MarTech Interview with Alexander Knudsen, VP, Solutions Engineering at Amobee

Alexander Knudsen, VP, Solutions Engineering at Amobee shares a few thoughts on the growing demand for ad-supported services and what today’s marketers and advertisers should consider when planning and optimizing their campaigns and use of adtech. 

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Alexander, tell us more about your role at Amobee…  

I head up the Solutions Engineering organization at Amobee. We are a customer-facing team that provides subject matter expertise on our TV, programmatic and analytics offerings. One of those solutions, which we will be getting into more detail today, is a real-time research and insights tool called Brand Intelligence. 

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Amobee recently conducted research on customer content trends leading up to the Games season — can you share the top highlights? 

While there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the announcement to exclude spectators at the Olympics this year, analysis indicates that negative sentiment is fueled more so by the disqualifications and bans of athletes participating in the Games.

Furthermore, insights reveal that consumers engage with athletes competing in the Olympics 20% more than they engage with Olympic events on their own. Insights reveal that consumers are driven to engage with the Olympics based on their interest in the athletes competing, rather than the sports or individual events themselves. For example, we saw engagement with Simone Biles was 187% higher than gymnastics.

What are some of the key takeaways from this research for marketers along with other marketing trends that you feel should be a focus area for marketers down the line for the rest of 2021?

It’s likely that the ban on protesting and the absence of spectators will have a larger impact on the attendance of athletes competing in the Games than on the viewers watching the Games at home. However, since consumer interests are so closely tied to individual athletes, marketers should be wary that athletes dropping out of the Olympics poses a significant threat to viewership. 

Additionally, those who are not advertising during the Olympics should still capitalize on consumers’ high engagement by aligning with real-time content surrounding key athletes like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Grant Holloway, Rai Benjamin, Caeleb Dressel, Justin Gatlin and Trayvon Bromell.

Customer behaviors and changes to content consumption patterns are also influencing a change in ad plans and trends: can you share a few top observations and predictions you have here?

For the past decade, a lot of focus has been placed on device fragmentation as smartphones, tablets and personal computers allowed consumers to access open web content on different hardware. In this world though, TV content was mostly consumed through linear streams, while open web content was significantly collapsed into a browser experience and social media applications. 

What we are seeing now is a further layer of complexity which I would describe as fragmentation of distribution. The explosion of ad-supported and subscription-based video on-demand services, as well as the hardware and software operators that control carriage agreements with content creators now means even just buying ad units from a single publisher like NBC can be incredibly complex — and it’s both a challenge and an opportunity. 

The TV networks and programmers are looking at how big tech found a way to take an outsized share of web publishers’ CPMs over time and are rightly suspicious of walled garden ecosystems that tell them they are there to help. This creates a heightened need for publisher data sovereignty and increased difficulty in aggregating audience reach across a holistic media buy. More than ever, advertisers need technology that helps them unify audiences across screens, platforms and services. 

According to you, how can marketers and advertisers of today use their adtech and martech to create more integrated campaigns that better compliment their efforts?

If you look to the future of the open web, the last 10 years of 1:1 targeting and attribution are not a good indicator for how value will be created over the next 10 years. It is clearly going to become a more modelled world, and while Google has given publishers and advertisers a reprieve in added time to prepare for Chrome updates, the Apple ecosystem today is already in a state of probabilistic and modelled advertising for their browser environment and opted-out app environments. 

So, the time is now. Advertisers should be looking at old and new technologies that will help them evolve their ad practices with a focus on harnessing first-party data — not just for targeting — but for influencing bid models, attribution, reach reporting and most importantly, planning. 

As real-time decisioning becomes less based on identifiers, sophisticated planning and forecasting tools using opt-in data will give advertisers more predictability in their integrated campaigns instead of just setting a prospecting tactic live and letting an algorithm do the job for you.

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A few martech and adtech tools you feel marketers/advertisers of today who plan extensive media mixes need to integrate into their overall tech stack and why?

Firstly, all brands should think like publishers now. That means creating value exchange for consent through content and services so that they can build up their opt-in first-party data strategies. To do this, you need martech such as a Customer Data Platform to capture, anonymize and synchronize personally identifiable information (PII) that can be transferred to planning, activation and measurement systems. 

Secondly, you need a channel planning or cross-screen planning tool that can help you allocate media across channels, devices and content owners for deduplicated reach. There isn’t yet an acronym for this technology, and I happen to think that might be a good thing. These offerings help collapse audiences between TV and digital, and forecast unified audience and inventory availability across the open ad ecosystem so a marketer can acquire the right mix of reserved media (TV and Premium Video) and auction-based media (Programmatic Video, Display and Audio) for their needs. 

Thirdly, you want an execution solution that can transact as much of that reserved and bidded inventory as possible for real-time performance optimization and frequency management — we all know this is what a DSP does. 

Lastly, and this is maybe what is most important because this is what ties everything together, you need an attribution solution that allows you to have a source of truth on what is working and what is not. Marketers will be getting reporting from their Planning and Activation solutions that will inform things like optimization and publisher negotiations, but a measurement platform will verify all of that reporting, whether it’s sales or reach, and it needs to be independent from the rest of your adtech stack. 

5 predictions on the future of adtech?

  1. Browser cohorts are interesting for targeting, but publisher and SSP cohorts will be more useful for brands trying to control frequency in the future.
  2. Broadcasters, beginning in global markets outside the US, will find common cause in fending off big tech, and they will find that they are stronger together, forming consortiums and alliances that will benefit both buyers and sellers of media.
  3. IP address will be classified as PII in the next 5 years in the US, forcing many in the supply chain to adapt again — and the sky won’t fall down because of it (Europe is doing just fine).
  4. There will be a lot of chatter in the trade press about legacy brands in-housing TV planning and buying, but only a very small percentage of organizations are big enough to do that work as effectively as a media agency.
  5. Antitrust legislation and litigation will only accelerate globally, and the ad tech ecosystem will continue to be caught right in the middle of it. 

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Amobee helps brands, agencies and media companies unify audiences to optimize advertising results across all linear TV, connected TV, and digital, including social media to deliver the results that drive customer growth. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singtel, one of the largest communications technology companies in the world, which reaches more than 675 million mobile subscribers. The company operates across North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia. 

As Vice President of Solutions Engineering, Alex Knudsen is responsible for overseeing the creation, testing and delivery of Amobee’s industry-leading technology solutions. He is a seasoned digital advertising professional with a proven track record of discovering customer’s business challenges and creating personalized solutions to meet their business needs. Knudsen’s primary goal is to help clients stay ahead of the fast-changing media landscape and solve for more effective planning, campaign implementation and evaluation.

Alex has over 12 years’ experience in the advertising ecosystem, starting in the creative agency space as part of STW Group before moving across to media and platform technology. Prior to Amobee, Alex spent more than three years at Turn where he led enterprise account teams delivering programmatic buying, data management and analytics solutions for Fortune 500 brands in the consumer packaged goods and automotive verticals.  

A native Australian, Alex holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Sydney.

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