Boston Dinner, Dessert, Fireworks & Everything Marketers and Media Buyers Need to Know About Blockchain

On Tuesday, June 12th, Digilant hosted a dinner panel in Boston titled “What Marketers & Media Buyers Need to Know About Blockchain.”Anagram’s Chief Executive Officer, Adam Cahill, moderated a discussion about the complexity and opinions on where blockchain is headed and how marketers, media planner and consumers will be affected with the following leading experts on the topic:


When discussing blockchain, most people have a very general idea of what it is – something to do with cryptocurrency, transparency, or monetary safety. But, when it comes to how blockchain is implemented, used and especially how it will affect marketing, media and consumers, most people are not well versed. Experts, like Dave, Isaac and Erich expressed their thoughts during the evening and gave their opinion on how best to prepare and stay up to date on changes due to blockchain.

This is my summary of what was said and what I took away from the event and not word for word for how the speakers answered each question.

Adam kicked off the event with the first question: What problems is blockchain designed to solve?

Isaac took to answering this question with an analogy that dates back thousands of years – dozens of commanders are defending their army and they need to coordinate their action, they need to decide to attack or retreat. Obviously, if they act correctly, everything will work great, however, the worst thing that can happen is if they don’t act in coordination. Within their army, there are messengers, which you can choose to trust, with the hope that they aren’t lying. Through all the chaos, they must come to a consensus on a truth of the situation and decide on what plan will work best. Blockchain is the first time we are able to solve the problem in a meaningful way, which doesn’t necessarily yield trust, but facilitates a conversation that everyone can take as the truth. So to draw a direct analogy, in the world of bitcoin, the general’s are the million of people that want to trade. These people need to decide who has how much and who needs to give what to whom. With the increasing complexity of ad tech – over 2000 tech providers and any given campaign you can invoke dozens of them and that will serve one ad to one person – we can now solve this very effectively. With blockchain, there is the ability to (1) solve longstanding structural issues in the industry and (2) solve the dumb pipes of the internet that weren’t meant to survive, bringing about a whole new generation of innovation, models and tools.
Erich joined in stating that blockchain is going to solve everything. Through all the issues that ad tech and digital marketing face, the consumer is the victim. Blockchain is in its infancy, people are talking and trying to figure out what they think. The companies who are quickly and aggressively creating a solution are a mess because it is such an early start. However, from this mess, applications that answer some of these questions will emerge, some taking longer than others.

Adam then asked Dave to play the role of contraire, to which he responded that out of ten possible use cases, there’s a handful of real cases where blockchain would help and ad tech is is at the top of that list. For ad tech, the problems really need to be solved. But he questioned, can blockchain change a company from the inside? Will you start adding blockchain or will you have to rebuild from the technology from scratch? People are saying they will start from the inside, but it isn’t happening. He posed the question if it can really be done?

Erich responded stating that after 22 years of ad tech, it would be ironic if this was the answer, if we are going to use the “stuff” we have today. The “stuff” we have today is bubblegum and duct tape – a quick, easy fix that isn’t sustainable.

Inspired from Erich’s response, Adam asked him why after all the different fields he has found success in and companies he has started, he planted his roots in ad tech?

Erich stated that he is a believer in ad tech, not to say it is without problems. He was surprised to see, after significant research, that many of the problems that ad tech is facing today, stem from the late 90s. Blockchain is new, it’s misunderstood, misapplied and many people say they have the solution. However, when you take into account that there is an opportunity to completely change the industry, there is a generation one opportunity to roll out some core functions that would sit next to and eventually replace that technology. His choice to work in ad tech was deliberate. He believes there is an opportunity to develop a new standard platform that will only succeed with adoption. But, they will get it done.

Adam turned to the audience as someone was curious to learn who profits from the current model? And if this were to start from the roots up, that would mean people are demanding this type of transparency. So, who can block this? Or who would be an objector?

After Dave joked that he’s the guy who isn’t benefiting from the current model, he went on to explain that the finance industry is taking their slice from everyone else. Everyone wants to maintain their part and when you insert something new, everyone wants their piece to be protected. However, no one gets a piece until we use this new system. You would need a consortium of the biggest companies who come together and break down the whole system. It would start from no one getting anything, building back up, and forcing big companies to join in. Naturally people are going to resist.

Erich jumped off of Dave’s point to say that there are people making more money than they should because the inefficiency is bigger than it should be. There are structural imbalances, frauds in the marketplace, vendors of dubious value and people are unclear what the contribution to the value actually is. We are in need of a mechanism to go deeper into the ad impression and see what the vendors are doing to the plan. Doing this would add a lot of value because as of now, lots of people are profiting but not off the right denominator.

Isaac concluded the answers to the question simply stating that there is no doubt that it is a big deal to get an industry to adopt a new idea. It is a challenge but that’s why it is interesting.

The next question also came from someone in the audience who asked how long they thought it would take for this to come to fruition?

Erich first stated the cop out answer that this will come to fruition during our lifetime, continuing to say that the real answer requires a conversation with publishers. There is an iterative way to roll this out that will provide accountability and legitimize the technology, all of which through new innovation. He concluded saying that he sees this happening in five to ten years.

After hearing those numbers, Adam asked if Erich thought it would be possible to see something like this happen in the next year?

Isaac jumped in to say that there are certain things that could sit next to the current technology.
Erich added that other organizations are developing their own points of view. Very large media planning organizations have a process where they sit in front of a media planner and select where they want to provide orders. There is a great deal of buying that happens quite transactionally. So, there is clarity, reporting and accountability in this process that can be taken and applied to blockchain. This could provide an intermittent step in showing the value in accountability for traditional media buying. At the impression level however, this is much more interesting as there are 12+ companies involved in each impression served to a consumer. He concluded stating that the analog way of buying is not going to last throughout our lifetime.

