Q&A: ZenithOptimedia Canada on Automation, Programmatic + TV - Veronica Holmes

By Archived Rubicon Project Archives
Cover image for  article: Q&A: ZenithOptimedia Canada on Automation, Programmatic + TV - Veronica Holmes

Jay Sears, Senior Vice President Marketplace Development of Rubicon Project discusses “Automation, Programmatic and TV” with Veronica Holmes of Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia. The two executives appeared at Rubicon Project’s 1st Annual Real Time Trading Update from Canada's Buy Side in Toronto in June 2015.

Your Name:Veronica Holmes

Your Company:ZenithOptimedia

Your Title:President, Digital

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with politics, art and culture?

HOLMES: I have a large selection of sites I like, so I use an application, Feedly, to organize information to make a review of the headlines easier and faster.  For pleasure, I enjoy browsing the latest entertainment gossip from North America and the UK, reading fiction e-books, and checking what’s popular on YouTube.  I do like reading opinion pieces and longer editorial, so I spend some time with The Atlantic, Vice News, BBC News and The New York Times.

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with friends?

HOLMES: I actually prefer to keep up with friends via a visit and a glass of wine.

SEARS: What do you read to keep up with our industry?

HOLMES: Trade blogs like marketingland.com, searchengineland.com, Media in Canada; trade magazines like Marketing, Strategy and Adweek are main sources for me to gain a little perspective. I like to also keep in touch with vendors.

SEARS: What’s your favorite commercial of all time?

HOLMES: There are many commercials I admire.  Here’s a recent one.

SEARS: With regards to advertising automation and programmatic, what are Zenith’s three biggest initiatives in Canada in 2015?


  1. Transparency. As we developed Zenith Marketplace for our Canadian clients, we did it with full transparency in mind. The transparency is on both the placement and media cost as we at Zenith believe in helping the clients to truly understand how their money is spent. Without the inventory transparency we couldn’t achieve insights which are sorely needed to move a client in the right direction and without financial transparency our clients would not understand the true cost of media purchased.
  1. Private Marketplace.The development of private marketplace is the foundation of proper digital execution. The open exchange is performance marketing. As Zenith Marketplace was developed over a year ago, the main focus was on movement from direct purchase to private marketplace as it represented a natural substitution and improvement in the way Zenith executes on behalf of their clients. It also represented highest brand safety which has been a concern for the industry.
  1. Communication Clarity. Although it is never discussed, with programmatic usage there needs to be clarity in terms of communication. At Zenith, our mission for the Marketplace is to deliver the best in class execution service as well as communication of results tailored to our client needs and based on our clients’ marketing goals. This will enable a partnership based collaboration which is the driving factor of programmatic adaptation by clients.

SEARS: On average in the Canadian market, out of each $1.00 spent on media (all media, not just digital) by one of your advertisers, how much today (in 2015) is spent on automated or programmatic channels?

HOLMES: I would have to say that $.05 of all media is spent through programmatic means. That is mainly due to TV not being enabled through programmatic means in Canada (just yet).

SEARS: What will this number be in 2017?

HOLMES: We are very careful when forecasting for the future. If the advertisers move $.15 to $.20 of every dollar into programmatic means of execution, that means that we’ve had great acceptance of this avenue for media. It all depends on what will happen with TV which in Canada is probably 3-5 years away (at least).

SEARS: Tell us the about the Canadian operations of Zenith Marketplace:

HOLMES: Zenith Marketplace’s vision is to create a custom ecosystem for each client comprised of both premium (fully defined publishers otherwise known as private marketplace) and open exchange inventory sources to understand media composition in digital and operate more efficiently and effectively for our clients.

Zenith Marketplace offers a collaborative partnership where our clients and the Marketplace team define KPIs for real time bidding space as well as discuss and agree on the composition of the plans through each avenue (desktop, mobile, social) and with each environment (premium and open) to arrive at the best marketing mix.

SEARS: Please tell us:

  • Overall managed budget (media spend) for your automated trading operations [FKA trading desk], expected in 2015 for Canada:
    • HOLMES: Trade secrets -- sorry. If I gave 5% of all media in the answers above, I cannot provide this information.
  • Percentage increase, managed budget (media spend) 2014 vs. expected 2015 for Canada:
    • HOLMES: 5%-8% depending on the client. A lot of clients have stable YoY budgets associated with advertising, the composition of media changes.
  • How many employees are there in Canada?
    • HOLMES:  
      • Total: 120
      • Toronto: 110
      • Montreal: 10

SEARS: Draw an analogy between the automation of television and an ice hockey game. Are we in the pre-game? Still driving to the stadium?

HOLMES: Some companies say that we’re in the rink right now however I would say that in terms of linear TV in Canada we are driving to the stadium. The technology is not yet there at scale and movement from broadcasters is very slow. VOD is ahead of the pack; however that doesn’t represent majority. We need a major broadcaster to invest in new technology to get into the stadium.

SEARS: How can advertising automation help the strategy and planning functions (directly or indirectly) at an advertising agency?

HOLMES: There are two benefits -- one operational and one strategic. The operations benefit is based on technology in place and diminished workload. Automation represents operational efficiency for advertisers. The strategic benefits are getting to understand audience patterns better and limiting fragmentation of purchases. By controlling and understanding the proper exposure of advertising in front of desired audience, we can start to look at message sequencing and prospecting for more moments of receptivity, especially in digital.

SEARS: Can linear TV be automated, yes or no?

HOLMES:Perhaps our thinking is limited because we focus on the current methods of delivery for television and its regulatory framework.  TV disruption is happening -- not sure it matters if “linear” TV is automated.

SEARS: What two-three events or happenings will accelerate the automation of television?


  1. Experience with programmatic that truly enhances efficiency and effectiveness.

      2.  TV disruption by Netflix, YouTube, etc.

  1. A demand from advertisers to move more quickly; note this would be evidenced in a shift from TV spending to other channels.

SEARS: Transparency -- on media costs, on data, on inventory -- has become a lightning rod issue. Should transparency be a negotiated benefit for the advertiser client, yes or no?

HOLMES: Yes -- but it’s actually not an issue for ZenithOptimedia Canada. This has been our approach from day one: Transparent on costs, data and inventory in order to make best decisions for the client. If there is no transparency on cost and data/inventory, how can a client and the agency work in partnership to make best decisions?

SEARS: Which of the following will accelerate the automation of site direct (direct orders) budget? Pick all that apply:

  1. Dynamic access to all publisher inventory [vs. just “remnant” or “auction”]
  2. Ability to leverage publisher first party data
  3. Ability to leverage advertiser first party data [against all publisher inventory, especially premium]
  4. Availability of rich media, expandable units and larger IAB Rising Star formats
  5. Ability to more easily curate audiences for specific advertisers across the premium content of multiple publishers
  6. All of the above.

HOLMES:All apply. A is the most important one but closely followed by all others.

SEARS: If you could go to the airport right now with friends or family and fly anywhere in the world for vacation, who would you take and where would you go?

HOLMES: Anywhere really interesting.  I have a long list.

SEARS: If you could create an endowment to fund any existing non-profit you designated, what lucky non-profit organization would that be?

HOLMES: Health and Education are my key interests.

SEARS: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

HOLMES: My kitchen.

SEARS: Thanks, Veronica!

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