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Agencies need to simplify ad tech for marketers or lose out to consultancies says Sizmek boss

Neil NguyenAgencies need to raise their game for clients as simplifiers of complexity and filters of bluster from ad tech vendors or lose out to consultancy firms, the global boss of ad management giant Sizmek has said.

Talking to Mumbrella Asia in Singapore, Neil Nguyen, president and CEO of the Austin, Texas-based firm, said that a low barrier to entry for ad tech players has given rise to a raft of smaller, niche players claiming to do “anything and everything,” and the market lacks differentiation and transparency.

“I think because the barrier to entry is so low, you have companies with 10 employees who talk as if they can do anything and everything,” he said, in response to a question about the hype and bluster the ad tech space is known for.

“Agencies should play a greater role in filtering this [complexity] out for their clients. While in the search for innovative and new ideas, they have created complexity for marketers – and not always for their benefit,” he said.

“The average global marketer uses 26 different tech suppliers for its digital media. Think about the organisation that requires. You might as well make a TV ad. The problem is the audience is shifting so rapidly.”

The ad tech industry lacks transparency, he added, and issues such as viewability and ad fraud are problems that need to be resolved.

He said that fragmentation and “a lot of noise” was creating “fatigue” among marketers.

There is pressure on marketers to justify their spend, but “there is no such thing of the Super Bowl on the internet,” added Nguyen, who began his career in traditional media.

The challenge for marketers was ensuring that dollars spent reaching a fragmented audience can still build brand loyalty, and are increasingly bringing in consultancies to figure out how.

“I’m seeing as the industry matures, marketers are bringing in other experts. They’re not just asking agencies about the tech suite.”

“Accenture is in every room now. So are Deloitte and McKinsey,” he said, after a year in which the “big four” have made a string of acquisitions that lean into agency territory. PwC recently bought Hong Kong creative agency Fluid, and last week opened marketing innovation centres in three Chinese cities.

“They’re brought in to look at multiple aspects of business, not just marketing. As they become subject matter experts, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in working out the supply chain.”

A big opportunity presents itself for those who can eliminate the things that worry marketers about automated advertising, Nguyen noted.

“We’re still not great at sending the right ad to the right person. My buddy’s daughter gets ads for Pampers. It makes no sense. As we solve this problem, we need to make sure that we get the right level of targeting – that isn’t creepy.”

Sizmek is a company not without complexity, having started out in 1999 as Eyeblaster, a company credited with developing the first flash ad, then going through three rebrands – to MediaMind in 2011, DG Mediamind after it was acquired, and then in 2013 to Sizmek, after the firm sold its TV distribution assets.

The company, which has recently acquired StrikeAd and PointRoll to broaden its offering and is present in 19 locations in APAC, reported a revenue increase of 18 per cent to $57.8 million in its full year financial report.

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