‘Is it about time?’ – Scoota’s Steve Filler on valuing engagement over exposure


Let’s start with some home truths about digital advertising: if they can, most people will avoid it. Because most people don’t like it – and some even hate it.


Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. The most overused description of the value of programmatic is ‘the ability to target the right user at the right time with the right message’.  As an industry we nail the ‘right user’ bit. Combining this user data with additional behavioural insight to target people at the right time we do pretty well – add to that ‘in the right place’ in terms of environment, device and location and so far, so good.


However, skip to the ‘right message’ piece of the puzzle and the industry falls over. More often than not it’s a massive let down which at best gets ignored and in the worst cases forces people into hiding, swiping or blocking.  There is no doubt that brands are delivering smart, personalised and relevant messages that resonate with people at point of purchase, but we are not seeing the same creative sophistication being applied to digital brand advertising.


The sheer amount of messages we have to consume daily means it is tougher than ever to get noticed if you’re a brand trying to find new customers. With the stakes so high, it’s surprising to observe very few clients rising to the challenge in their day-to-day brand activities.  Nine times out of ten, the creative agency gets blamed for providing unfit-for-purpose creative but the truth is that we all need to take responsibility.


Let’s start by holding our hands up and admitting that executing brilliant, smart digital brand work isn’t easy. If we want to challenge consumers’ perceptions of digital advertising to a point where they have an instinctive desire to engage, then we have got to be prepared for a bit of hard graft.


It all starts with the client. I won’t dwell on the need for brands to create assets that are actually interesting, relevant and entertaining rather than a repurposed TV ad, as I’d hope that’s pretty obvious by now.  Where I think the biggest problem is, is the disconnect between the creative and media agencies.  Currently both media and creative agencies work independently from each other, with media agencies having little input into the creative stage and conversely, the creative agency having little visibility on the activation strategy.  I’ve seen so many campaigns targeting a number of different audiences with specific interests with the same generic creative format and message used in each strategy.  It’s easy to lay blame at the door of the creative agencies, but they are flying blind.


Added to this, there is very little mid or post campaign performance data fed back to the creative agency meaning they are essentially excluded from the optimisation process, with no adequate insight into what worked or didn’t. It’s a cycle of disconnectivity with one party taking most of the brunt: the client. Or should we go one step further and say: the audience.


For brands to meaningfully connect with audiences online, something has to fundamentally change. Where better to start than with what constitutes a successful ad? Currently, half of an ad being seen for one second is what constitutes ‘viewability’, which is obviously not good enough. I think we will see a new metric of ‘noticeability’ develop, introducing a new era where brands aim for meaningful audience engagement for a decent length of time. I firmly believe ‘time’ will become the next key form of digital brand measurement, presenting an opportunity for brands to engage with audiences in a way that has never been possible before.  Of course viewability will remain the first stage of brand measurement, but I expect we will soon see this evolve from a question of “was my ad in view?” to “how long was my ad in view?”.


The following image illustrates this tipping point, where online brand impact can move towards engagement quality over quantity as a gauge of success:



Of course media agencies, tech vendors and supply partners will continue to improve viewability scores but we shouldn’t be surprised when clients start asking for more, combining intelligent targeting with an understanding of how important the creative message is in grabbing a user’s attention and taking them on a journey.


Let’s remain positive and remember that, once engaged, anything is possible. I hope that soon brands will realise they can move away from overvaluing exposure and call for a new school of layered measurement: Was my ad noticed? Was it engaged with? Watched, played with, enjoyed, liked and – the digital holy grail – loved? Only then will we be able to claim we’ve moved online advertising forward and put the audience first. Until then, we must keep striving.


This article originally appeared on AdTekr.

Scoota Guest Blog Series #1 – Antidote’s Henry Chilcott on the ‘Ad Block-eclipse’

Kicking off Scoota’s series of guest blogs, Antidote partner Henry Chilcott looks at how the ad blocker narrative is getting in the way of the real debate: 

I’m in this business because I believe in the power of great storytelling to influence people and build brands. And I’m excited by how today’s technology allows us to deepen, target and share those stories in ever more powerful ways.

However the twin forces of the post-financial-crisis budget squeeze, and more significantly the continued momentum of a digital revolution that too often steamrolls creativity, has led to an ever-growing sea of mediocre content from brands.

