AutoUpdate: Not a fan of Xaxis? You can go around it

Plus, comScore's MdotLabs deal and Google hunts for the missing mobile link

GroupM no longer funnelling all programmatic through trading desk

WPP’s GroupM media operation, facing complaints from clients about its agency trading desk Xaxis, has offered a new, less restrictive means of managing programmatic campaigns. Marketers will be able to select their own third-party technology providers and have their programmatic campaigns managed directly by one of GroupM’s media agencies, like MEC or Mindshare.

Over the past five years the big agency families have responded to advertisers’ demand for programmatic media by launching specialized sub-agencies, known as agency trading desks or ATDs, which handle programmatic campaigns for all of their sibling media agencies. Clients have criticized the system for adding an extra layer of obscurity to the process and preventing them from having a more direct role in campaign execution. WPP’s Xaxis has borne the brunt of this scrutiny because of its fee structure, which bundles all its services together and does not provide clients with a transparent breakdown of costs.

Ad Age now reveals that GroupM has been offering clients who are unhappy with Xaxis’ NDAs the option to have their media agency manage programmatic campaigns instead. Ad Age says it’s a bid by GroupM to prevent clients from taking programmatic trading in-house and cutting the agency out entirely, a major trend we’ve been seeing in recent months. The initiative will be led by GroupM chief digital investment officer Ari Bluman, the same executive who made waves in June when he said that that GroupM will cease all trading on open ad exchanges by the end of this year.

GroupM is not the first to offer an option to circumvent its ATD — SMG set up a similar partnership with Mondelez for its programmatic video buying in June — but it will apparently be the first to standardize the practice for clients that want it. On the heels of abandoning open RTB, this decision seems to be reinforcing GroupM’s position as a hybrid traditional-programmatic player, which uses technology to facilitate direct human relationships, private marketplaces and upfront dealmaking (in contrast to, say, IPG Mediabrands, which has highlighted its focus on technological innovation and automation).

But whether or not GroupM’s competitors pursue the same strategy, expect more of them to come up with alternatives to the ATD model — they’ll have to if they want to keep clients from cutting them out.
Read more at Ad Age

Buzzfeed poaches president of ad tech frontrunner Criteo

Greg Coleman

Greg Coleman

BuzzFeed has chosen ad tech and digital media veteran Greg Coleman to fill the shoes of former president Jon Steinberg, who left to become CEO of Mail Online North America in May. Coleman comes from a background at AOL, Yahoo and most recently Criteo, a large public ad tech company that specializes in programmatic retargeting.

Coleman told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to focus on building out BuzzFeed’s programmatic capabilities, a space that BuzzFeed has so far steered clear of. In a Q&A with Ad Age, he clarified that BuzzFeed will maintain its zero-banners policy, and that although programmatic is part of its future, it’s not clear what form that will ultimately take. As an encore,

BuzzFeed announced $50 million in new funding from Andreessen Horowitz, which it will use to build out its native and video ad offerings and continue expanding internationally.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal

ComScore brings fraudbuster MdotLabs into the fold

ComScore has acquired Mdotlabs, an ad security startup launched less than a year ago by cybersecurity researchers Paul Barford and Timur Yarnall. Barford gained notoriety last year for his work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison identifying so-called pay-per-view (PPV) networks, where publishers sign up to buy fake traffic. Barford investigated PPV networks by buying traffic from them for websites he set up, and determined that those 10 networks likely generate 500 million fraudulent pageviews each month.

Shortly after publishing the study, Barford co-founded Mdotlabs, which quickly rose to compete with the likes of White Ops and Spider.io (bought by Google in February). The company was the first to draw media attention to “drone pools – cloud servers that are able to generate fake impressions faster and more efficiently than distributed botnets.

Although comScore and Nielsen have so far only approached fraud from a traffic validation perspective, acquiring Mdotlabs may be comScore’s first step to offering a dedicated fraud and brand safety verification tool like that offered by Integral Ad Science or The Media Trust. comScore says Mdotlabs’ strength in video fraud detection was a major reason for its choice, since programmatic video — with its relatively high CPMs — has become rife with fraud.
Read more at Ad Exchanger

Tech platforms working to sort out deal ID disarray

Casale Media’s Andrew Casale, writing for AdExchanger, promises an end to the cumbersome and frustrating deal ID framework. The much-hyped technology promises to create a backdoor channel for programmatic direct buying on ad exchanges, essentially uniting the infrastructure for open and private exchanges.

But despite its potential, deal ID currently requires some hair-pulling to implement, and so much has to be negotiated and defined in the process that it might as well be a manual deal. Casale says that a cabal of DSPs and exchanges have been working together to reform the deal ID standard, and create a more streamlined system. Importantly, buyers using deal ID-enabled DSPs will be able to “discover” available deals that meet their audience criteria, in a sort of deals library, and sign up for them with the tap of a button.
Read Andrew Casale’s column at AdExchanger

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