TechBytes with Gil Sommer, VP of Product, Connatix

TechBytes with Gil Sommer, VP of Product, Connatix

Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Connatix.

I am the VP of Product at Connatix. My team is responsible for creating and prioritizing a roadmap for various product lines, including our Online Video Platform, experiential video formats and in-house revenue engine.

How much has the Mobile Advertising landscape evolved in the last two years?

There have been many advances in Mobile Advertising in the last two years. From a marketer’s standpoint, mobile video has become a much larger focus. Many new formats have emerged and the advertising world has been following suit by adjusting the creative to be short (e.g the emergence of the six-second video ad) and memorable. From a technology standpoint, there have also been many advances.

The IAB Tech Lab’s OM-SDK standard has solved one of the biggest roadblocks for further adoption of Video Advertising on mobile, which is the third-party measurement. The recent ads.txt standard will help fight the massive fraud operations that exist in mobile. These days, the major challenge that remains is the ability of advertisers to merge their segmentation data that is Cookie-based with Device-ID-based targeting.

Tell us what you think about Apple’s recent announcement to curb fake news and clickbait content.

Providing a better experience for users and combating the abundance of fake news should be a priority for all companies in the digital publishing ecosystem. Nonetheless, I tend to be a bit suspicious of announcements like this one, because of the nature of the incentive structure in the content space.

When you look at clickbaits, for example, the financial incentive comes from the moment a user is on your site, and you earn money through advertising. This incentive will not change fundamentally and as long as there is money associated with viewing content, in one form or another, this type of content will exist. The fake news incentives are counterintuitive. In this case, the main incentive is to have people read and engage with fake content. The monetization aspect is secondary and many times non-existent. As long as there is an outlet to discover this type of content, it will exist.

The only real way to “combat” the phenomena of fake news is through rigorous editorial work that is set to look for “high-quality” content. However, running such an operation would be costly and would require editorial expertise. I doubt Apple is built to do this, or would even want to do it. In the setup they announced, Apple News will be dependent on the work (and brand) of highly respectable publishers. Therefore, I would look at this as another power grab by Apple that is meant to control the users, and thus control more of the value chain.

Why is Apple’s SEO a new disruption to Content Marketing?

Every time a new industry has an aggregator that controls discoverability through some sort of algorithm, people learn how to “optimize” for the new algorithm, which means better financial results. This dynamic quickly turns into a new type of marketing service, and an adjacent industry develops. This is likely to happen in the Apple News case as it did with Google and Bing Search, Amazon Marketplace Search and Facebook among others.

Which businesses would be greatly affected by this announcement?

The largest impact by far will be on publishers. They could lose even more of the little power they have currently, and should proceed with caution. Rather than adopting a short-term view of this problem and going for immediate gains, they should take a step back to think through how this might diminish their future competitive advantage. To a lesser extent, this will impact advertisers by driving even more control of digital advertising to Google and Facebook. And if the last bit of market competition is lost, advertisers will, in turn, lose a lot of the power they have today.

What role would Connatix play in providing programmatic technology for targeting the customers?

Connatix is a publisher-first technology provider and as such, our focus is to help publishers provide great content to their readers and maximize the monetization opportunities they have. We believe providing tools that are better integrated — from the end users to the advertisers — will increase transparency, competition and performance and reduce inefficiencies throughout the value chain.

What are the major trends and predictions do you see in the video content space?

While there have been many advancements, we are still on the ground floor in regards to video content. It is still expensive to produce and there is a scarcity of content. So first and foremost, I believe many additional solutions will be focused on solving this inventory problem in an inexpensive way. Second, I see video content as not only a tool to summarize your article, but a tool to help writers convey their narratives in tandem with other mediums such as imagery, graphics, text and audio.

We will see better tools supported by Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML), which will help editors deliver better videos for each article and each narrative. Lastly, we will see much more interactivity in video, allowing users to gain more from what they are seeing on the screen.

How do you orchestrate your technology to clean up ad fraud within the programmatic space?

Cleaning up ad fraud will benefit all players involved and we see this as a high priority and ongoing effort here at Connatix. We have built a system to weed out any bad aspects of the platform — be it traffic, hidden ads or malware. Our integrated technology stack helps reduce other types of fraud such as domain spoofing even further. We are also using third-party verification vendors to identify invaild traffic.

However, fighting ad fraud requires cooperation with other members of the industry and we are actively working with them through the TAG initiative and other IAB Tech Lab initiatives to further combat fraud. Our experience with the implementation of ads.txt across web has shown that when we fight fraud together, everyone involved gets better performance. Real publishers get better monetization and advertisers get better results for their campaigns.

What does your product roadmap look like for 2019-2020?

Connatix is focused on continuing to provide great video solutions for publishers and advertisers. We recently launched a new OVP platform built from the ground up with an integrated revenue engine to help publishers scale their video strategy without the upfront risk they typically face. We are also exploring the role of interactivity and immersive elements in video to help publishers enhance the reader experience while achieving revenue goals.

How do you see AI and Location Data further disrupting the era of Mobile Programmatic growth?

AI will further help us connect the dots and provide users with relevant advertising at the right time. This, in turn, will provide a better experience for the user. Research has shown that when users feel advertising is helping them solve a problem or need, they tend to react better to it. AI will help us get there faster. Having said that, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the quality of the content or ad creative. While data and AI will help with targeting, advertisers will still need to convey a message, interact emotionally and elicit a reaction from the user. Regardless of the advancements of AI, this is the one area where human creativity will still remain the winner and advertisers who invest in it will yield better results.

Gil Sommer is VP of Product at Connatix in charge of creating a plan for various product lines including the online video platform, experiential video formats and in-house revenue engine. He is an innovative, analytical and strategic product leader with hands-on experience in building exceptional B2C and B2B products in e-commerce and AdTech.

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Connatix is a next-generation video platform for publishers. We believe in the power of engaging content and are on a mission to help publishers deliver successful videos without compromise. With a cutting-edge video player, optimization engine, and suite of immersive formats, publishers can easily monetize their content while delivering engaging experiences. To expand reach, Connatix offers an extensive independent syndication network for distribution at scale. With first-to-market video capabilities, Connatix sits at the forefront of content innovation and is building a new generation of video experiences that are optimized for publisher success.

Connatix works with over 3,000 publishers worldwide and in 2018, was ranked #2 in the comScore video metrix. Founded in 2014, the company is headquartered in New York City with offices in Tel Aviv, Israel and Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

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