But, ironically, the very same digital revolution is empowering consumers to edit this mediocre content from their lives (through the likes of Sky Plus, TiVo, and more recently, ad blocking software). So it follows that brands will have no option but to invest in producing content that people actually want in their lives at the same time as harnessing technology to deliver that content; to become the masters of both agility (efficiency through tech) and craft (impact through creativity)

Or become increasingly ignored.

Problem is – I can’t hear anyone yelling the importance of craft, of storytelling, from the rooftops. And if anyone is, it’s being drowned out by talk of programmatic, cross-device sequential targeting and the ironically named ‘people based marketing’.

Why the silence? Well, I’ll offer a view from ad agency land; it comes down to a loss of confidence.

Despite being filled with heaps of bright and talented people, too many ad agencies have allowed their craft to be depositioned. As a consequence, the flag bearers-in-chief of storytelling aren’t championing its importance for fear of appearing passé in a discourse dominated by data and tech. This is exacerbated by agency group’s historic efforts to solve the issue of their outdated ad agencies by creating ecosystems of digital / data driven specialist verticals and demoting the dear old ad agency to a kind of strategic ‘loss leader’ – like milk in the supermarket (sold at a loss in order to bring customers in to spend money and create margin in other areas). This is supported by a recent chat with a CEO from one of the big name London ad agencies – with over £25m of revenues and (admittedly after a touch year) a full year profit target of…wait for it…zero – but with a flourishing and profitable ecosystem of specialist digital / data driven agencies in the broader agency group.

Now, I’m at risk of generalising here, and of course there are a bunch of ‘ad’ agencies creating content that you might even rewind to see (as you spin past the guff with your Sky Plus remote), or maybe even seek out on YouTube on your phone or tablet or phablet or laptop or laplet. Great ideas, great storytelling, brilliantly executed and distributed. Of late, Jude Law swanning around on a yacht with Giancarlo Giannini for Johnnie Walker springs to mind (Anomaly), or the beautifully drafted “To the pub” for Greene King (Grey), or that incredible dual-narrative Type R work for Honda a year or so back (W+K). But for these and a handful of other sunny outposts, there’s still far too much content responsible for the faded FFWD button on your Sky remote, or for sending you scrambling to the app store to download a free adblocker.

Meanwhile, the loudest voices are still banging on about relevancy and the power of programmatic to deliver highly relevant content to people in real time, at scale. But I don’t care how relevant something is if it’s crap. Relevant crap is still crap. And then of course there’s cross-device sequential targeting permitted by clever tech/media owners who get you to sign into their platforms on all your devices – Sky, Facebook, Google et al – meaning they can pronounce the crumbling of the cookie (sorry), smug in the knowledge that only they can deliver a bespoke message to the right people at the right time across all their devices. Again, this is all marvelous – it really is, but I come back to the same point – if I don’t like your story I’ll still ignore you.

Technology is our industry’s greatest opportunity but also our greatest threat. It’s distracting us from a fundamental (if not particularly ‘du jour’) truth – that it doesn’t matter if the data says I’m a white hot target gagging to get my credit card out and buy a miserable looking people carrier, if the story doesn’t grab me, I’ll be back to my butternut squash curry and X-Factor in the time it takes Simon Cowell to give one of those weird winks. Sorry, it’s just more interesting.

Just to be very clear, I love technology and the astonishing pace with which it’s changing everything before it, laying waste to tired business models and opening more opportunities than Bob Monkhouse in his Saturday night heyday. But, in my view, we must balance this with a renewed and vigorous respect for storytelling and craft. Surely only those who manage to bring technology and storytelling into a lover’s embrace will truly hold the keys to the promised land.

One last thought; creative and media agencies have historically felt threatened by the obvious ad-avoidance impact of Sky Plus, TiVo, ad blocking software and the general ‘on-demand’ lives we all now lead. But this is entirely the wrong way to look at it; these technological advances might just prove to be our industry’s salvation. Ad blockers exist because people want to block crap ads. In putting the-power-to-edit-out-mediocre into the hands of consumers, these technologies have inadvertently declared war on mediocre content. Now is the time for creative agencies and their clients to do the same.


what’s the future of online advertising in 2016?

