Staff Writer
Dec 19, 2019

FreakOut: relevance is a publisher’s biggest weapon

Narayan Murthy Ivaturi on the rise of PMPs in SE Asia, the region’s untapped audiences and sellers-json, the next big thing in programmatic

“We live in a fast-changing world. Content that was a huge hit there months ago might be irrelevant now. The question for all publishers: how do we stay relevant
“We live in a fast-changing world. Content that was a huge hit there months ago might be irrelevant now. The question for all publishers: how do we stay relevant" - Narayan Murthy Ivaturi

Despite the wealth of opportunities presented by programmatic, many publishers in SE Asia are still grappling with the complexities of the medium, per Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, global CRO, adtech business at FreakOut.

For a first, many publishers have little understanding of monetization. “There is no transparency to the amount publishers are willing to pay for a specific impression within a specific time frame. Bar the big publishers who have their own teams, and own stacks, many local publishers have no transparency as to how they work,” says Ivaturi. Publishers also face issues of irrelevance. “We live in a fast-changing world. Content that was a huge hit there months ago might be irrelevant now. The question for all publishers: how do we stay relevant?” The third is as much a challenge as long-term benefit⁠—ever-tougher scrutiny from advertisers and the public. “People are demanding that the viewability needs to be right, the context needs to be right. They’re also asking, how should viewability be defined?”

While the above challenges, there is one challenge that is unique to SEA⁠—its diversity. With the cultural nuances in the region, its diversity is such that cities within a few hours’ drive of each other could be speaking different dialects or languages, and have vastly different lifestyles. This has led to the rise of many mid-tier publishers who have amassed very good quality audiences yet lack the resources to properly monetise their platforms.  Advertisers want to tap into these high-potential audiences but because of the broken link up and down the digital chain, are discouraged from doing so. 

This is where third party companies like FreakOut come in. An international martech company with 14 offices around the world, FreakOut helps advertisers conduct programmatic buying across display ad exchanges and SSPs. It works with 3000 publishers in SE Asia alone.

The first step that any publisher needs to take is to get someone to audit their platform, says Ivaturi. “The success of any programmatic strategy lies in how prepared you are. To execute a good programmatic strategy, you need to have a data strategy. To have a good data strategy, you need to understand who your audiences are and what they value. An auditor will tell you if your layout is any good, whether you’re segmenting audiences in the right way, etcetera”.

What’s promising is the higher-than-expected adoption rates across SE Asia. SE Asia is a “lot more exposed” than people think, with many local and regional publishers in possession of global inventories. Ivaturi gives the Philippines and India as examples. “In India and the Philippines, a lot of local content are being read outside, which opens up a lot of monetisation opportunities for local publishers with local IPs.”

Ivaturi sees also sees the rise of PMPs as an encouraging sign as he believes it’d resolve the transparency issues many SEA publishers face at the moment. Unlike open exchanges, where all buyers bid for the same inventory, PMPs are exclusive marketplaces where publishers offer their premium inventory to a select group of advertisers. “If you have good quality data, and uses a data exchange to ensure that data is well stored and nurtured, your inventory will start qualifying for PMP or PG views. Immediately you get that transparency as you know what is coming through, what prices people are willing to pay.” This also results in higher CPMs for publishers. “PMPs have that rigor and discipline open exchanges don’t have. Advertisers are willing to go the extra mile for effectiveness, rather than just go for the cheapest option.”

Looking ahead, Ivaturi believes that sellers-json will be the next big thing in programmatic. Set up by IAB Tech Lab, sellers-json enables buyers to discover who the entities are that are either direct sellers of or intermediaries in the selling of digital advertising. In other words, it makes every stage of programmatic transaction trackable, from publishers to exchange to client. As everything is trackable, there is little margin for anything irrelevant, forcing publishers to be more vigilant and diligent.  “A lot of DSPs have indicated that they are going to implement sellers-json on most transactions and devices. In fact, some DSPs won’t buy your inventory if you aren’t registered on sellers-json.”

The CRO ends with some encouraging words for publishers. “I strongly believe there has never been a better age to be a publisher⁠—if you know how to stay relevant, how to segment your audiences and how to monetise your platform.” 

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