What is motivation to create this and bring it to the marketplace?

Dave used a comparison to the music industry to answer this question. At first, the music industry was very opposed to digital music. It was a ten year process to get them to adapt to the digital side but they quickly realized it was a process in which they would make a little less money while transitioning over in order to secure a sustainable future.

Isaac stated that there is a noisy minority of bad actors who are largely spoiling things for the other folks. The core of all of this comes from eliminating the waste this is directly related to fraud, automated inference processes and the creation of a new protocol to initiate blockchain into the marketplace. More money spent at a more efficient rate will produce better results. All of this will be a reckoning of the noisy bad actors.
Erich posed the question asking how long the industry is going to be passive to the fact that they are wasting half of what they are spending? There is a coalition of the willing who want to spend more money, more efficiently, but changes need to be made now in order for that to happen.

Who are the winners and losers through all of this?

All panelists jumped in to agree that the advertiser wins, the publisher wins, and the consumer wins. The biggest loser is the holding company, those writing the check that knows what is costs but don’t know why or how?

Where is the resistance coming from?

Erich was the first to jump in saying that there are agencies in the world whose business practices are suspect, which has nothing to do with blockchain. But, there is also a group of enlightened agencies, and with this group, there is hope that the conversation about blockchain enables empowered advertisers and agencies to make a better decision, have clarity in where value is created. Blockchain could disrupt how some agencies operate today.

Adam then asked if people are going to come together to make this happen? Obviously blockchain technology helps with transparency and fraud, but many people associate it with cryptocurrency, so does that mean that media will need to be paid for by cryptocurrency?

Dave explained that people often mix the technology of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency can ride on top of blockchain and utilize it; there would not be blockcahin without cryptocurrency, but you don’t need cryptocurrency to validate it. Cryptocurrency can have nothing to do with the payments. He then used the example of lbry. Lbry is “free, open and community-run digital marketplace” built on the idea that people deserve free information. If a publisher is going to take upwards of 30% of the ad revenue, we should just let the people deal with each other. There is already iterative technology that is being built to take away the idea that you can make money from advertising.

Adam again went to the audience and someone asked how does someone go to P&G, for example, and ask them to use blockchain? From a security point of view, blockchain was built to be secure, but cryptocurrency has been hacked. So, how does one prove that blockchain is safe?

Erich took to answering this question by explaining that there are many insecure systems still in their infancy. We keep putting our own paradyme on how the industry should work, but, maybe there is a different paradigm that we have to play within.

Isaac added that blockchain itself has never been cracked, but people are trying to build so fast, people are leaving holes that can be cracked.

Adam brought up Brave Browser, started by Mozilla, which is a browser that lets people manage their identity and get paid for their personal data – a unique approach that questions who gets paid for what. He then asked if the panelists believed that people care enough to build something from the ground up?

Isaac’s opinion on this question was that if you have to ask consumers to install new browser, new marketing, new ways of “everything,” it doesn’t strike as the most optimal way forward for the industry. New protocol should enable those kinds of interaction. Everything should be built into the new enabling infrastructure or technology. He also added that we shouldn’t count out the traditional advertising people,
Erich believes that people do care. He brought up ad blocking and the poor advertising environment that consumers currently experience. The current answer to the ineffective environment is more volume, more poor advertising. 50% of advertising is fraud so the other 50% has to work harder, at a higher volume, with a lower cost. So, how do advertisers do it? What do they need? They don’t need  a new internet, but rather a well articulated process between the advertiser and the consumer. We need new technology that is reliable everyday with an optimized consumer experience.

The final question of the evening came from the audience. GDPR has unveiled a lot of questions with cost – companies have closed because they can’t afford the new costs. Could this prohibit companies from activating blockchain? Will small start-ups not be able to afford it?

Of course it costs money to reformat a business, stated Erich. However, he is weary that cost is not the sole reason companies left the market after GDPR. Effective deployment of the technology is at an infrastructure level. This would not require companies to create an entire new workflow.
The pipes of the internet are GDPR compliant, added Isaac, so it would be efficient to have smarter pipes that do the heavy lifting for us.
Adam concluded the panel, thanking the panelists for their time.

There is much to get excited about regarding blockchain. Although still at the beginning stages of development, adoption and acceptance, there is so much to be learned and gained from its adoption. A world that enables less fraud, more transparency and more brand safety is something to look forward to.
After more conversations and a delicious dessert, we were all pleasantly surprised by a spontaneous fireworks show over the water. Great discussion, delicious food and a beautiful view made for a spectacular Boston event. We want to thank our three amazing panelist once again for giving their unique and informative perspectives on this very relevant topic. We look forward to seeing you at one of our dinner panels in the near future.

Seattle Dinner, Drinks & Conversation About Programmatic Buzzwords: Transparency, GDPR, Attribution, Data Privacy and More

On Tuesday, June 5th, Digilant hosted a dinner panel in Seattle titled the “2018 Fast Track to an Integrated Digital Media & Marketing Strategy.” Digilant‘s Chief Executive Officer, Raquel Rosenthal, moderated a discussion on the evolution of digital marketing with the following local marketing and advertising professionals:

This is my summary of what was said and what I took away from the event and not word for word for how the speakers answered each question.

Raquel from Digilant kicked off the discussion with this first question.