Steve Filler, Scoota’s Tech & Distribution CEO, sets his sights on what 2016 will look like for online advertising:

  • Programmatic will finally get creative

There’s a lot of talk among media agencies, trading desks and the big creative agencies about programmatic being a positive creative opportunity rather than a threat, but so far there have been very few great creative examples.

I think we’ll see creative agencies play a more active role in helping clients to deliver smart, relevant and visually stimulating creative messages across a range of digital channels. Brands and agencies will align their programmatic brand and direct response activities, feeding off the data being generated to deliver optimum performance, whilst delivering an enhanced creative experience for users that will curb the trend of users turning to ad blockers.

  • Storytelling across all digital touch points will become a hot topic

An emerging breed of data-driven planners will help brands to craft sophisticated, sequential and relevant messaging. Technology will be a significant enabler, but it will be the quality and range of assets being created which will differentiate the winners and losers.  Cross-device targeting will become increasingly important in the quest to deliver a series of relevant messages to a single user as they move from site to site and from screen to screen.

The increasing shift to mobile means we will see the development of exciting new formats that capitalise on the full functionality of the device and play on the personal nature of a users’ experience on their phone. The role that mobile plays alongside other digital activities in delivering on a brand advertiser’s goals will also be a significant focus for media and creative agencies and their technology partners.

  • The big players will have to step up or risk losing share

Consolidation in the ad tech space will continue to be a theme in 2016 but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a significant increase in agency budgets allocated to testing a new wave of DSPs or tech platforms in 2016.

The big players will be under pressure to ensure they are capable of providing their clients with a best-in-market solution as 2016 will be a year of experimentation, with clients continuing to demand and expect the best programmatic solutions that allow them to centralise budgets as well as innovate and deliver the best possible brand experience.

recapturing the lost user of online advertising

With huge advances being made in technology that delivers advertising, why are online ads not engaging with users? Niki Stoker, client services director at Scoota, argues that it’s time to get creative.

So, you’re on Facebook and scrolling through the posts when up it pops for the hundredth time: another ad for the hotel you’ve just been viewing on Expedia, and rather than thinking again about booking said holiday, all you feel is irritated.
It still amazes me that this is an all too common scenario users are experiencing when it comes to programmatic advertising. Instead of engaging the user, they are simply becoming bored and frustrated with what seems to be amounting to ‘stalker’ ads.

The user is becoming ‘lost’ in a deluge of pop-up banners, interruptive pre-roll and repurposed TV ads that they don’t want to see or watch. Have we reached a point where programmatic has become problematic?

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scoota makes senior hires from Exponential and Gumtree

We’re very excited to announce Niki Stoker joins Scoota as Director of Client Services; and Poonam Joshi joins as new Director of Ad Operations

With Scoota looking to further enhance its reputation as the leading programmatic rich media solution for brand advertisers, Niki Stoker will oversee our ambition to deliver the best service in market, taking charge of Client Service, Ad Ops and Design teams. Niki has over 15 years’ experience in digital advertising and held senior roles at various leading tech companies including TangoZebra/DoubleClick, Flashtalking and most recently European based DMP FlxOne.

Scoota CEO James Booth said of the news, “Whatever Niki does she does brilliantly. She was my first campaign manager at Tangozebra and went on to build the best campaign ops team around. She turned Flashtalking from a small operation into one of the leading UK players. Niki is top, top drawer, and I am thrilled to have her onboard.”

Niki said of her move, “I’m hugely excited to be joining some of the most talented and forward thinking people working in advertising today, and helping to take Scoota to the next level. “

Poonam Joshi also joins Scoota as Director of Ad Operations. Steve Filler, Scoota’s Tech CEO commented, “Poonam brings significant ad operations and programmatic expertise with her. With excellent knowledge of RTB technologies Poonam will lead and expand our Ad Ops team and continue to deliver outstanding campaigns for our clients.”

scoota & sir john hegarty’s record-breaking session at festival of marketing

On Thursday 12th November, Scoota’s co-founder Torie Chilcott joined Scoota investor & advertising legend Sir John Hegarty on the Headliner stage at the Festival of Marketing to discuss ‘The Magic of Creativity in Online Advertising.’ Torie looked at the journey of online advertising and its evolving relationship with creativity and Sir John Hegarty took the audience through one of his iconic advertising campaigns, Lynx’s Getting Dressed, demonstrating how, if he were to make it today, he would use the latest forms of technology to make it even more successful and creative. As the closing keynote of the Festival, the session with Sir John and Torie also broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest ever marketing lesson, and was an inspirational call to arms for creative agencies and technologists to collaborate more and work together to make online advertising deliver on its promise of creativity.

who you calling premium?

