In this exclusive “Masters of Media” series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) speaks to the Movers and Shakers of the APAC advertising industry, on all matters digital.
Azriel Chan is Head of Platforms and Capabilities at Omnicom Media Group New Zealand where he is responsible for the product development and commercialising of OMG NZ’s biddable media capabilities including platforms, technology, data, programmatic automation & partnerships across all operating agencies in New Zealand.
IAS: Please tell us about your digital advertising journey and your current role
After graduating out of university, OMD became my launchpad into the digital media industry in New Zealand starting off as a Media Executive – this then led to 4 years in OMD Auckland where I took up several digital roles within the agency over that time. From then on, I was appointed the Programmatic Strategist at OMD (working alongside Jourdan Tan and Jane Stanley, both who were transformative in driving my passion for data & technology until today) to help design, grow and accelerate our programmatic product & capability. A couple years later, I then took up the Technology Director role to help drive technology maturity and facilitate best use of data and technology across our entire client portfolio whilst working closely with our digital activation teams, data architects, marketing scientists, analysts, and technology specialists.
After an amazing 7-year stint at OMD, I was then elevated to the Head of Platforms & Capabilities at Omnicom Media Group NZ to build out the centre of excellence team locally whilst collaborating with our global and regional teams. Within my current role, I am responsible for product development and commercialising OMG NZ’s biddable media capabilities which includes platforms, technology, data, programmatic automation & partnerships across all our media agencies in market. In addition to this, I am a strong advocate for operational excellence, workflow automation, business delivery outcomes and facilitating technology innovation aligned to our client goals whilst working closely with our partners and agency teams.
IAS: Given the evolving situation of the pandemic, what have been your key learnings around consumer behaviours in 2021?
Azriel: Whilst the pandemic has been challenging on many fronts, we have witnessed a huge acceleration of digital transformation and these new capabilities will deliver positive impact to consumers, marketers, and agencies. Some of these key learnings include:
- Flexible work hours and remote working becomes a norm as it enabled a hybrid of home and office experiences which have permanently changed our homes to become a hub for our life’s most important activities ranging from where we sleep, eat, work, exercise etc.
- eCommerce adoption significantly increased locally & globally the pandemic safety measures have pushed consumers towards online shopping which has accelerated the need for brands to strive for an improved online shopping user experience
- On-demand delivery services are ever crucial to all businesses to reach out to a large customer base that spans from local to international consumers
- BVOD/SVOD consumption continues to grow significantly as consumers continue to invest in their at-home choice of entertainment which is why SVOD services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ continue to attract Kiwis
- Entertainment-focused social platforms like TikTok remain popular to fight boredom and isolation as in-person social interactions decline, consumers are shifting to the mobile screen for entertainment
- Despite the border uncertainty, consumers are choosing local tourism and hospitality sector with the effort to support their own country’s recovery; with more than half of Kiwis having participated in a new tourism activity or visited a new place this year to boost domestic spending
IAS: Programmatic started focused on selling cheap, remnant inventory. How has this perception changed today?
Azriel: The Programmatic advertising industry has come a long way and the perception has completely changed entirely, all thanks to the marketing and advertising technology companies who have continuously strived for excellence – which enabled buyers (advertisers and agencies) and sellers (publishers and media owners) to leverage an advanced suite of capabilities to guarantee access to premium and high-quality inventory, which influenced a huge shift from traditional IO buying to self-service platform-based buying.
The shift to self-service platform-based buying has not only provided a consolidated buying experience but it also gave greater control, flexibility, efficiency, and advanced targeting capability at our fingertips in real-time. This has led to the shift and priority among buyers to leverage a tighter selection of premium inventory using non-guaranteed or guaranteed Private Marketplace Deals (PMP) where buyers are fully in-control to ensure high-quality inventory drives impact.
I also believe we will see programmatic buyers moving beyond traditional Public or Open Exchange (OMP) tactics by leveraging a combination of SSP & DSPs capabilities to further optimise premium inventory beyond viewability and deliver impactful user experience by filtering out ad cluttered pages, less credible publishers, intrusive ad formats, etc, which in turn will not only cement the strong perceived value of programmatic advertising to advertisers and publishers but continuously deliver the promise of accessing high-quality premium inventory.