What industry buzzwords or shifts do you think will impact digital marketing this year? For example: GDPR, Transparency, Attribution, In-housing or Blockchain.

David from Vulcan was the first to answer this question.  For him from all the buzzwords Blockchain is most likely to have a general impact on the advertising world and what we will probably talk about the most.  It fixes a trail of action and shows you how a fish gets caught before it gets to your plate. Transparency, attribution, GDPR, Blockchain will talk to all of that.  How we process the amount of data that we are creating will be huge. So Blockchain is my topic for the year because it will be huge.

GDPR to me, said Sharon from The Seattle Times, is like Y2K, a lot of build up and preparation especially in the media.  At the Seattle Times we talked to attorneys and thought it would be a bigger deal for us, but then all we really did is turn off retargeting in the EU. In the meantime, the panic of GDPR has made us all become consent monkeys.  AI (Artificial Intelligence) is one of the keywords I would pick, voice assistants are going to be a big deal.

Adam from Formative said that he is interested what GDPR will mean for the longer term.  What it will mean for advertisers who can’t retarget their visitors, paywalls cost more, publishers will make less money for premium inventory.  In the US we’ll get a couple of years to see how Europe deals with it before we do. Voice, Alexa and Google home, if we think how search has dominated the advertising space for such a long time and now voice interactions will be increasingly part of our lives, so it will be interesting to see what that will look like.

Transparency and in-housing are two big buzzwords we are reading about a lot in relation to programmatic media buying. But the reality is that most brands are not taking things totally in house but still relying on their agency partners.  Why is it such a buzzword then? Is it because of transparency? Why are people talking about it, but not really doing it?

David’s response was that there is an expertise related to the traditional way of doing things.  People are only bringing in some of it in-house because they don’t know how to do the execution part on a bigger scale.  Adam thinks that clients like to talk about bringing stuff in house like social and search but there is an expertise and value that comes from working across different clients that you don’t get from working in-house.  I personally came to appreciate what agencies can provide to their clients.

We haven’t talked about the customer experience yet, there used to be only 50 partner options in the ad-tech ecosystem and now there are 5000 so the customer experience is now really changing and Customer Experience Officer (CXO) is becoming a common job title.

I get the idea of a CXO started Adam, I get it, but it’s also what a CMO is responsible for.  The CXO is somewhat driven by Silicon Valley startups as an anti-marketing thing, that they don’t need to invest in marketing, and that their companies and products can be successful without spending money on marketing.  The need to focus on that overall experience, thinking about it holistically as a cross channel experience is a big shift. With the 5000 ad-tech partners there is no excuse not to present a better experience for the consumer.
Sharon’s answer was that customer experience is something we struggle with at the Seattle Times.  We sell advertising and subscriptions and have hundreds of ad calls. Advertisers are looking for a better experience for their consumers and to me It’s shameful that Google had to come up with ad standards with Chrome, all because publishers weren’t paying attention to the experience.

What about the silos of data? What are the consequences of these trends?

David was the first to respond by saying that he is having a very hard time with the amount of data we are getting.  It’s getting to the point where we can’t deal with the volume of data in a way that it will inform us in a nimble fashion.  We are not sure if we are pulling real insights from all these new great dashboards that are supposed to show us how to use our data, even if you stitch it all together, you have to know how to make great decisions from what you pull out of all the data.
Sharon said that they are trying to be very focused on what is driving that actual subscription. Their AI team is developing a subscriber influence score; they want to know what story or email they read before they subscribed. Building their own scoring system and own analytics so that they can answer one simple question: ‘what influenced that consumer to subscribe?’  According to Adam, nothing slowed the innovation of ad-tech more than Facebook because they don’t allow 3rd party ad tracking, something we could do before, but not anymore. GDPR is actually pushing us back rather than improving the user experience.

What do you think the impact of the announcement that Google just made, about no longer being able to export DoubleClick IDs, will have on targeting, performance and ​attribution?

David said that he thinks it’s going to affect all of those things. Google has been good at thinking of that end user experience because they have the data on that user and people will be forced to used their solutions because it’s most efficient and cost effective.  It’s more concerning for the advertiser but not for the end user.
Adam thinks that Google is trying to get ahead of the curve and make all the changes at once. People will start to complain about the crappy ads they get targeted with as it becomes more difficult for ad formats like native. Instead of being very specific to the user, contextually relevant ads will have to be more generic and not as targeted, because it’s going to hard to do much else.
For Sharon, from a news publisher’s perspective, they tend to trust Google more than Facebook for now and are taking the wait and see approach.

Are you or companies you work with investing in marketing attribution platforms and strategies and why yes or not?

David said that they are not investing in it at this point.  For right now they are not very interested in how the consumers converted but getting the conversions. They aren’t investing enough dollars to make the investment in an attribution solution.
Adam also said that they are not spending the ad dollars at the level they used to, so attribution has not been that important for them right now.  Attribution a bit passé, they’ve been hearing about for a long time and now walled gardens are making it more difficult. What’s going to become important for them is attribution between online to offline, people have smart TV’s that have data, real attribution will be really important when online and offline are not blurred and the consumers get a real experience.

Do you think that brands are going to continue to invest in social advertising or will they be more hesitant based on Facebook’s recent data privacy news or YouTube’s brand safety challenges?

There has been no pullback from social at all, even during the Zuckerberg trial, answered Sharon.  So yes, she thinks people will continue to invest in social. David said that when social platforms first launched they brought together people that weren’t able to connect. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, are all free and nothing in America is free. People are going to remember that, so how do we keep it free, the benefits for the consumers will outweigh the data privacy issues. Adam thinks that eventually the pressure for data privacy will decrease as brands get more slack for data breaches. Facebook made a bunch of unrelated changes to their platform after their data scandal and people seemed ok with that.

