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Ad Industry Back-Office Supplier Speeds Next-Gen Path for Agencies

By Fred Dawson

Mediaocean Integrates Multiple Suppliers into Reconciliation Platform

March 24, 2014 – In another significant step forward on the path to advanced advertising in the multiscreen TV era, a leading supplier of reconciliation and billing support for ad agencies has created a means by which suppliers of every description can plug into its systems, making it much easier for agencies and holders of ad inventory to implement new strategies.

Mediaocean, which says its transaction management systems process $130 billion in global advertising annually, has developed its Connect Partner Platform to allow ad servers, data solution providers, inventory suppliers and technology providers to deploy services on its Spectra back-office software. This makes it easier for agencies to bring new solutions and inventory suppliers into their own workflows and offer them as components of their business-wide technology stacks, says Cordie DePascale, vice president of products at Mediaocean.

The company, which was created two years ago with the merger of two giants in the field, Donavan Data Systems and MediaBank, has already seen a significant impact on how content companies and agencies operate in the three months since it launched Connect, according to DePascale. “It’s been phenomenal,” he says. “Agencies really embraced Connect as a platform, because they saw this opens them up to working with different partners in a much more efficient way.”

Suppliers of TV programming are just one of the types of media that agencies transact with through Spectra, but they are a huge piece of the business. “There’s going to be a big shift in how the market wants to consume and value inventory,” DePascale says. “If the inventory is changing, the currency needs to conform and transform with that. And at same time the technology needs to move in lockstep with that. If things are not moving together and harmonized, that’s where there will be frustration.”

In other words, helping agencies to eliminate the silos in ad buying for TV broadcast, cable and digital distribution must be accomplished in tandem with introducing new types of advertising as a natural extension of traditional ways of doing things. “The most important thing we did is not to change what buyers and clients are accustomed to using, which means we expose new sources of data solutions, inventory supply or technologies in ways that are less disruptive to operations,” DePascale says. “With Connect there’s a lot less work that goes into assessing, buying, integrating and training to adopt a new partner into the agency’s workflow.”

For example, by using Connect to integrate ad servers from Atlas, DG MediaMind, PointRoll and many other partners into their workflows, agencies can use those servers more extensively across multiple campaigns, he notes. Similarly, he adds, by simplifying integration of data, research and attribution solutions from the likes of Nielsen Catalina Solutions,comScore, SQAD, Triton Digital and Visual IQ, the Connect platform gives agencies more flexibility to tap new approaches to tracking and monetizing the performance of advanced advertising across multiple outlets.

One illustration of how greater harmonization can transform the revenue potential of an inventory supplier is the experience of online music site Pandora since it integrated with the Connect platform earlier this year. “Connect means it’s easier for agencies to find our inventory that matches their targets,” says Joanna Bloor, vice president of sales operations at Pandora. “And, just as importantly, it’s easier for them to buy that inventory. That’s an incredibly powerful opportunity for any media seller.”

In a situation analogous to what TV networks confront when they seek to monetize their online outlets, Pandora was having difficulty capturing the ad revenues that flow into traditional broadcast radio, even though it was providing a radio-like music service online. “Digital folks were treating them as a display advertiser, not a broadcast advertiser,” DePascale says.

“We talked to some agencies about whether they would buy Pandora as a radio station if the right tools were in place, and they said, absolutely,” he adds. “So in Connect we now have the methodology for Pandora to send an avail, receive an order and, on the back end, deliver performance metrics and standard industry invoices electronically so that everything is certified just as it is in the broadcast space.”

Since February the ad spending on Pandora generated by agencies running on Mediaocean’s operations system has jumped 475 percent, DePascale says. “Prior to this they were trying to sell on the broadcast model, but it was very manual and took a long time with every transaction,” he notes. “We ironed out all those things with a much more automated electronic system.”

The capabilities embodied in Connect are finding their way into a wide range of advertising environments, including TV, where networks have the opportunity to apply methodologies to support interstitial placement of targeted ads on streamed Internet content as a normal course of doing business with agencies. “If your TV audience is fragmented on different devices, you didn’t lose your audience; you just lost your ability to bring that part of your audience into your transactions with advertisers,” DePascale says. “Through Connect you can avoid siloing your ad sales by bringing all your outlets together for scheduling campaigns with agencies through a single report and media system.”

Similarly, cable MSOs and other service providers can leverage agencies’ affiliations with Connect to increase monetization on TV Everywhere services, DePascale says. “There are workflows and ways for partners to fit into any media system with a consistent approach across applications,” he notes.

One interesting permutation in the TV space is the way Comcast Wholesale’s AdDelivery service is making use of the Mediaocean technology. AdDelivery is a cloud-based solution that allows agencies to utilize Comcast’s nationwide fiber backbone to deliver spot TV ads to 99 percent of the nation’s media outlets, including major broadcast networks, cable networks, TV stations, syndicators and radio stations.

AdDelivery has expanded its engagement with Mediaocean through Connect following integration last year with the vendor’s Optica system, which automates labor-intensive manual processes by closing the informational and operational gaps between media planning, creative and trafficking teams on the buying side. Through integration with the Connect platform, AdDelivery has farther streamlined the ability of agencies using Mediaocean’s Spectra systems to deliver their assets to media outlets, says Matt McConnell, senior vice president and general manager of Comcast Wholesale.

“Through Connect, Comcast AdDelivery becomes an integral part of the Mediaocean platforms and, by extension, an integral part of the advertising operations,” McConnell says. “Connect is an incredibly powerful pathway into agencies.”

Comcast is also engaged with Mediaocean’s Connect through the MSO’s recently acquired FreeWheel operation, which is a leading provider of video ad management services in the digital domain. With integration of FreeWheel’s technology onto the Connect platform, inventory suppliers are now able to leverage FreeWheel in their interactions with the workflow of any agency that relies on the Spectra back-office systems, DePascale explains.

“FreeWheel’s digital inventory can be moved through our systems electronically for a particular supply partner, which expands exposure to buyers and gives them greater flexibility in how they run their campaigns,” he says. “A buyer looking for national media outlets will now find digital inventory in the broadcasting system. So there’s broader inventory and one place to go to buy for all placements.”

This extends to enabling inventory suppliers to set up specific spots for national or local buys across traditional and digital distribution modes. Moreover, inventory can be segmented to allow those buyers to choose suppliers’ programs based on the audience categories they draw. “FreeWheel can carve up the inventory geographically and normalize the avails against Nielsen’s Designated Market Areas,” he notes. “Local broadcast spot buyers really like that flexibility.”

Via ScreenPlays