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Director Business Development UK | Events

Ipos, Data & Transparency, It’s Another Year At Ats London

Improve Digital, Staff Blog, Blog, Tech company, Programmatic

Last week the Improve Digital team were out in force for ATS London, the annual conference for the online advertising industry, and were ready to debate some of the biggest developments in mobile, video and online display advertising, as well as the technology that underpins it.

ATS London is always an interesting affair, with some of the industry’s brightest minds offering insight and opinion on the developments affecting us all in the ad tech community.

Increased transparency, and better use of data across both sides of supply and demand, are absolutely vital.


The overriding message throughout the day? That increased transparency, and better use of data across both sides of supply and demand, are absolutely vital if brands are to start using programmatic advertising as one of their main marketing tools.

Here are my key take-outs from the event:

In his session, Brian O’Kelley, CEO at AppNexus stated that he didn’t believe that Wall Street investors understood the “functions of ad tech firms”, and that this was one of the main reasons why the plethora of ad tech IPOs we have seen in recent months have not set the financial world on fire. He also argued that once advertising fraud and content farming are combated on a larger scale, then more money will start flowing into content producers and publishers. This is a topic close to our heart at Improve Digital – we only ever partner with premium publishers and content providers, in a bid to help win the fight against ad fraud.

Later in the morning saw an interesting panel discussion on closed and open ad ecosystems, where key figures at Xaxis EMEA and Vivaki EMEA debated the findings of a recent WFA report on programmatic trading. The report suggested that some brands were starting to think about taking programmatic trading in-house instead of using an agency trading desk; this is due to fears over the level of transparency agencies offer. Queue a passionate defence from both Danny Hopwood, Head of Platform at Vivaki EMEA, and Casper Schlikum, CEO of Xaxis Europe. Both argued that their respective agencies were completely open with clients, but with an admission that greater transparency is needed as an industry, and not just on the demand side.

Dr Boris Mouzykantskii took to the stage after lunch with the third installment of his “unpacking the black box” ATS London series. He ordered the audience, and the world of programmatic, to “take up arms” and fight for the true value of “data of all kinds” on both sides of the industry. It was great to have this somewhat complex but essential area brought to life and laid bare, which is exactly what he did. There is no doubt that 2015 will be an incredibly important year for publisher 1st party data in particular, and also how agency trading desks can more efficiently use advertiser 1st party data.

The final and the closing panel debate of ATS London lived up to its billing. Damian Burns, Director of Global Strategic Partnerships at Google, Martin Kelly, CEO of Infectious Media, and Anthony Rhind, Global Chief Digital Officer at Carat, sat alongside Ciaran O’Kane and led a passionate and at times incendiary debate on “Retooling the Agency for the Digital Age”. It definitely stimulated the senses of a flagging audience at the end of the day.

Damian Burns defended the big agency groups, suggesting that change was afoot to retool and restructure from the ground up in the age of programmatic trading. However, he did outline four key areas that needed to be addressed – talent (more maths graduates and scientists, specifically) increased use and understanding of technology, organisation structural changes, and better use of data in buys.

In response Martin Kelly disagreed and gave his opinion on why digital agencies need to fundamentally change the way they work with trading desks. For one, he suggested that planner buyers and trading desks should sit together on a daily basis.

The shift towards automation and data-driven decision-making in media is only accelerating, and at Improve Digital we have seen tremendous – and durable – growth patterns in programmatic across all formats and channels. As evident from today’s event we’re seeing automation and data drive wholesale changes to the media landscape as we’ve known it for decades. At Improve Digital it’s our goal to deliver the technology, techniques – and more importantly, the guidance – that publishers need to survive and thrive as this dynamic media market continues to evolve.

As Improve Digital’s director of business development for the United Kingdom, Jonathan heads up the UK office and oversees publisher business development, as well as high-level demand relationships with key agency trading desks. Prior to joining Improve Digital in 2013, Jonathan developed expertise serving in numerous key sales roles at Dennis Publishing.