What new digital ad formats or platforms have you tried over the last year?

David said that they have been talking a lot about podcasting, they are starting to dip into the programmatic area. People are passionate about podcasts and it would be efficient because we can narrow down the targeting to exactly who we want to reach.  Voice will be fantastic and huge especially combined with Amazon and Google e-commerce offerings, because they have so much data the ads will be even more effective.
Sharon said that this year they tried a couple new things, one of which was headline ads and was a huge failure.  Now they are trying to do more with native. For them the way they decide what to do is a little different than on the publisher side. If they try something new or develop something new it has to be profitable for the business. But if she was on the other side she thinks that she would definitely try something like podcasts.
Adam echoes the podcasts, but also SMS and messenger, because it feels like a one-on-one connection with consumers, more like a conversation and specific answers for their situation.

Again, thank you to our wonderful panelists.  We look forward to our next event in Boston, June 12th.  If you are interested in attending please reach out to us here: info@digilant.com.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: What is a Data Lake?

A data lake is a centralized place, like a lake, that allows you to hold a lot of raw data in its native format, structured and unstructured, at any scale. You can store your data as-is, without having to first structure the data or define it until its needed.  It can then be used for creating reporting dashboards and visualizations, real-time analytics, and machine learning to guide better programmatic advertising decisions.

As data grows and diversifies, many marketing and especially digital strategy teams are finding that traditional methods of collecting data are becoming outdated and are pushing for something more centralized like a data lake.  According to Aberdeen research done in September 2017, the average company is seeing the volume of their data grow at a rate that exceeds 50% per year. Additionally, these companies are managing an average of 33 unique data sources, according to the research study. With data split into silos by team, like search, social or direct marketing, CMOs are being challenged with how to efficiently manage the analysis for their media campaigns.  If they don’t consolidate their data, they risk targeting the same consumer more than once or even exposing them to the wrong message.

Why Do You Need a Data Lake?

Most data platforms will only store data if it’s been formatted to fit a particular structure, like rows and columns.  So unstructured data like log files, data from click-streams, social media, and internet connected devices typically can’t be uploaded into a data platform until the data has been defined.  A Data Lake allows you to import all marketing data in real-time, from multiple sources and in its original format. It also allows you to scale data of any size.  Then you can figure out how to use it in an automatic yet personalized way to attract and retain customers through digital advertising.  Companies like Digilant can help you set up a Data Lake and use it for media activation.

What is the difference between a data lake and a Demand Management Platform (DMP)?

If you are a digital marketer, a Data Lake allows companies to collect PII data (Personally Identifiable Information), which DMPs do not.  A DMP’s is main function is the collection of cookie data for media audience activation where a Data Lake is often the first step used by data scientists to expand the knowledge of the DMP.  The DMP often connects directly to the media activation tool which for programmatic is most likely a DSP (Demand Side Platform).  A DMP will establish connections between several external data providers, and the data lake then supplements it with new internal data like social media feeds or connected device data.

Four Main Advantages to Having a Data Lake

1. DATA INDEXING
Data Lakes allow you to store relational data (a collection of data items organized as a set of formally-described tables from which data can be accessed or reassembled in many different ways without having to reorganize the database tables.) —operational databases (data collected in real-time), and data from line of business applications, and non-relational data like mobile apps, connected devices, and social media. They also give you the ability to understand what data is in the lake through crawling, cataloging, and indexing of data.

2. ANALYTICS

Data Lakes allow data scientists, data developers, and operations analysts to access data with their choice of analytic tools and frameworks. This also includes open source data frameworks such as Apache Hadoop, Presto, and Apache Spark, and commercial offerings from data warehouse and business intelligence vendors. Data Lakes allow you to run Analytics without the need to move your data from one system to another.
3. MACHINE LEARNING

Data Lakes will allow organizations to generate different types of marketing and operational insights including reporting on historical data, and doing machine learning where financial models are built to forecast likely outcomes, and suggest a range of actions, if taken, have the ability to achieve optimal results.

4. IMPROVED CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS

A Data Lake can combine customer data from a CRM platform with social media data analytics, as well as a marketing platform that includes buying history to empower the business to understand the most profitable audiences, the root of customer churn, and what promotions or rewards could increase loyalty.

In Summary

Marketers and Media Buyers would want to implement a data lake for three main reasons. First, they want to take advantage of more advanced and sophisticated analytical tools and dashboards, using a more complex and diverse foundation of information. Secondly, they also want to make traditional activities — like data access and speed of retrieval — more efficient and easier to accomplish. The third reason is they want to bring all the data from the different parts of the organization into one place creating efficiencies of time as well as cost savings.  While not every company succeeds at achieving all three objectives simultaneously, the most effective ones will able to see positive results on their ability to make better programmatic media buying decisions.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: Programmatic Creative is the Future for Display Advertising

Digital advertising that includes both high quality creative and relevant messaging is increasingly a high priority for media buyers and marketers.  Advertisers see no reason why creative, rich media, and programmatic should be mutually exclusive –­ it’s the combination that achieves engagement and results with consumers. The combination of programmatic and engaging creative offers a wide range of new opportunities – using data to precisely tailor messages.

Marketing teams are moving away from click-centric strategies as the only way to measure engagement. With all the new high-touch, high-impact ad formats and the growing popularity of native ad placements, there is a whole new world opening up to advertisers in display ads, to provide a more robust user experience while still reaping the benefits of programmatic buying.

