Cadreon’s Erica Schmidt: "Data is Transforming the Media Ecosystem"

By Jack Myers AdTech Village Archives

In a September 2016 interview with MediaVillage, Erica Schmidt, Executive Vice President, Managing Director of Cadreon North America, commented: “In a world where audiences are ahead of the advertising expenditure in terms of time spent and dynamism, an evolution of planning and buying media is gaining momentum and will continue to do so.”  A year later, Schmidt reinforces her message: “Clients are continuing to get smarter around data and as the data ecosystem transforms, we need to be further out in front to meet our clients’ needs.”  A priority she points to is an ongoing transformation in the way digital advertising is activated and how digital models are integrated into linear TV optimization.  “As we gain more insight through advanced data and are able to integrate that data into media decisions,” Schmidt explains, “we’re managing client digital activation under the Cadreon umbrella to deliver channel agnostic inventory -- managing frequency, duplication and performance, whether it is acquisition or attribution, to define the best value. We’re doubling down on what we have done and responding to a maturing data ecosystem.”

Cadreon is IPG Mediabrands’ ad tech unit, responsible for developing programmatic technology solutions.  It operates in 68 markets with a focus on leveraging technology to deliver comprehensive, high-performing programmatic solutions in a widely disparate technology landscape.

Schmidt acknowledges there is “noise in the ecosystem around trading desks and programmatic, viewability, transparency, fraud and brand safety. Some have weathered the storm better than others.  "We’re focused on being flexible and defining our vision of the future," she says.  "It’s more than buying banners, buttons, using data and automation, and building further trust in the ecosystem.  We need to rise above the negativity in the space and put skin in the game.  We need to unlock more value and benefits for clients by embedding data and automation into the planning systems.”

Schmidt, who began working in digital media with a focus on search marketing in 2000 and spent several years working in London with iProspect, joined Cadreon in January 2015 to lead its North American unit.  She says she wasn’t surprised “that Cadreon was focusing on working with the investment community through the Mediabrands divisions, engaging with their investment leadership.  It was fruitful as a line of sight to advertiser investments related to digital, but it also meant there was not a strategic construct to define why Cadreon should have a direct relationship with clients.  I identified it was important to move upstream.”

Schmidt’s perspective is that the digital marketplace “was getting into a race to the bottom based on cost efficiency.  There was a misunderstanding of the Cadreon offering that we were a DSP [demand side platform], which we are not.  Building a more strategic relationship with marketers became our primary focus, and it came at a time when clients were increasingly serious about marketing technology, data and analytics.  We needed to position ourselves as consultants and advisors who are experts in helping them navigate a disparate and complicated digital ecosystem.”

In digital video, data-first planning and buying is significant, but today it is still insignificant in linear TV.  Household addressability still does not yet offer scale and the means of measurement are not right-sized for how audiences are consuming TV.  While the current Cadreon focus is digital media, Schmidt welcomes and appreciates NBCU’s ATP initiative and the OpenAP model introduced by Fox, Turner and Viacom with the support of Accenture.  “I really like what they have put out," she says.  "The challenge, when we start to articulate the benefits of programmatic in terms of data and automation, is whether the Upfront will be dissipated and less efficient.  It’s still an either/or and not a 1+1=3 equation.  There is a tremendous shift in impetus that needs to happen for these initiatives to advance.  Today, buying still reverts back to the standard conversation on reach, frequency, CPM, age and gender.  As an industry, we need greater articulation of the value of audience measurement and addressability, and how we can more effectively apply them.  We’re preparing for a shift in linear media to a more digital approach, and there’s a tension point there.  We see clients who say they want impressions delivery across the video spectrum, and there are clients who question how programmatic and advanced TV will corrupt the [traditional] working media ratio.  For advanced TV we know if we do household addressability with high value audiences and plan against them, the inevitable issue comes to cost and questions whether it is too expensive.”

She expands on the point: “When digital moved to programmatic, the market first went to remnant inventory -- both opaquely and transparently.  With more digital inventory becoming programmatically accessible, it evolved in different ways, with some publishers moving 100% in that direction.  The challenge for national broadcasters and clients is around the Upfront and integrating data and automation principles.  As viewing patterns continue to shift, we will see a shift in the way all video is planned.  It’s absolutely realistic that data-based media planning and buying focused on audience impressions will represent 65% of national TV advertising in 2030.”

Today, Schmidt points to Cadreon’s success and has been impressed at how quickly many clients have understood and are integrating their data assets into programmatic media decision-making.  “They’re owning and understanding their data assets and leveraging them," she explains.  "The client journey should have taken three to four years, but many clients have gotten their houses in order in 12 months.”  The implications, Schmidt shares, are that “we’ve been able to enter into a deeper level of engagement with clients in partnership with the agencies.”

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