I recently caught up with James Brown, who is Head of International for the sell-side advertising platform, Magnite. We discuss his role, the impact of new privacy measures, and the future of programmatic..

What has been your biggest achievement since you’ve been at Magnite, and can you explain your role?

Magnite was born by bringing together four leading technology companies: Rubicon Project, Telaria, Spotx, and Springserve.

Bringing these four teams together to form Magnite, the world’s largest independent sell side platform, all over video conferencing is something that I am extremely proud of and I am excited to see the output over the coming weeks and months.

As Head of International, I am responsible for all revenue and customer relationships across EMEA and JAPAC. I work very closely with the regional leaders and teams to deliver the best technology solutions for our customers, whether they are buyers or sellers of advertising.

How do you think new privacy features will impact the digital ad industry?

It is important to look at the bigger picture when it comes to privacy and consent as a broader topic in the digital ad industry. What is happening with iOS 14 is symptomatic of an important issue, albeit in this case, one localised to the Apple ecosystem.

The broader point is that there is a need for privacy and consent compliant identification to drive the next chapter in the digital ecosystem. At Magnite we believe this should be a community-owned asset that most likely sits with the publisher.

How can privacy and personalisation co-exist in advertising?

Personalisation doesn’t have to come at the expense of privacy. Looking forward, a proportion of audience tracking will be transparently set and controlled by the users themselves. Tracking and addressability could be based on “first party signals” (by logged-in users), or on a first-party identifier as provided by the publisher through an open-source platform such as Prebid. With interest-based data, ads can be better tailored towards the end user. Users can opt-out of tracking, as well as convey the inherent value that digital advertising brings to the open internet. Ultimately, ads keep the internet free and open for consumers. 

Audiences may also need to be encouraged to volunteer information for a better experience or tangible reward. For publishers, this means addressing how identification can be made to seem palatable or desirable, instead of just something that they are willing to give up. While this model feels like it upends identity as we know it, it could actually make tracking more effective because it relies on user consent. A consumer is more likely to want to engage with a brand they trust, on sites they trust and is more likely to allow access to their personal information.

How important is buyer transparency and what is Magnite doing in this area?

Transparency is extremely important to the programmatic ecosystem as a whole. As more and more media is bought and sold programmatically, we need to ensure this process is fit and sustainable for the future, with transparency being a critical component in this.

At Magnite, we’ve been advocates of this buyer-transparency effort since the start, so we offer all the relevant reports and log level data to ensure buyers understand where and how take rates are calculated. We are strong supporters of industry initiatives such as IAB Tech Lab’s buyers.json and dchain. As an industry, our efforts in transparency are far from complete. We need to continue collectively investing in techniques to ensure secure, trusted chains of both supply and demand.

What advice would you give a marketer in your industry right now?

Immerse yourself in programmatic and really begin to understand the technology. At the start, the language can be intimidating, however your ability to extract value for your brand out of this ecosystem will be vastly enhanced. Ultimately, if media can be traded in an automated or programmatic fashion it will be.

We have seen this across the digital ecosystem and are now seeing it in traditional media channels such as Out of Home and TV. Programmatic is the present and future of media buying; work with your agencies and partners to really get under the skin of it and you will find a fascinating, constantly evolving ecosystem that will only continue to benefit your brands.

What do you predict for the future of digital advertising?

Programmatic is the present and future of digital advertising. As the technology matures and as open source identity solutions become ubiquitous, we will spend far less time talking about the underlying software/programmes.

Instead, there will be increased time spent highlighting the exciting cross platform advertising solutions to marketers that reach the right user at the right time, regardless of platform. This has long been the promise of programmatic and is certainly the future we are building for at Magnite.

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