Publishers Provide Tough but Constructive Truths for Ad Tech Sellers

“Come with realistic ambitions and deliverables” – this advice was delivered to a packed room of ad tech sellers at Propeller’s Ad Week Europe panel titled Tough Truths for Tech Vendors.

A panel of experienced digital specialists and publishers shared a raft of insights – some a little painful to swallow but all imparted to help shape a positive process for buyers and sellers – to an attentive audience at the event.

The group offering the medicine with a spoonful of sugar included Jonathan Lewis, Head of Partnerships & Digital Innovation at Channel 4, Fiona McKinnon General Manager at The Pangaea Alliance (including CNN, Reuters, Fast Company), Guljeet Samra, Digital Commercial Operations Director at Hearst Magazines and Danny Spears, Programmatic Director at The Guardian. The panel was chaired by Propeller founder Martin Loat.

The discussion covered the challenges faced by publishers when assessing ad tech vendors, and the move to take back more control over negotiations and contracts.

Danny Spears said: “We have recognised at The Guardian that our strategy has to be at the very centre of our approach to how we engage with ad tech … we have come a long way in understanding which vendors correlate with our needs as a business and which give us the most value.”

He added that his team now made more rigorous appraisals of partners, covering off policy items, auction dynamics and asserting ownership of the publisher’s data, before moving to examine capability issues.

Jonathan Lewis said that when researching possible suppliers Channel 4 talked to the market and competitors like ITV and BskyB about who is ‘best in class’, “We are engaged in making sure we get the best product possible and that it works.”

The panel gave four pieces of advice for tech vendors.

  • Under-promise and over-deliver. Bear in mind it can take a company months to bed down and integrate new tech, so make sure the proposition is going to work or you’ll have to deal with a very angry publisher.
  • Act as a partner, not a vendor. Fiona McKinnon said: “Be willing to work with me to help drive my business. Come in with a clear understanding of requirements
  • Guljeet Samra stressed the need for “locally-based support”, so the client feels confident that any problems can be fixed quickly, and downtime is minimised.
  • Provide “brilliant basics”. Give your client access to any data and aim for sensible conversations around the business terms.