Why the ad industry needs more curation, not just consolidation

curation in adland - orig. image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

The global adtech sector is in the midst of a consolidation trend, as companies combine to boost their offer and prowess in a fast changing landscape.

And while this may help make the programmatic ecosystem less cumbersome to navigate, Teiffyon Parry, EVP Global Demand at Smart Adserver argues that what the ad industry really needs now is a bit of curation…

Teiffyon Parry EVP Global Demand Smart AdServer
Teiffyon Parry EVP Global Demand Smart AdServer

Digital advertising doesn’t need more flashy tools. Top of the real wishlist is greater simplicity enabled by closer ties between buyers and sellers. 

That’s why we’ve seen an increasing slide towards value path optimisation, with stacks streamlined from many angles – including supply and demand-centric efforts (SPO and DPO), as well as vertical integration among vendors. 

So far, 2022 looks set to stay focused on reducing complexity via consolidation, but this approach alone isn’t enough. 

During the last few weeks, ad tech players have continued last year’s parade of mergers: including acquisitions by Magnite, Human, and Integral Ad Science. 

Although this activity will help make the ecosystem slightly less crowded, it won’t tackle the issues created by the still broad range of available tools and solutions. 

To address these, advertisers, agencies, media owners and publishers need an additional tactic – curation. 

What’s the value of curation?

While curation platforms are an addition to the ecosystem, they don’t simply integrate another tool into bloated stacks. 

Instead, their main function is to act as a self-service suite to create new value-added media solutions. 

With this role comes the straightforward aim of simplification, but how platforms work depends on who takes the title of lead curator. 

Use cases for media and data owners centre on making the most of their assets, especially first-party data and audiences. 

For instance, advanced platforms enable sell-side curators to onboard insights — from audience to brand safety and pre-bid performance data — before giving access to smart supply-side platforms (SSPs) and curation abilities. 

From there, they can use wider pools of inventory to extend their audience reach and create refined auction packages using specific business rules and curation features: such as building audiences that offer contextual targeting and align with performance KPIs, or filtering by domain, location, and device. 

Curation image
Curation game: Teiffyon says curation platforms can act as self-service suites to create new value-added media solutions.

Ready to be plugged into any demand-side platform (DSP) of choice, resulting auction packages covering cross-publisher IDs pave the way for greater revenue opportunities. 

Meanwhile, buy-side implementation cultivates pockets of orderly and rewarding ad trading within the highly fragmented programmatic landscape. 

Frequently including agencies or ad networks, curators harness platforms to pre-filter the best inventory for buyers from SSPs; creating custom marketplaces filled with premium-grade inventory. 

Once more, sophisticated solutions deliver the greatest advantages, such as allowing curators to enrich audiences and inventory with unique insight and proprietary data — adding to the value of layered-in data from media owners. 

All of which enables agencies and ad networks to deliver simplified, transparent, valuable, and direct deals for their end clients: buyers.

One for all: the industry-wide benefits  

The key benefit to all parties is value creation, with both sides delivering better efficiency and smoother workflows with the platform. 

This is because curation prevents time and resources from being lost on configuring programmatic operations by combining high-quality inventory, audience enrichment, neat packaging, and easy access — reducing complexity. 

All curators can dial into one holistic interface for media planning, multi-publisher deal creation, troubleshooting and reporting, revenue boosting, and managing targeted ad campaigns.

In short, the curated spaces fostered by platforms are a bespoke and significantly improved step up from standard supply marketplaces. But it’s also worth taking a moment to explore the particular benefits for each key component of the digital advertising equation. 

Restoring the data provider edge 

Data providers supporting multiple critical aspects of digital advertising will have more room to mobilise and maximise their intelligence. 

While long recognised as essential to enabling accurate mass targeting, data providers have faced issues with keeping a firm grip on their data. 

Although integrations with SSPs and DSPs have made it easier for them to scale quickly, these connections have also made their audience segments available to a huge range of buyers and sellers, in addition to diminishing their competitive edge. 

The use of curation platforms gives them the means to input data without being tied to a specific SSP or DSP and regain their unique value, as well as control over what they contribute to the value chain.

Giving buyers back control  

For agencies, the benefits are twofold. Firstly, there is enhanced control that has been lacking for some time. Instead of scattering spend between disparate vendors that often leads to the same inventory, they can gain greater jurisdiction over inventory sourcing, as well as the ability to apply unified supply strategy across DSPs. 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Control: Curation can offer agencies enhanced management of spend, inventory and relationships.

Crucially, curation can also help reinforce direct, one-to-one publisher relationships by simplifying how preferred terms and rates are managed within programmatic payment flows — in addition to keeping track of activity through fully transparent reporting.

Secondly, donning the curator’s hat gives agencies more potential to innovate and create unique value propositions for advertisers. 

Thanks to the opportunities platforms open up for streamlined application of their own proprietary or partner audience data, they can efficiently overlay market and customer insight to build new programmatic offerings that are both easy to use in operational terms and provide scalable media delivery. 

Opening selling opportunities 

From the seller perspective, improving media accessibility is an obvious win. Because deals in DSPs are largely handled and targeted as usual, they can reap the rewards of their curated inventory and expanded reach — without creating new hoops for buyers to jump through. 

Moreover, alongside enjoying the elevated appeal and income augmented media drives, they will have the opportunity to build stronger buyer relationships. 

Since a marketplace can only be entered through curated deals, sellers will have their own guarantees of control and the chance to strengthen direct ties with select pools of quality buyers.

Where will curation take the industry? 

Consolidation has made progress in trimming overloaded supply chains and helping to reduce programmatic confusion, but it has its limitations. For one thing, mergers and acquisitions can only flourish while there are enough businesses to snap up. 

According to Luma Partners, the number of adtech companies going public between Q1 2021 and Q3 dropped from 15 to just three, indicating deal-making potential and rates are slowing down considerably. 

For another, buyers and sellers need better ways of juggling the vast array of existing tech solutions. This is also where issues feed into the general rise of value path optimisation. 

welcome to adland - orig. image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Where next?: Buyers and sellers will ultimately work in tandem under a new programmatic ecosystem.

After years of growing demand for more efficiency and transparency, buyers keen to work with fewer point solutions and simplify media purchases have already started cutting partners delivering minimal value and moving away from open auctions. 

The introduction of curation to programmatic allows sellers and buyers to work in tandem to push value-path efficiency further by scaling SPO progress, while reclaiming vital control. That includes holding sway over data and assets, and how they are used and monetised.

Although still nascent, curation is gaining ground. There are multiple innovators working to provide sophisticated platforms that make it easy for buyers, sellers, and data providers to simplify their advertising setups. 

Encouragingly, the industry is seeing growing recognition that curation is vital to build on the advances of consolidation and increase the value of programmatic. 

By enabling players at key points along the chain to take back control and become curators, the next breed of smart tech is driving more efficiency, flexibility, and value.