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Exchange Lab’s CEO On How Brands Are Adapting To The Challenges of Programmatic

Marketing: Competition in the ad tech space continues to intensify. What are some of the ways you see the broader supplier industry responding? You’d expect the smart ones to be able to provide more value. How do they do that?

James Aitken: If you take a look at the most recent Lumascape, it is clear to see that with so many ad tech companies in the marketplace, companies need to either fight to differentiate or consolidate to stay ahead. We’ll continue to see more of this in the coming year. We’ll also see more companies realizing the possibilities that multi-platform can bring, which can be attested to as a number of agency hold-cos follow the lead that The Exchange Lab pioneered in 2007 and begin to take up a multi-platform approach to trading.

Our view is that by combining all of the demand side platforms (DSPs) in one touch point it creates scale, a clear view of the programmatic marketplace and plays to each of their unique strengths. The real front-runners in the space focus on building technology as a way to stay ahead, and it will be those who have invested in this area that will continue to lead the market.

Marketing: What about moves that put more actual control in the hands of media buyers, especially the brands themselves who are increasingly taking their buys in-house?

Since its inception, the programmatic industry has moved at a fast pace. In the early years of programmatic there was a lack of understanding and a lot of confusion about the benefits the approach could offer. Now that brands have been convinced that programmatic is an essential part of the marketing strategy and not just a buzzword, companies are looking for more transparency, education and learning in-house.

The decision to take programmatic marketing in-house isn’t a definite one though, and isn’t right for every company. Data protection, flexibility and cost savings are all draws to bringing operations within a business, however training in-house experts is not without its challenges. The move to take programmatic in-house will not be for every company. Certainly we’ll see large brands as the first adopters of this strategy.

Marketing: You would cite your company’s Proteus platform as an example of that, right?

Not every company will be at the stage to move programmatic in-house, and companies will be at varying levels of progression in the space. There will always been a need for third-party providers to assist where needed with expertise and advice.

We’ve developed Proteus to work on either an enterprise, self-serve model or managed service. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so it’s great to have the flexibility to offer both.

Marketing: Proteus is a bit of a unique tool in this marketplace. Is it fair to say it seems designed to fit your company’s corporate strategy of leveraging multiple data providers and platforms and integrating them for clients?

What we’ve tried to develop Proteus to do is leverage the best of each DSP or data provider as we see that as the most effective way to achieve scale, performance and quality for the client. Proteus has been developed in-house to be a management trading platform that sits as an independent agnostic layer on top of the DSPs.

It is a combination of the best of Bloomberg and FX trading platforms, and has evolved from the need to access the entire digital media marketplace in real-time. We think of it as enabling our traders to be portfolio managers, moving budgets to the best performing platforms in order to connect a sprawling programmatic marketplace through one portal.

Marketing: I see the ‘Powered by Proteus’ tag line under your brand now. Do you find yourself talking more about the technology these days than the broader company? Where do you see your most promising market for sales?

Marketers are mainly interested in the insights, so while we as a company will continue to focus on advancing Proteus technologically, it’s the opportunities for optimization that marketers will be interested in at the end of the day, and what will ultimately continue sales.

Marketing: Consider the capabilities that are now in clients’ hands that weren’t there two years ago. Let’s look a further two years into the future. What excites you when it comes to the capabilities marketers will be given in the near future? What’s coming up next?

The sheer amount of data that is available to marketers now is enormous. Once harnessed correctly, and as the industry is able to connect disparate pockets of data together to tell a story, marketers will be able to gain one view of the consumer. Tools such as smart watches, smart TVs and in-store beacons take marketers one step closer connecting the online and offline worlds.

Consider the disruption of programmatic on the media landscape. It being the biggest disruptor to advertising in the last 20 years; Around 25% of all advertising will be traded this way by the end of 2016. This huge change has been led by how consumers digest digital media now.