It’s a term often used in digital and yet its definition lacks consensus: so, what constitutes premium? Traditionally speaking, a premium publisher in the digital sense is the online representation of a high street publishing brand, such as a well known magazine title or popular newspaper. As established media properties, these premium publishers have enjoyed strong audiences and hefty advertiser revenues. For advertisers, the proposition has become more interesting with the advent of digital marketing, where the ability to exploit end user data has resulted in better and better audience targeting mechanisms.

The digital shift within advertising propelled many tech companies to start extracting learnings from an individual’s online behaviour to decide which ads to show them. With data technology companies trading audience metrics through programmatic, the challenge for traditional premium publishers became how to assert their brand value and differentiate their audiences as “premium” in an increasingly cluttered digital ecosystem.

In today’s world, brands can connect to thousands of publishers and their audiences in real time. This unprecedented access to scale means premium publishers have had to up their game to set themselves apart: offering brands a more unique, relevant and measurable audience. Advertisers are also increasingly granular in their data, prompting premium publishers to increase the value of their audiences and advertising space when negotiating their trading currencies.

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five steps programmatic must take to deliver its promise to brands

Recent articles have declared 2015 as the year that programmatic branding is going to take off. The reality is that it has already — with a number of brands, publishers and tech providers successfully delivering high-impact formats, expandable units and page skin creatives programmatically across multiple devices. Rich media is increasingly the mechanism of choice: but it’s important to remember we’re still at the start of this journey.

For a year or so, in-stream, pre-roll advertising has pioneered programmatic as a valuable alternative to the traditional network buy, transforming the space to the point where now the majority of spend outside of major broadcasters is delivered programmatically. But the lack of genuine premium supply and the reluctance of some broadcasters to trade programmatically is still restricting spend. And with very limited premium pre-roll video inventory, there is only so much that a brand can achieve.

One traditional route to deliver video within brand campaigns is using traditional rich media networks to deliver large high-impact formats. However, wastage issues and lack of control around the duplication of audiences, stemming from the use of multiple networks and a lack of transparency, mean that many agencies and brands are now turning to programmatic solutions to help deliver a much more efficient campaign.

 So what are the next steps for programmatic branding to achieve its potential as an efficient and effective brand solution?

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a tech viewpoint on programmatic rich media

Rich media has been the mainstay of online brand marketing for more than ten years, thanks to its ability to deliver a blend of video and interactivity directly to where the user can be found. But, unlike standard display advertising and pre-roll video, rich media has been late to the programmatic agenda.

So what is programmatic rich media? Let’s start with programmatic. Just as stock-market trading activity migrated from ticket-waving and noisy phone calls to sophisticated platforms relying on algorithms to seek out and bid on interesting stock, online media buying increasingly exploits real-time trading opportunities now made possible thanks to demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms.

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reflections on #dmexco15

Last week Scoota headed to Dmexco – the world’s largest gathering of leaders, innovators and technologists. Held in the heart of Cologne, across three enormous expo buildings, the biggest data exchanges, ad tech vendors, publishers and media agencies came together for a mass celebration of science. A global geek-off, notably attended this year by an increasing amount of high profile advertising leaders.

Sir Martin Sorrell led the charge with a keynote speech on horizontality and consolidation at WPP. Yannick Bollore gave a glamorous description of how Havas intends to provide the world’s best and most meaningful brand experts. Yahoo’s Lisa Utzschneider spoke passionately about the challenges and frustrations of inconsistent data.

Looking back, Dmexco successfully mixed companies more likely to be found in Cannes than Cologne with hardcore tech businesses. All seemed to be suffering from the same issues of convergence, growth and engagement. Seeing such different businesses have this commonality was startling. Notable areas of growth were discussed such as the emerging mobile markets of Africa, the Middle East and India. Also on the agenda: fragmentation of platforms; inefficiencies of measurement; plus the common anthem- the huge opportunity of programmatic.

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