Creative has never been more crucial to display ads as it is today and agencies and marketing teams are paying attention because they realize that a display ad’s message or creative is just as important as the channel or medium through which it’s served.

What is Programmatic Creative?

Programmatic creative has the ability to use the data collected from a programmatic display campaign to create a more personalized experiences for consumers. Rather than displaying one generic creative, new technologies, like Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO), mean that the ad creative can be tailored to the viewer in real-time, across multiple devices, according to their location, what they are doing, and the time of day – improving the overall user experience.
Where programmatic advertising matches users to ads on a one-to-one basis in real-time, DCO supports the matching of the best creative for that user during the programmatic advertising process.

Instead of marketers and advertisers having to figure out a one-size-fits-all, mass-market approach to their creative for a campaign, now they can create hyper-relevant ads that are relevant to individual users, while reaching a larger audience.  Using the sizable amount of data that is collected from each campaign, programmatic creative can enable automatically generated ads relevant to products or services that customers are viewing, helping to move customers towards the conversion path, and returning customers into repeat purchasers – building long-term loyalty and increasing returns for those campaigns.

Programmatic Advertising has Changed the Role of Display Ads


With programmatic taking the largest share of digital marketing budgets, the role of display advertising has been reborn and redefined.  More than four in five US digital display ad dollars, or $45.72 billion, will flow via programmatic means by 2019.
It’s no secret that different formats accomplish vastly different goals for marketers and media buyers. As the role of display advertising is redefined, and programmatic has dramatically changed the landscape, marketers need their display options to emphasize relevance for each consumer and define their experience as unique rather than obtrusive.
If campaigns are to remain relevant, marketers should be considering themselves not solely as advertisers, but as storytellers.  Marketers and publishers alike are turning to programmatic creative to enhance user experience and keep the customer at the center.

7 Things Brands Need to Know Before In-Housing Programmatic Media Buying

In 2018, brands and marketers have made it clear that they  want increased control of their programmatic advertising efforts. Digital advertising spend is estimated to overtake offline spend, with programmatic already surpassing direct digital buying. In more advanced markets, the media buying industry is aimed at a programmatic future.

Marketers have grown frustrated with the current business model; they want better control of their data and more financial transparency. A report by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) report finds that 90% of advertisers are reviewing and resetting both business models and contracts to achieve those goals. A survey conducted by Infectious Media found that over 70% of marketers think agencies have struggled to adjust to programmatic and they do not think the agencies accurately measure their programmatic media buys.

7 Things to Consider Before In-housing Your Programmatic Media Buys

With this loss of trust, it’s no wonder why brands are taking steps to bring their programmatic campaigns in-house. However, in order for them to be successful,  there are some steps they need to take. We’ve put together a check-list of what we think brand marketers need to know. Here are 7 things you need to consider if you want to bring your programmatic in-house.

1. Budgeting, resources, and hands on keyboard

The first thing to consider is evaluating your brand’s capabilities. Is the budget large enough? How many people will be on the programmatic team? Will they be able to stay up-to-date with the latest technology?

Brands must be spending at least $20 million programmatically before they even consider taking programmatic in-house, in order to generate a high enough level of savings to make the transition worthwhile.
Wayne Blodwell, CEO of The Programmatic Advisory

On top of a high cost, programmatic technology is complex; it requires a unique skill-set and it is hard to master. The technology requires an expert or multiple specialists at the helm. Hiring and training new recruits is not a simple process, especially if your office happens to be outside of New York, San Francisco or Boston.
After deciding which kind of technology stack is best for your brand (DSP, DMP, ad server, viewability tracking, dashboard, fraud protection) there are also other aspects to consider like licensing. This includes legal documentation, adherence to privacy regulations, etc.

Other forms of digital advertising, namely search, is dominated by a single player. Programmatic, on the other hand, lives in a complex environment that has many options of inventory to choose from. Several demand-side partners that can be used to access them and also several programmatic models to navigate through, like open exchanges to private marketplaces.

This goes back to having the right personnel for the job. New roles in the organization will open because of in-housing and it is up to you to have the right training methods for current employees. As mentioned before, programmatic technology is complicated and the right people must be on the job.

2. Objectives

After a programmatic team has been established it is time to understand the short and long-term goals of the business. Key considerations and questions at this point would include: Debating whether display, native and reach based advertising would help reach the long-term business goals, or whether inbound is a better fit, is an in-house team going to be more effective because of the increased frequency of campaigns?

3. In-housing goals

Besides long-term business objectives, identifying the end-goal of an in-house programmatic process is critical too.

  •       Do you simply want to purchase media in a more effective way?
  •       Do you want to maximize reach?
  •       Do you need better targeting and segmenting or are you looking to go wide?
  •       Do you want a broad mix of outbound- from display to native to video and mobile or are you limited to one or two formats?
  •       Or perhaps you also want to incorporate offline data to effectively take prospects along the typical buyer’s journey?

4. Big Data

One of the biggest and challenging tasks is being responsible for your own data. Collecting, managing, and then interpreting it for valuable insights can become rather tedious. If big data is too much to handle, hiring a separate data team can also be an option. Data-backed programmatic is extremely desirable today but it needs to be managed by disciplined professionals managing first and third party data

5. Cross-departmental Collaboration

It is important to make sure all departments are aware of the organization’s new programmatic team. Illustrate how an in-house programmatic process will benefit the whole business through increased sales, ROI, and customer satisfaction, not just the marketing department. Alignment with sales is also crucial in terms of making the most of leads generated via programmatic.

