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Ozone Project CEO eyes magazine publishers in the long term

13 Sep 2018  |  David Pidgeon 
Ozone Project CEO eyes magazine publishers in the long term

As the Ozone Project signs up its fourth newsbrand, the CEO of the new digital sales house has said he is gearing up to woo magazine publishers.

Speaking to Mediatel at Dmexco 2018, Damon Reeve said if the Ozone Project is of interest to other publishers, he wants to be able to support them.

“We’re reactively pursuing the magazine publishers right now,” he said. “But will be actively pursuing them in future.”

The project - which has been developed in response to industry-wide concerns across the digital advertising market around brand safety, data governance, lack of transparency in the supply chain and ad fraud – has already signed up News UK, Reach, The Telegraph Media Group and The Guardian News & Media.

Reeve, who also confirmed he is in discussions with most of the major agency groups and a handful of brands, said trial campaigns will begin running next month before the project formally launches at the end of the year. For now, however, the focus is to “get the basics right” and “create value” for the existing stakeholders.

After that, Reeve confirmed, “there’s always been a plan to broaden that out and invite other publishers to use the platform and participate in the audience proposition – because, for the most part, all publishers are going to almost certainly be aligned to the principles of why we’re doing Ozone in the first place.”

Reeve, who previously founded ad network Unanimis and ran the technology business for OpenX, said that with the current list of stakeholders the Ozone Project will be able to offer advertisers and agencies "direct and transparent" access to a digital audience of more than 42.5 million British consumers - a monthly UK reach on par with Facebook.

“The more publishers who use the same framework – and I deliberately call it a framework rather than technology, as it’s a way of working – the greater the voice publishers can have in this ecosystem. We want publishers to be a primary decision maker in a market where they are on the periphery...and if the Ozone Project is of interest to other publishers, we want to be able to support them.”

Reeve added that he wants to remove the “friction” buyers currently experience, making the Ozone Project as simple to use as platforms such as Facebook, which has hoovered up much of the adspend that might have traditionally gone to publishers.

“The difference is, we provide the transparency and trusted environments,” Reeve said.

Asked to outline the risks of the project, Reeve said there was often a disconnect between the attitudes of CMOs and media buyers, which requires a strategy of “evangelising” to overcome.

Reeve said CMOs, who were usually older, tend to have grown up with a newspaper and still value newsbrands highly. Whereas media buyers tend to be younger and less enamoured.

"Our job is to evangelise the [premium news] environment and the provenance of content and the benefits that brings,” he said.

The project, which only took hold after a series of false starts, will remain digital only, however Reeve said, speculatively, the project could adapt into different areas.

“You have to walk before you can run,” he said. “But we don’t know what the future holds, and we might adapt into different areas. For now none of those things are in scope, but there’s an opportunity to do a lot more once you’re working from a successful foundation."

Mediatel contacted three major magazine publishers for this article, Bauer and Hearst declined to comment, Conde Nast did not reply.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 14 Sep 2018
“Interesting read, and it makes a couple of points that really stick out - as does Greg. There's a fourth part to the success of this platform: can they tell their story in a compelling way that makes not just CMOs but media buyers put their money there? There's a difference between being 'right' and being desirable as an ad platform. Frankly some of the pitches from Thinkbox, Newsworks etc can be offputting: they may be correct, but the "if you don't buy this you're wrong" tone divides audiences. In contrast, to CMOs and buyers alike, Google and FB's overarching pitch is compelling enough to ignore their flaws, iffy measurement and uncertain brand safety - the "yeah, I know, but I still want my ads to include it" factor. Get that right, and you have a platform that combines the most compelling parts of premium publishers' quality pitch with the virality and must-have nature of Google, FB and other digital-only behemoths.”
GregPipe, Head of Print and Radio, All Response Media on 14 Sep 2018
“Project Ozone has the potential to really rival social media platforms such as Facebook. What isn't clear yet is whether they can do more than just offer clients a big reach. Their success here will depend on three things, firstly, can they segment and target their audiences to provide advertisers the ability to reach the right consumer in the way Facebook can. Secondly, can they put the ad space within the right content in a way that pushes readers to see it, as Facebook does with their news feed. Lastly, how much are they going to charge for it, which crucially will be the deciding factor I believe. The print sector has unfortunately got a track record of over valuing their own worth and in the desire to replace offline spend with online money, failed to recognise their competitors aren't other newspapers or magazines, but people like Facebook and Google who can deliver huge targeted audiences at low prices. I have high hopes for Project Ozone as finally there is a truly large enough audience to compete, but please, don't drop the ball by over pricing everything.”