AOL’s Seth Demsey on Programmatic Buying and RTB Video

The-Makegood.com_Seth_AOL_260As the SVP of Global Advertising Products and Strategy, Seth Demsey is responsible for the strategic vision of advertising products across AOL and AOL Networks. The Makegood recently spoke with Seth about balancing the needs of ad tech entities, programmatic buying and selling, and the future of online video.

The Makegood: Seth, how do you balance the needs of one of the world’s largest publishers with the needs of one of the world’s largest ad tech entities?

Balancing the needs of an enormous publisher with the needs of ad tech entities is really the reason I came to AOL. Working at a company that provides ad tech solutions and is one of the largest publisher’s in the world gives me an authentic position in the space. In my role I oversee global advertising products for all of AOL, so when we create a tool to manage AOL’s inventory we know it’s something thousands of other publishers need too. And in turn, getting feedback from partners who use our advertising platform solutions helps us make AOL’s platforms even better. It’s a virtuous circle.

The Makegood: Why have publishers historically had such a hard time adopting tech solutions as an industry? Why can’t it be one-size fits all?

Publishers haven’t been keen on adopting ad tech solutions because most try and dictate how publishers should run their sites with one-size-fits-all solutions instead of encapsulating and being responsive to their business models. This approach doesn’t work because every single publisher is different. Each brand has its own unique challenges and vendors can’t look at them all as ‘a site with an audience’. As an industry we should be building more enterprise systems that can be configured to meet the needs of each publisher and adapt to their businesses, not the other way around.

Bottom line: Custom doesn’t have to be in conflict with scale and shouldn’t be a four-letter word in the ad tech industry.

The Makegood: Programmatic seems to take off like a rocket ship. What needs to happen before it becomes the new norm?

When it comes to programmatic, the first thing people need to realize that programmatic is the opposite of manual, NOT the opposite of premium. When the industry finally internalizes that, publishers, advertisers and agencies will realize programmatic is just a part of a monetization strategy to help everyone be more efficient. Programmatic buying and selling doesn’t need to be about price.

Take buying airline tickets for example. You can head down to the airport and buy a first class seat or a seat in coach. Or you can conveniently hop on your computer and buy the same seat online for the same exact price. It’s just about how efficient you want to be.

The Makegood: Congratulations on Digiday’s publishing award in the category ‘Best Use of Video by a Publisher’. How will video change the future of publishers and how do RTB and video play together?

Thanks! In my mind, all publishers should be looking to use video, original or syndicated, to complement their content. All of the research has shown that consumers are drawn to video and it gives publishers a way to provide an array of content.

RTB video is growing quickly, but I think it will take a bit longer for it to become as common as in display. If you compare video to display, there is a lot less inventory so the direct sell-through rates are higher and there aren’t as many scalable platforms. Plus, online video is still a very nascent market, given it has really only been around for a few years. It’s definitely going to head in the RTB direction, but I think it’ll take time to get to the place that display is today.

The Makegood: With a few new awards in your pocket*, what are your plans to top your performance in the next year and where do you see the biggest challenge?

We’re really honored to be recognized for our hard work by so many industry leaders. We continue to rapidly iterate and deliver new products and features for our advertisers and publishers in an integrated and thoughtful way. Our goal is to simplify online advertising at scale across video, mobile and display by delivering solutions that solve the industry’s business problems.

The Makegood: Thanks, Seth.


*Digiday Publishing Awards: Best Editorial Achievement by a Publisher, Best Content Marketing Program, Best Use of Mobile by a Publisher, Best Use of Video by a Publisher