke way of bidding into our DSP. Overall, we believe that Oath has completely unique data assets that you cannot get anywhere else apart from our DSP. We believe our data performance and examples like our unique inventory from our native marketplace, will play out to our benefit over the course of 2019.