IAS: In your opinion is the industry doing enough to combat the trust and transparency challenges in the digital supply chain?
Azriel: I believe as an industry we can do more in this area and together challenge the status quo. At OMG, we have created a dedicated task force to launch successful initiatives both locally and globally to combat trust and transparency challenges. Some of the work that we have done today include:
- Doing our homework and conducting due diligence across all tech vendors’ contractual obligations. This is to ensure our partners are doing the right thing on our behalf, adhering to contracts, and delivering the service that they have been employed to do aligned to our client’s best interests.
- Establish best practices & trading guidelines with new/existing vendors. When onboarding new partners at OMG, we always ensure our partners agree to our Transparency Framework & Security Quality Parameters to ensure they are trading under our globally approved rules of engagement, digital best practices and are fully obliged to operate with full accountability and adhere to transparency requirements.
- We run our own audit of the digital supply chain and put several measures in place to make the programmatic ecosystem more transparent. One of the key examples include the launch of OMG Marketplaces, where our aim is to continue to deliver the promise of transparency, reduced wastage, and incremental working media within the digital supply chain for all programmatic buys.
- Establish best practice for ad buyers across the entire agency to help clients better protect their ad dollars against ad fraud. At OMG, we developed an education series to combat ad fraud and we also launched a recent certification program for TV buyers on fraud prevention tactics for CTV campaigns
- Issue a call-to-action for industry wide adoption of new trading standards for new emerging channels such as CTV or DOOH. Together we can encourage the entire community to join forces and collaborate to set a baseline standard definition of practices, protocols, and solutions to improve the entire digital ecosystem. As a recent example, we have pushed the ConnectedTV Signal Standardization Initiative (CTV-SSI) which is centered around improving and standardization of 3 types of buying signals: Inventory, Identity, and Fraud to help facilitate an increase and spend in this environment and provide advertisers with a viable path to re-allocate budgets, such as from TV
IAS: How important is operational efficiency to your clients and how does automation help?
Azriel: Clients today realise the importance of operational efficiency as a core pillar that indirectly influences their overall business performance through delivering the highest quality output– therefore it is important for agencies to implement clear systems of process by utilising technology, automation capabilities, and people to help facilitate operational efficiencies throughout the entire workflow.
One of our recent wins with IAS was to collaborate together to drive operational and financial efficiency for our clients via using the Automated Tag Wrapping feature within Google Campaign Manager – this capability not only helped reduce time spent by 50% but it also drove an improvement in media ROI by mitigating unsafe invalid traffic inventory for our clients via automation. Since then, the process to automate tag wrapping and verification was accelerated, automated further, and streamlined with faster turnaround implementation times.
As new technology and advanced capabilities continue to emerge, we believe automation is an important core function within our business to deliver operational excellence and demonstrate value to our clients. With automation capability at our fingertips, our agency teams can make better decisions faster and prioritise higher-value tasks whilst mitigating increased time spent on manual tasks such as campaign setups, auto-tag wrapping, optimisation, pacing/quality checks, reporting, billing, etc. Thus, unlocking better talent growth, advanced learning, and better-quality output for all our clients.
IAS: What’s your favourite book/podcast/movie and why?
Azriel: One of my favourite books right now is Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. This book is a collection of short chapters that challenges the way we approach work and do business. What I really enjoy about this book is that it gave me a glimpse into a different way of thinking and tackling conventional wisdom. Not only has it left a positive impact, but it has also inspired me to rework how I approach tasks by disposing of outdated traditions and focusing on innovative ideas, and dedication to bring ideas into reality almost immediately.
IAS: What is your advice to the fresh talent in the industry?
Azriel: Always strive for excellence as this will not only boost your confidence but will keep pushing you beyond your comfort zone to look at where you are at and find new ways to get better at what you do. To stay on top of your game, stay calm, stay curious, stay hungry, stay positive, and most importantly be passionate!
Finally, the key learning that stood out for me personally is the pandemic has reminded me to look after my mental health which kept me stronger and motivated throughout the year – (i) always look after your physical well-being by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and keeping active every day, (ii) do things that boost your mental health like picking up a hobby and be closely connected with your peers/loved ones, (iii) avoid the things that harm your mental health such as avoiding news overload, reduce screen time, and limit alcohol intake.