At the billion-dollar WPP programmatic platform Xaxis, more than 3,300 brands are reaching consumers in 47 global markets.
I recently asked Xaxis Global CEO Nicolas Bidon to shed light on some of his objectives and challenges.
Paul Talbot: What’s happening right now at Xaxis that you’re particularly proud of?
Nicolas Bidon: I am proud of our continuous drive to make digital advertising more valuable for brands and their customers and our efforts to make our industry more diverse and inclusive.
Our parent company WPP provides a third of the world’s advertising, and 50% of the world’s advertising consumers are women. So we have a huge responsibility, and an equally huge opportunity to make the world a better place through our actions.
For instance, our diversity and inclusion initiatives at Xaxis have already seen encouraging successes when it comes to better reflecting at all levels of the organization the diversity of the world we live in. Much remains to be done though, and we are working on a deep slate of projects to accelerate the pace of change.
Another strategic initiative dear to my heart is our current focus on data informed campaign creatives. When I look at the programmatic advertising industry, I think that we have forgotten the power of creatives to deliver business results in our rush for hyper-targeting strategies, scale and efficiency.
We intend to change this and are looking at ways to use both data, AI and human expertise to tackle the creative challenges proliferated by new screens, new programmatic channels like out of home or audio and new consumer behaviors such as voice interaction.
To achieve this at scale will require that we continue to push the boundaries of how AI and machine learning can be leveraged in our industry. For the past four years, we have pioneered the application of AI to programmatic advertising through strategic investment in our proprietary platform, Copilot.
Copilot allows us to quickly build and run customized algorithms that help us predict the true value of various media placements in relation to a brand’s unique goal.
Talbot: What would you like to see improved?
Bidon: There’s still too much fraud and noise in the marketplace, although publishers and platforms have both taken steps in the right direction in recent years. While viewability and brand safety are things we now take for granted, we need to remain vigilant as new programmatic channels like connected TV or digital out of home emerge.
Digital advertising remains way too complicated and fragmented even as consolidation helps at times by reducing the number of platforms and choices on the playing field.
Ultimately, we all need to be more strategic in our thinking. To do this we must refrain from getting lost in the maze that we have created, which easily happens when you start focusing on tactically solving the myriad of tactical and technical issues that arise from the complexity of the space.
There is beauty in simplicity and all this advanced AI and technology in general should be focused on making it easy for marketers to efficiently find consumers for their offerings.
Talbot: When you step back from the day-to-day business of Xaxis and consider its strategic future, what sort of issues are you thinking about?
Bidon: One of the things that keeps me up at night is how to ensure we can continue to innovate and execute at speed despite having grown tremendously over the last few years as an organization. How can we keep the right culture and be agile and nimble?
I also constantly think about how we can maintain the strong double-digit growth we have experienced the past few years as the world’s largest programmatic company and part of WPP. Innovating on the shoulders of giants like Google and Amazon and putting creative at the center of everything we do, is where I see the long-term opportunity.
Part of our current strategic reflection is around examining how we can better integrate with our clients and partners to co-create and benefit from the strengths we both bring to the table.
For instance, we are increasingly seeing brands bring part of their media buying capabilities in-house. I don’t think we necessarily need to fight in-housing, but we do need to really think about how our partnerships with clients can be tighter and more integrated.