Gabey Goh
Nov 17, 2015

Q&A: DataXu's James Sampson on programmatic in Asia

SINGAPORE - DataXu’s VP and general manager for Asia Pacific, James Sampson, shares some thoughts with Campaign Asia-Pacific on changes and trends in the region’s programmatic space.

James Sampson
James Sampson

Please see the related news story, also published today: DataXu executes aggressive expansion in Asia

How would you describe Asia’s digital marketing landscape?

The markets are conditioned by legacy ad networks and media sellers to buy on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis and/or measure the success of a campaign based on click-based metrics.

Local marketers that work for global corporations are shifting their mindset away from clicks as the measure of success, as their global colleagues have, but we haven’t seen this shift as much with local marketers in local companies.

One of the great things about using a DSP (demand-side platform) is that marketers can optimise and understand campaigns beyond the click.

I can easily show that the people that click on ads most likely are not the same people that go on to take a deeper action with the brand. Incentivising media partners on clicks leads them show ads to people that will not buy.

What’s the issue?

With media costs being relatively low, there is a reluctance to explicitly pay for advertising technology, such as basic ad serving, let alone programmatic technologies.

I use the term "explicitly", because marketers are paying for it one way or the other. It just so happens that when the cost is presented transparently instead of bundled into a publisher’s CPM or tucked into an arbitrage (CPC, CPA, CPI, CP-xyz) pricing model, it can be evaluated more clearly.

With digital spend still rising, we see a lot of clients focusing elsewhere in their budget on the larger chunks.

There is little incentive for constituents involved in digital to fix problems like viewability, fraud, and the fundamental measurement of success, because then they would have to answer why they have been buying low-quality media and why the marketer’s CPC will go up.

What’s the adoption of programmatic technology in marketing organisations like?

I have been part of this programmatic adoption cycle for more than five years. I observe that clients that have been early adopters of programmatic (been including it as part of their media plans at least two to three  years) have gone through the learning cycle of not knowing they are buying media pragmatically, to finding out they have been via parts of their media plan, to testing out several platforms and seeing the benefits of programmatic to moving beyond PC display ads to mobile and/or video.

At this point, they then realise that this is really more of an underlying technology infrastructure that they can leverage for more and more of their media plans as well as a powerful way to understand their consumers and what drives sales or other business outcomes further up the funnel.

The conversations then shift to wanting to standardise on one technology platform stack or one group of platforms that form a stack, as well as ways that they can better leverage their own data (CRM, sales, non-digital/siloed marketing data) to make better marketing decisions.

The conversations we are experiencing with agencies and their clients have definitely shifted toward single platforms of record and the more advanced data topics in the last 12 months, especially in more developed markets like Australia, along with the US and Western Europe.

What has changed when it comes to tactical programmatic media execution?

As far as changes in the last 12 months around programmatic media execution, especially in Asia Pacific, the conversations have shifted from general understanding of the differences in buying media through ad networks versus a DSP—which is still a topic that gets covered in most first meetings—toward more advanced topics.

These include converting traditional media buying on established publisher partners into private exchanges, the use of third-party verification systems that measure fraud and viewability, and how to more consistently message prospects and customers by using data and cross-device capabilities. 


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