6. Implementation, testing, and execution

Different brands benefit from different programmatic models, determining which ones work best for you require testing.  Testing new tactics and programmatic strategies in-house for a short period of time may help your company adapt to the overall programmatic process before identifying a model that works best.

7. Consider a hybrid in-housing model


It may also be wise to consider using a hybrid approach. You may have a strong analytical data team, with data management experience, but not the talent or knowledge for programmatic execution. Or you might have built a strong digital marketing team, but they don’t have the skill or knowledge specifically in programmatic media buying. These are key skills that are worth outsourcing to a trusted agency of record while keeping strategy and data in house.

As much as having more control and transparency over programmatic media buying makes sense, the required investment in talent, expertise to navigate the ecosystem and budget size should not be overlooked. For now, if you are a brand considering starting the in sourcing process then you should consider a hybrid model where you own the contracts and data and your trusted partner, like Digilant, owns the rest.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: The Difference Between First and Second Price Auctions in RTB

If you are buying advertising programmatically then you are most likely using either a first or second price auction bidding process.  Most recently there has been more talk of moving towards first price auctions because of the popularity of header bidding.  DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) have traditionally been set up to use second-price auctions and for most DSPs adapting and changing strategies to first price auctions is expensive because they have to invest in technology that will specifically adapt to the rules of every auction and allow them to bid effectively.

So what are the differences between the two types of auctions?  And why should media buyers care which one gets used?

First Price Auctions

The programmatic buying model where if your bid wins, you pay exactly what you bid. This type of auction maximizes revenue potential for the seller.

In the first price auction model the bidders pay exactly what they bid. This type of auction can lead to unnaturally high prices because buyers are forced to guess how much their competition will bid.  This auction mechanism gives publishers the highest eCPMs for their inventory but can lead to the advertisers overpaying which can then lead to a lower demand for that publisher’s inventory.

The first-price auction allows both buyers and sellers to see the actual cost of the impression and the fees taken by the SSP/ad exchange will at least be known. The winning price is exactly what the advertiser agreed on, but there is a risk of overpaying for impressions.

The workings of the first-price auctions make sense economically only when the buyer knows the fair market value of the impressions they are bidding on, and understands the mechanics of hard- and soft- price floor mechanisms. The Price Floor, is the minimum price a publisher will accept for its inventory, which technically means they will ignore all bids below that price. This can turn a second-price auction into a type of first-price auction.

Second Price Auctions

The programmatic buying model where if your bid wins, you pay $0.01 above the second highest bid in the auction. In this type of auction, it is in your best interest to bid the highest amount you are willing to pay to win that impression, knowing that you will most likely end up paying less than that amount.
The second price auction is preferable to first price auctions for advertisers because it gives the winner a chance to pay a little less for the ad impression than their original submitted offer — instead of paying the full price, the winning bidder pays the price offered by the second-highest bidder, plus a bit more, usually $0.01. The final and winning price of the impression is known as the clearing price.

So What About Header Bidding?

Header bidding has become a popular type of first price auction where publishers place a piece of code on their webpage headers that allows a limited number of advertisers to bid on inventory outside of their primary ad server. This lets advertisers compete for premium or reserved inventory before or instead of the second-price auction.

Header bidding creates an auction prior to the final auction in a publisher’s ad server. Because of that inefficiency, SSPs (Supply Side Platforms) who run a fair second-price auction in the header, will have less competitive bids for that final auction, and find themselves with low win rates.  Being less competitive in the auction has terrible implications for SSPs as more competitive bids from header bidding can steal their market share.

Media Buyers Are Asking for Transparency in the Bidding Process

Programmatic ad buying exchanges have a mostly obscure bidding process, making it unclear for the buyers whether they are dealing with first or second price auction. If you want complete transparency, then first-price auction seems to be the better option (there are no floor mechanisms or hidden fees), but it offers few real benefits for the advertiser. Truthful bidding in this model (i.e. bidding the real value of the impression, which means if an impression has a value for you of $1.00, you should also bid $1.00) is not only more challenging but it’s also more expensive. A transparent first-price auction will squeeze the margins of the many ad tech players in the middle, and deliver more actual working media to the publisher. But if programmatic media buyers think they are still playing according to second-price auction rules, they will end up overpaying for inventory. Advertisers don’t like the feeling that they are being manipulated into bidding higher than they need to, which is exactly why DSPs use algorithms to predict the price floors and bid accordingly.

Many programmatic traders are left in the dark when it comes to the setup of the auctions they are bidding in. Since media buyers can only audit the vendors they are working with directly on the demand side, they have no way to verify if other programmatic platforms in the ad supply chain are altering their auction structures to make more margin. Which means a buyer might think they are buying based on second price auction but really be in a first price auction. That can get expensive, since the bid strategies are drastically different.

The industry will likely be in a transition period for much of 2018 as DSPs adjust their algorithms to allow for some Bid Shading to minimize the chance of overpaying.  It’s important for media buyers to clarify the auction type (first or second) whenever negotiating a deal and floor price with a publisher. To combat price increases, some buyers have already started Bid Shading, or reducing bid prices. But that strategy comes with risks because buyers can lose out on inventory they want if they submit too low a bid.  So until trust or transparency in auction type and fee structure is available in the open exchange, some media buyers will either try to work with adjusted algorithms or push towards more private exchange tactics so that they can trust the contracts and pricing models.

Programmatic Media Buying 101: Why Are Marketers Talking About Blockchain Technology?

