Nicolas Bidon of WPP's Xaxis -- The Jay Sears Interview

By Jay Sears Rubicon Project Archives

Editor’s Note -- Be sure to read these additional interviews by Jay Sears with other media professionals who recently participated in Rubicon Project’s programming during Advertising Week Europe in London: Stephen Edwards of Hearst Magazines U.K., Steve Hobbs of Aegis’ Amnet, Marco Bertozzi of Publicis’ VivaKi and Cristina Sagarduy of Omnicom Media Group’s Annalect.

Today we present a Q&A with advertising automation executive Nicolas Bidon of WPP’s Xaxis. Nicolas recently participated in Rubicon Project’s programming at Advertising Week Europe in London.

Your Name: Nicolas Bidon

Your Company: Xaxis

Your Title: Managing Director UK

SEARS: What flavor ice cream best describes your management style?

BIDON: Mango sorbet -- light and simple, but hits the spot.

SEARS: Describe how most media (all media, digital + non-digital, non-programmatic media) is bought and sold today.

BIDON: Traditional media -- print, for example, continues to be bought / sold in the traditional way -- direct. Digital is increasingly becoming programmatic / automated and it will only increase as it is a more efficient system. Programmatic provides an automated method of buying advertising where supply and demand platforms can make decisions on a per-impression basis and adhere to business rules as provided by the operators of each platform.

SEARS: Tell us about the EMEA operations of Xaxis.

BIDON: Xaxis provides the EMEA market with the most comprehensive platform for programmatic media across all digital channels and devices. Advertisers and publishers are brought closer together within a consolidated platform encompassing both the buy and sell side of the industry.

Xaxis is a part of GroupM, and a WPP company; we are unable to disclose detailed financial and staff data. Our EMEA business represents around half of the global Xaxis business. Xaxis has over 800 employees across 32 markets. Our staff includes over 200 audience expert engineers that create and manage Xaxis’ innovative technology delivering the best results for our clients.

SEARS: What countries are you entering in 2014?

BIDON: Russia, Slovakia, Romania, Finland, South Africa and UAE.

SEARS: What are Xaxis’ three biggest initiatives in EMEA for 2014?

BIDON:

1. To build the next stage of our proprietary trading data management platform

2. Continued focus on Video and Mobile and innovative ad formats

3. Greater analytics insights made available to all

SEARS: By 2015, what percentage of total media spend in the EMEA region across your holding company will be programmatic?

BIDON: For Xaxis, 100% of total media spend will be programmatic in the EMEA region, across all territories. For holding company WPP, new media / digital is now 34% of WPP revenues, so we can estimate that between 15-20%, if not more, of EMEA media spend will be programmatic by 2015 – especially for UK, Germany and Netherlands – with Spain and Italy remaining a little behind this.

SEARS: To reach a higher adoption of direct order automation and use of the programmatic channel, what are the major impediments to overcome? Rank these in numerical order:

BIDON:

_3__ Operational or workforce issues inside the holding companies or operating agencies

_2__ Premium (direct deal) inventory availability via programmatic

_1__ Lack of proper ad technology

_4__ Alignment of agency compensation models

BIDON: To reach a higher adoption of direct order and programmatic, the key is having access to not only a proprietary data management technology and a sophisticated yield management system but also an advertising strategy decision engine. This is the challenge for our industry. The merger with 24/7 Media at the end of 2013 enables Xaxis to build the right technology to tackle this challenge.

SEARS: How are RFPs used between your operating agency clients and your trading desk? What does a “Programmatic IO” or a “Programmatic RFP” look like?

BIDON: Agencies work with their clients and brief Xaxis to execute on an audience buy. We respond to proposal requests and work with the agency to ensure that what we are offering is relevant to their client and the brief. It is important to note that we do not view ourselves as a trading desk; we see ourselves as a specialist audience buying company that uses data and technology to help our agencies and clients to better reach and understand their audiences.

SEARS: What should top comScore publisher CROs do to build their direct order automation and programmatic selling with your trading desk and operating agencies?

BIDON: Xaxis works with publishers in three ways: Direct (publisher inventory which is made exclusively available to Xaxis), Private Marketplaces (pre-agreed access to unsold publisher inventory) and Real-Time Bidding.

However, Xaxis’ strategy is to buy premium inventory programmatically, 100% of the time. Our ambition is not only to buy exchange-traded media from an open exchange but to directly access premium inventory. In order to achieve this we strongly encourage publishers to sell inventory through programmatic direct and premium channels.

SEARS: Why is direct order automation so important? Is it important?

BIDON: Direct deal automation is important as it provides direct access to pre-allocated inventory. The main benefits are: The high quality inventory that can be made available, better access to higher performing placements and ad formats and most importantly, fewer partners involved [which] will reduce the cost for advertisers.

SEARS: What countries in the EMEA region are the leaders and laggards in programmatic?

BIDON: The leaders in Programmatic in the EMEA region are UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The laggards in Programmatic, or those due to catch up shortly, are Spain and Italy.

Tell us a bit more about you.

SEARS: If you could choose a movie star to be the global head of your trading desk, who would you choose and why?

BIDON: A young Harrison Ford (as in “Star Wars” or the “Indiana Jones” movies) -- going places nobody else has gone before and pushing boundaries, an independent thinker, but also capable of inspiring trust and showing strong leadership.

SEARS: If you could travel for pleasure anywhere in the world, to a place you have never been, where would you go?

BIDON: Japan. Great combination of nature, culture and food. Ticks a lot of boxes for me!

SEARS: If you were trapped alone on a desert island and needed to choose one ad holding company CEO to accompany you ( other than your own holding company CEO), which CEO would you pick and why?

BIDON: Maurice Levy. Cultural institution in France and probably has lots of entertaining stories about the who’s who of French & global business.

SEARS: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

BIDON: Pollen Street Social

Thanks, Nicolas!

Jay Sears is Senior Vice President, Marketplace Development for the Rubicon Project. Sears worksJay Sears with leadership and business unit heads across the company to expand Rubicon Project’s potential market. Sears has also served as General Manager, REVV Buyer, where he was responsible for global relations with the buy side including ad holding companies, ad agencies, agency trading desks and demand side platforms headquartered in North America. Jay can be reached at jsears@rubiconproject.com.

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