Thought Leadership
Simpli.fi on the Inevitability of Local Programmatic Advertising

frost-prioleau-simplifi

Frost Prioleau
CEO
Simpli.fi

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Simpl.fi started out as a search retargeting platform and has now evolved into a cross-channel programmatic powerhouse offering display, mobile, video, and social inventory for local advertisers. Can you share more on the evolution of Simpli.fi and where it stands today?

From the start, we built the Simpli.fi platform to be powered by unstructured data instead of the pre-packaged audience segments that are typically used in our space. The first tactic that we took to market was search retargeting, as it was easy for advertisers to understand and it showed how our offering was very differentiated. As we grew, we discovered that unstructured data was a great fit for local programmatic across many tactics, as it enables us to customize audiences to local needs, and also to deliver performance on high volumes of small campaigns.

So for the last four years or so we have been wholly focused on building out Simpli.fi as a platform for local programmatic, with tactics that include not only search retargeting, but also site retargeting, mobile geo-fencing, contextual targeting, digital video, and others. We now serve the most sophisticated buyers of local programmatic advertising, whether those buyers are media companies with many local advertisers, or national brands and agencies who want to localize their campaigns to hundreds or thousands of locations.

 

There has been a cambrian explosion in the sheer number of ad technology players and web publishers that all want to sell to brands and agencies directly. Do you think that this is sustainable, and how do you think the market will change over the next few years?

We have actually been seeing consolidation in the Ad Tech space for several years. If you look at the DSP section of the Display Lumascape, you will see that 6 of the 15 DSPs listed have been acquired. Going forward we believe that customers will be looking to migrate away from point solutions and toward platform solutions where they can execute omni-channel campaigns, and this will drive further consolidation. Our focus is on being the best platform for advertisers looking to execute localized programmatic campaigns, which take advantage of our capabilities with unstructured data.

 

Many publishers have seemed to make a shift towards native ad units, branded content, and sponsored posts due to the much higher eCPMs it yields them (as compared to RTB). Where do you think this leaves ad exchanges, and their counter-part, the DSP?

There certainly has been a lot of discussion about native ad units, and the poster-child for their success is Facebook, whose newsfeed ads are all native. We are seeing SSPs/exchanges and DSPs adopt native ad formats, so that native ads can be bought using real time bidding just like other ad units. This will enable smaller publishers to generate more revenue using native ad formats as it brings liquidity to the marketplace.

 

Many of the main SSPs and Ad Exchanges have gone upstream to build relationships with the buyers directly, such as PubMatic (Media Buyer Console), Rubicon Project (Buyer Cloud), and AppNexus with their Programmable DSP. What are your thoughts on this?

We think that most sophisticated buyers want to work with a programmatic platform that is focused on serving buyer needs, as opposed to a platform built around maximizing publisher revenue. At Simpli.fi, we are building our business with the needs of sophisticated buyers who want to buy local programmatic campaigns across mobile, display, video, social, and other channels. We think that this focus enables us to deliver a better solution to our clients.

 

Who are some of the main 3rd party data partners Simpli.fi works with, and what are some applications of this data? 

We have created our own direct publisher relationships to give us the unique advantage of having our own data network. This data is used across a variety of our targeting tactics.

 

Ad blocking poses an existential crisis for the digital ad industry, if it ever reaches critical levels of more consumers adopting it. What effect do you think ad blocking will have on the ads that are served programmatically? How do you think that we, as an industry, can mitigate this? 

The adoption of adblockers has been a very effective wake up call for our industry, delivering the message that publishers and ad tech providers can’t continue to clog pages with code that makes it hard to consume content and that drives up data usage. I think that the IAB is headed the right direction with the LEAN initiative, and that publishers are also doing the right thing by limiting access to free content to users who block ads. From a programmatic perspective, most ad blockers kick in before an ad goes to auction, so they effectively keep buyers from buying ads targeting users who don’t want to see them. This actually can be a good thing from a buyer perspective, but isn’t fair for the publisher.

 

Local advertisers have never been known to be the most sophisticated when it comes to ad buying – how is Simpli.fi educating and incentivizing local advertisers to embrace fully programmatic ad buying?

We think of local advertisers as falling into two groups: National or regional multi-location brands that want to localize their campaigns, and small or local single-location businesses. The needs of these groups differ significantly. 

The national and regional multi-location brands that want to localize their campaigns are indeed very sophisticated. They are often savvy in the use of data, dynamic creative, and attribution, and tend to be very focused on optimizing audiences for the particular needs of their various locations. Our educational efforts with these types of advertisers and their agencies typically revolves around using unstructured data instead of pre-packaged segments, and also around new capabilities as they are developed.

Small or local businesses, on the other hand, typically want to work with a solution provider that will help them with more than just programmatic, so they often turn to media companies or local focused networks who can also provide them with TV/Radio/Newspaper advertising, search, web site services, and other tactics that are part of a complete advertising package. Our approach is to power the programmatic offerings of media companies and local focused networks, so our educational efforts are focused helping train our partners. We accomplish this with an online training portal, webinars, and in person trainings.

 

It was reported in February that impression volume on AppNexus fell by over 90% after fraud was removed from their exchange. What are your thoughts on the fraudulent inventory that exists on ad exchanges and how can an advertiser best identify tranches of fraudulent impressions when they are buying, so they can blacklist it?

Fraudulent inventory grew in the first years of programmatic because many of the participants were not focused on it. The good news is that the supply chain is now very focused on eliminating fraud and the industry is making some good strides in doing so.

One of the best ways for advertisers to minimize the amount of fraudulent impressions is to work with partners who have effective anti-fraud tools both at the site and the bot/browser level. In addition, if advertisers can set KPIs that are difficult to spoof, like actual purchases or verified form-fills, that helps ensure that campaigns are being optimized to legitimate traffic.

 

What are some innovations happening right now in digital or mobile advertising that excite you the most?

Some of the most exciting innovations right now involve the ability to do GPS-based geo-fencing at scale. Geo-fencing was initially popularized as a network based tactic by companies with proprietary app networks. Now geo-fencing can be done on the full breadth of mobile programmatic inventory, along with cross-device desktop inventory. This is bringing significant scale to this very effective tactic, and is enabling advertisers to execute bigger and better targeted geo-fence campaigns.

Another exciting innovation is of course the ongoing development and adoption of programmatic TV. This is coming in many forms, but we are seeing a convergence between the targeting of video ads delivered on the 5 inch screen that people carry in their pocket (their phone) and the targeting of ads delivered on the 50 inch screen mounted on their wall (their TV).

 

Lastly, what is your take on the adoption of programmatic technologies by local advertisers? 

In many cases, local advertisers have been late to adopt programmatic technologies because most programmatic platforms are not built to handle the idiosyncrasies of local, like delivering high performance on hundreds or thousands of campaigns with budgets of less than $5 or $10/day. This applies to both national, multi-location advertisers as well as smaller, single location businesses.

However, local advertisers definitely understand the need to serve ads on all the sites and apps where their prospects are spending their time. This is a great advantage of programmatic and is causing local advertisers to increasing include it as part of their marketing mix.

 


 

Programmatic Performance. Localized.

Simpli.fi is the leader in localized programmatic solutions. Trade desks, networks, local media groups, and multi-location brands leverage Simpli.fi’s superior performance, customizable audiences, and efficient delivery models to drive higher ROI in their digital businesses.

For more information about the company or partnership opportunities, call (800) 840-0768 or visit www.simpli.fi.

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