Will Blockchain be the technology that solves the programmatic industry woes, or is it just another buzzword that we need to add to our vernacular in case someone brings it up in a conversation?
Either way it helps to know why people are talking about blockchain technology and how it will help or change the programmatic buying industry.  The problem that most people are hoping that blockchain has the potential to solve is transparency throughout the advertising supply chain – which means advertisers having a better understanding of cost and the visibility of their ads.

What is Blockchain Technology?

First of all Blockchain isn’t a new technology, and it wasn’t developed specifically for the advertising industry.   It was originally created for managing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.  Blockchain is a continuous series of records – blocks – linked by encryption, that sit across a distributed database and are stored on computers all around the world. Each time a transaction is made, a message is sent to the network to agree (or disagree) that the transaction is legitimate before giving the approval.

Why Are Marketers Interested in Blockchain for Programmatic Buying?

Blockchain has the ability to create a highly secure trading network for advertisers, by publicly storing data to create a permanent audit trail with an unchangeable record of all transactions that occur within the programmatic buying marketplace. This provides marketers with full visibility into their ad buy, to better track all transactions that are taking place automatically and ensure their budget is actually being used effectively. Using blockchain technology, a record of all transactions taking place throughout the ad-buying and selling process is made and in the future marketers can use this knowledge to reduce, or even eradicate, hidden costs or fees from multiple intermediaries within the ad-buying supply chain.

The main benefits of blockchain for advertisers include:

  • Keeping track of each point where that ad shows up effectively, so that the advertiser can control the process and get more working dollars in front of users/ clients
  • It can provide more transparency with relation to ad fraud and brand safety by allowing advertisers to record exactly where their ad campaign is being delivered and whom it is reaching

For those companies who are thinking of bringing their programmatic in-house there will be some benefits from the direct line of communication that blockchain offers with data providers and other vendors.  This means more transparency on how data is collected and sourced.  So if the advertiser doesn’t have to worry about security or fraud and is able to leverage transparency they can focus on improving their targeting strategies and invest in creative and an overall better experience for their audience.

So When Should We Expect Blockchain to go Mainstream?

If blockchain is so powerful, why has it not being used more widely?  After all, it’s not a new technology, what’s holding the ad-tech business back from implementing it?
First of all, it’s really bad for the environment!  Blockchain inherently uses an immense amount of energy.  It’s by nature a space-hungry technology because the series of blocks become very large very quickly and become hundreds of gigabytes in size.  And as the chains get bigger you need more storage and capacity is limited.  Then that data needs to load every time you make a transaction, which is not practical for any type of programmatic buying, which involves millions of transaction per second.  That’s a lot of blocks.
So this probably not going to be the year of blockchain for Real-Time Bidding (RTB) but it doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in other parts of the ecosystem.  For instance, it can be used to authenticate the publishers advertisers are working with when they set up private marketplace deals.  Even though PMPs are meant to be safer or fraud free they are still subject to domain spoofing. Using blockchain to set these deals up could give advertisers another layer of verification.  So blockchain still has some possibilities.  We are keeping an eye on it but haven’t seen it move the needle in any direction as of yet.

Wining & Dining in Atlanta: A Conversation With Brands About Their Programmatic Stacks and Strategies

On Tuesday, March 27th, 2018, Digilant hosted an executive dinner panel at City Winery at Ponce City Market in Midtown Atlanta where local digital media agencies and brands gathered to listen in on and engage with a panel of digital marketing executives as they discussed all things digital media and programmatic.
After a lively session of networking over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, Digilant’s US Chief Executive Officer, Raquel Rosenthal, moderated a panel with Senior Media Marketing Manager at Equifax, Joella Duncan, VP of Marketing and Digital Services at Marriott International, Sean Brevick, and Director of Product, Performance, and Data Strategy at Turner Broadcasting, Jonathon McKenzie.

Raquel started the evening off by emphasizing to the audience the amount of tools, technologies, platforms, and walled gardens that exist in today’s digital ecosystem, making it difficult for many digital marketers to keep up and deliver a quality customer experience. Digital media planning and buying teams can no longer afford to limit their inventory sources by running on just one DSP and programmatic campaign tactics need to be as diverse and dynamic as a brand’s customer journey. In order to remain competitive, digital marketers need to keep up to speed, making the development of an integrated digital strategy one of the most crucial tasks for any marketer in 2018.

Raquel kicked off the event by asking, which programmatic trends and developments impact their business today?

Jonathon from Turner was the first to dive into the discussion, saying that in the current state of the entertainment industry there’s so much quality content from premium publishers capable of showcasing brands to audiences and  now advertisers are really beginning to tap into it. He added that not only inventory quality is improving, but the channels on which programmatic inventory is now available are expanding to new frontiers and that helps publishers like Turner get their content distributed at the right time and place, specifically through DOOH. Sean echoed Jonathon’s response, saying that Marriott has benefitted from having less remnant inventory and that the company that manages a portfolio of nearly 30 brands is always looking for ways to thoughtfully manage their data and segment audiences.  Lastly, Joella from Equifax was excited about developments in multi-touch attribution, a longstanding practice at the credit reporting agency, but something that has recently taken center stage for many brands running omnichannel campaigns. Also, something that she thought they were going to hear more about was header bidding.  She feels like header bidding is something that we should all keep an eye on, but for now it’s something that publishers are more concerned about, wanting to monetize their sites.

What expectations do you and your brand have of their programmatic partners?

