Kurt Unkel is Senior Vice President of Publicis' VivaKi Nerve Center.
AdExchanger.com: What differentiates VivaKi Nerve Center from other trading platforms in the marketplace?
KU: To be clear, the VivaKi Nerve Center isn't just a trading platform. The VNC is group of digital and R&D experts committed to building pathways between clients and their most important audiences across a digital landscape. Our primary function is to find and scale audiences that have the best affinity for our clients’ brands, and who consequently represent the best opportunity for the marketers served by our agencies.
Our Audience on Demand solution is different from other trading platforms in the marketplace, primarily because AOD is all about defining, locating and reaching keenly defined audiences across premium outlets. We start with people and insights, create the right passion groups, secure transparent inventory and build pipelines that clients can access through a single transaction.
While other platforms promise low costs, AOD is about adding value and driving results. Other platforms offer “blind” purchases that are difficult to track and monitor. AOD provides transparency—our existing strong media relationships allows our teams to know exactly what partners are on the plan and how they are performing at the most granular levels.
We leverage the exchange platforms, but only to buy impressions that meet a campaign's criteria. We're not taking fixed positions and attempting to squeeze value out of every impression, nor do we want to get into a reseller relationship.
Can you share a sense of current momentum with VivaKi Nerve Center? Monthly impression levels? Client campaigns?
The Nerve Center products and platforms are proprietary to our agencies and their clients. We don’t measure impressions but outcomes. We were very much in a build and test mode throughout 2008, and we are now enjoying considerable momentum with a growing number of clients.
How does VivaKi evaluate whether a publisher impression is premium?
For us, Premium inventory resonates easily in cross-media channel campaigns. Traditionally this has meant top branded properties, as we see AOD long-term being about more than just online display. We are already actively testing AOD on television. So, we see Premium as being that tier of multi-channel media owners who can bring scale to our audience-centric strategies of the future.
Will ad exchanges play a role in VivaKi Nerve Center?
Ad Exchanges have been and will continue to be a critical component to AOD and other products the VNC is developing to support our agencies (Digitas, MediaVest, Optimedia, Starcom and Zenith). Whether public or private, the functionalities these platforms bring to the market are critical to making audience-centric media buying scale across agencies.
How can ad exchanges move to a more premium and remnant future as opposed to remnant-only?
I believe ad exchanges have to change their mindset from seeking low cost, bulk inventory to seeking high value connections. It’s also a question of media owners providing and facilitating more premium inventory. Consumers will ultimately push the levers in this market by making choices and engaging with content they find valuable to them. As consumers choose, so will clients, and the money will follow.
What recommendations would you make to the "Sell" side (publishers)? What would you like to see more of from the "Sell" side?
In the absence of a universal cookie, we'd like to see real-time bidding infrastructures from all publishers / exchanges. Inventory is going to increasingly be defined by data attributes associated with the consumer, and in order to facilitate that in an effective and efficient fashion for all parties, real-time bidding seems most critical.
What are the challenges for media buying agencies as media trading takes off? For example, is it important for agencies to be entrepreneurial?
The media buying practices inside our agencies are already adjusting their operating models to account for the acceleration of media trading and many other influences/developments. It is not only important to be entrepreneurial, it is essential.
When will brand advertising budgets finally come online?
Brand advertising budgets have been online for quite some time and continue to grow, even in this depressed economy. We're quite excited about how Publicis clients have embraced this to date.
Will VivaKi Nerve Center leverage the Long Tail or will it concentrate on large publishers?
AOD has been primarly focused on brand-name websites to start, as our agencies represent brand-name advertisers who find synergies and safety in such an approach. But we do believe that for audience-based buying to work, a bigger pond will give our clients a better chance of finding their audiences. Transparency is and will be a critical component to this.
How close are we to effective attribution models for the "Demand" side?
The perfect attribution model for the industry is a bit of the Holy Grail. The reality is, each client will define what form of conversion matters most to them, and that in turn will differentiate and clarify how critical a particular type of media exposure is to each conversion. Factor in the impact offline media has, and the picture becomes quite complex.
But that's what makes exchanges so interesting - each client decides for themselves what the relative value is of an impression however they see fit. Insights and transparency drive that, so we plan to continue our focus in these areas and help our agencies and clients leverage these powerful platforms.