Xandr, the advertising division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, powers an online platform called Community which is a curated marketplace of premium publishers for buying and selling digital advertising. With one of the world’s largest collections of digital, film and TV properties, it provides a premium option for advertisers and publishers looking to reach specific audiences at scale. WNIP caught up with Austin Scott, Head of Video Market Development for EMEA, to find out more about Xandr’s video-first propositions for publishers, broadcasters and brands.
Can you give us some background about yourself, the company you work for, and your role at Xandr?
I spent the start of my career in New York City’s ad tech start-up scene. I was on the ground floor of one of the first demand-side platforms, helped launch a successful cross-device platform, and focused on TubeMogul’s growth pre-IPO. I joined Xandr earlier this year from Comcast’s Freewheel via the acquisition of StickyAds.tv – the Paris-based video ad tech start-up where I helped build the demand channel partnerships for their supply-side platform.
At Xandr – a company dedicated to creating better solutions for advertisers and publishers to find and reach specific audiences in trusted, premium content environments – I focus on driving the development and deployment of our video-first propositions for broadcasters, publishers, marketers and agencies across EMEA.
What business problem is your division addressing – and how does that sit within your larger offering?
The power of TV is here to stay and the shift in behaviour comes with multiple challenges. Most of us have experienced the shift in our own behaviour and know many friends and family that have expanded their viewing options beyond linear content. With increased fragmentation and on-demand consumption, audience targeting or measuring incrementality is more difficult. As a result, brands are facing a real challenge in delivering their messages to relevant audiences at the right time, on the right device and optimal cadence. At the same time, publishers need holistic inventory management tools that allow them to maximize inventory across screens and formats.
Xandr’s mission is to ‘Make Advertising Matter’. This means taking a consumer-centric approach that supports publishers’ ability to monetize and buyers’ ability to achieve a better return on ad spend. Through our technology platform, which includes our strategic buying and selling platforms, Xandr Invest and Xandr Monetize, we seek to provide both advertisers and publishers with the solutions and tools they need to evolve alongside consumer viewing habits. With so much demand in video, it’s now a critical part of our business in EMEA and around the world.
What new products are you launching to market – and why?
In 2019, we introduced a number of tools to the market. In midyear we launched Xandr Monetize, our strategic selling platform for premium TV and digital media companies. The platform includes an ad server, SSP, yield analytics and lays the infrastructure for powerful TV capabilities, unifying and simplifying operations across all inventory and transaction types, and demand channels.
Around the same time, we introduced Xandr Invest, our next generation strategic buying platform which offers simplified access to, and tailored buying of, premium, brand-safe content. Built for the future of advertising as digital and TV silos increasingly give way to converged buying, the platform provides a tangible outcome of what my 12+ year journey in programmatic and video has been leading up to.
Just recently we announced enhanced TV-buying solutions on Xandr Invest in the US for linear TV. It was amazing to see bastions of traditional media, Disney, AMC Networks and WarnerMedia, join us in enabling data-driven, audience-based buying at scale. The opportunity for global expansion is exciting and promises many new partnerships.
How has the evolution of video presented new opportunities for advertisers?
The evolution of video has certainly increased ways of engaging audiences, therefore presenting new opportunities for advertisers like new and innovative advertising formats like pause ads, which Xandr launched in the US earlier this year and is planning to explore on a global scale. These brand-safe ad formats complement, rather than disrupt, the viewing experience by leveraging the native functionality of the ‘pause’ button, since consumers only see the ads when they take a break from the content they’re watching. This is just one example of how advertisers and media companies can create better, more dynamic viewer experiences as video continues to evolve.
How does your solution marry with other advertising activity?
Broadcasters are moving at the pace of their audiences, working alongside technology platforms to offer inventory available across both linear and digital formats within one succinct platform. It’s our priority to understand the unique product roadmaps and capabilities our clients need to achieve their desired outcomes. We need to ensure that our tools fit the needs of the industry for today and tomorrow, so collaboration is key.
What are other people doing in the space and why?
This is an area that everybody is watching with interest. Large broadcasters in the UK and across Europe are looking at targeted TV solutions, be that through broadcast TV or streaming services. For example, the BBC launched its on-demand and digital streaming service back in 2007 and recently linked-up with ITV to launch Britbox, while Sky Media launched AdSmart in 2014, allowing advertisers and agencies to target viewers by location, demographic and other personal information. Many others are following suit, however such initiatives are generally siloed and the larger EMEA market remains in its infancy.
While there are several reasons for creating new formats and ways to consume content, the main reason is evolving consumer viewing habits. Content is now easily accessible and, at the same time, attention spans are continuing to shrink. As a viewer and a consumer myself I’ve found that I have different attention spans throughout the day, and I like that content creators are recognising this shift and innovating accordingly.
How do you view the future?
The future seems to be somewhere between pleasure-driven discovery of content and predicting consumer likes and needs. There is a rush to harness the new and evolving opportunities that digital TV is providing media owners and advertisers alike, be that through CTV, OTT, SVOD, AVOD, or what’s next. One thing is a clear desire to have these opportunities sit on a platform that makes it easy.
These are early days, and everyone is at different stages of evolution. Outside of the US, TV and digital buying are separate ecosystems, searching for a common measurement across channels, not to mention planning and operational and organisational alignment needed to bridge them.
Advertisers and publishers will increasingly look to reach specific audiences at scale in premium and brand-safe environments meeting their business objectives. Those who can offer assets across premium content, data insights, powerful technology, and scaled direct-to-consumer distribution are in a position to help shape the future of advertising for brands, publishers and consumers alike.