A hole in the ozone?
The news this week that rival publishers will be launching a joint digital ad sales house finally lays to rest years of speculation and odd project names (Juno, Arena, Rio).
Now we have The Ozone Project which will, by the autumn, give advertisers and media agencies one buying point and access to audience data across The Sun, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. Other premium publishers - including magazines - will be invited to join.
It's good news and designed with mutual benefits. For advertisers and agencies the OP will deliver simplicity, brand safety and scale and in a fraud-free environment.
For the publishers - News UK, Guardian and Telegraph - there's a chance to claw some revenue back from the likes of Facebook and invest in journalism - and with access to an audience of almost 40 million unique users, the OP will certainly rival the social media platform in the UK.
It will also - although it was not the principle aim of the project - help clean up the digital supply chain (a serious concern since this revelation in 2016).
As Dora Michail, managing director of digital, The Telegraph, says: "The Ozone Project puts in place an infrastructure that creates a better marketplace for advertisers, consumers and publishers alike."
One of the most impressive things about the OP is that publishers have set aside their fierce rivalry to set it up. Talks began in September, and the OP differs from the failed projects of the past by making it exclusively digital.
It also means that individual sales teams will remain at each of the publishers working on both digital and print - so the OP will effectively be competing with them.
Although there has been much support to accompany the announcement, some media agencies have expressed caution over aspects of the deal, however.
"Whilst The Ozone Project is significant progress, the fact that they are keeping individual sales teams means they are hedging their bets," Ben Foster, director of digital, MC&C Media, told Mediatel.
He adds: "Quality inventory will be available via the DSP but you still need strong AI to create a competitive performing platform, which is a difficult thing to do.
"The signals are that the different media owners will require individual targeting lines thus hindering the power of any AI to drive optimal performance; the proposed setup is little more than a glorified hub."
Foster says to be "truly bold" the inventory needs to be pooled together "in single targeting lines and be totally exclusive, removing direct buys and not pushing eminent inventory to the exchanges."
By excluding print from Ozone, the widely used - and highly effective - online and offline package buying approach will still have to be done directly, thus "limiting the appeal" of engaging with the platform.
Meanwhile, Celine Saturnino, chief commercial officer at Total Media, said the biggest opportunity that publishers can explore in this space is multimedia, so whilst creating a centralised buying platform is a show of strength, "it seems to fall short" of what is possible.
"In order to set itself apart, The Ozone Project really needs to show what benefits it can bring beyond what can currently be achieved through existing DSP platforms - which already provide centralisation," she says.
Still, it's a significant move from the publishers, and even if it's not perfect, it's certainly a big step in the right direction with plenty of room to evolve.
We've had a lot of jargon-filled and rather meaningless press announcements sent to us this week to coincide with Cannes. But the news from Oath that it has launched 'programmatic VR' tops the list.
Why bother building a programmatic platform for something that does not have scale? And who actually uses VR outside of hardcore gamers and people at trade shows?
"Oath's first-in-market programmatic VR offering enables advertisers to seamlessly extend existing display and video assets into fully immersive and consumer-first VR environments," the press release states.
Too bad Oath made the announcement in the same week that shipments of virtual reality kit have reportedly plunged - down more than 30% according to IDC Worldwide.
Perhaps people just aren't ready for "engaging, well-executed XR [extended reality] ad experiences that provide utility, enhance reality, and create meaningful connections with brands."
If VR actually takes off for advertising any time soon, I will eat a hardcore gamer's underpants.
Taken from the Mediatel's Friday bulletin - free to subscribe here.