Joella was the first to respond by saying that she has extremely high expectations because of Equifax’s dedication to their fractional attribution modeling through their partner at VisualIQ, which is their source of truth. Many of their partners have built out new products and adapted to their needs.  For them, their programmatic partners need to be a tech company, invest in data science and employ forward looking employees.  They need to stay the shiny object by investing in those people, we don’t want to be the razor, we are and want to stay on the bleeding edge.  It’s then exciting that those partners can then go out and get more business with what they have built for us.  For Sean, a programmatic partner must be innovative but also have an understanding of their complex landscape.  They also have to bring brand recognition and buying power, stretch their dollars further, coming up with solutions that support their hotels and hotel owners needs.

What aspects of your digital media mix and or execution is your brand taking ownership of and why?

Our marketing teams have the dollars, started Jonathon, we develop the media strategy but the IO’s come out of the agencies. We benefit by receiving data from our agencies that come into our cloud as outbound data.  Everything’s piped back in house which is helpful, because the people at the agency and those of us at Turner aren’t within the same 4 walls every day to examine how to best leverage all data we receive.  The ownership is all held within Turner and then we execute it within the brand.  For Sean they have been using a hybrid model for a number of years.  We buy some media but our agency does it at scale.  They are focused on maintaining that model, they don’t plan to cross over into that space.  The goal is to simplify media buying for our hotels and take the burden off them so they can focus on operating and delivering exceptional guest experiences.  They know that they have experts that can manage it.  At Equifax, Joella said that they have a very close relationship with their agency.  They transact with complete transparency and because of security they own all of their contracts.  Because of the verticals that they deal with, they own the contracts, but work with their agency to develop the strategies and are at each others offices multiple times a week. She likes that the agency works with multiple clients and draws from that experience so they can help you pivot and you can rely on their network to get there.

Raquel concluded by saying it seems that the trend of a hybrid in-housing strategy is confirmed, that brands own their data and strategies, but rely on agencies for programmatic media buying execution.

How else is your company using data to influence your digital advertising spend or strategy? What kind of data are you using?

Jonathon said that at Turner Broadcasting they have all their data in-house so they can model it.  If we know you are going to watch our program we are not going to target you, but we don’t have enough of 1st party data, they use 2nd and 3rd party data to scale.  Joella, said that all their 1st party data comes from their website, people who come and convert, so they suppress those people so not to target them again, but do use the data for modeling, it’s also expensive to push data out.  They use 3rd party data to scale efficiently, and use Visual IQ to help model and spend money.  At Marriott, Sean uses data quite a bit with all the different brands, with 6000 hotels worldwide there is a lot of competing interests. Their challenge is how do we manage with that, we want to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, so they have to be thoughtful about how we talk to people.  They are dealing with a perishable experience and how do we measure and message to those people for their experience.  We need to measure at the transactional level and how do we measure that?

How are you managing digital advertising activities across search, social and programmatic? How do you make sure that you’re not bombarding users? And how siloed is your data?

There is more coordination than ever before, according to Sean, Marriott is a very complex company, but the best thing is the people.  We work together and do not compete with each other, and make sure there is knowledge shared across the groups. Joella manages to not silo her data by having all the media strategy and execution live under her, using Visual IQ to stitch it all together. At Turner, Jonathon said there is one team lead for each group, it gets Q&A’d before it goes to marketing.  We still have a siloed approach, so it’s flawed and there is no guarantee we are not targeting the same person on Facebook and outside Facebook with display.

How do you manage reporting for search, social and programmatic? Do you use the data to optimize spend?

Joella started by saying that they do set a budget at the beginning of the year, but then they look at the data everyday, so that they can move budget between channels and countries. The budgets get laid out but they are very fluid, they look at the data daily for high level results and then weekly for deep insights.  The way we move money around is not common and very smart. We’re able to take our data in such real time and make these really smart efficient decisions in that month that might not make the most sense in the next month based on where the credit market’s going. Having data at your fingertips and moving it to drive the best revenue is great.   Jonathon’s challenge is that he doesn’t know who’s going to watch, they have no idea.  They still care about buzz in the marketplace sot they still have to spray and pray to have the full brand experience.  For product it’s still very DR focused. Sean is managing 1700 individual interests and they manage those budgets like they are their own.  They are looking at their budgets on daily basis especially on a meta search basis, they don’t have large budgets, especially the cheaper hotels but have to treat them like they have large budgets.

How do you measure across digital (or offline channels)? Meaning, do you have an attribution strategy for optimization of media performance across media channels? How have you applied it?

Sean said that at Marriott they are not quite there yet, they are still focused on last click/view attribution but it is something we want to get to.  Jonathon said that it takes them 30 days to get the attribution in, it’s very tough.  Siloed attribution is garbage, attribution should come from the brand level and encompass everything.  Joella at Equifax uses Visual IQ as their partner to tag every impression that goes out, take all those touch points put it through their model and assign a attribution score, and assign true value to each of touch points.  They can see that they need to put money into display because it brings money into the funnel and can look down to the key word level, and even down to each partner’s targeting tactics – then they can forecast for the next month, to beat the goals that they have.  Use all the inputs to plan our data and budget, we found that as long as we are hitting our goals, we can use the remaining budget to test and invest in new channels, test new partners, new segments without actually having a dedicated testing budget.

Are you leveraging digital media to build personalization strategies for your consumers?

Marriott is just getting started, answered Sean, our focus has been integration.  We are just scratching the surface, big win for us has been to deliver dynamic creative.  We have to be able to deliver a specific message for a specific location, it’s evolving, through email and apps and through the channels we own and have a lot of data on.
Joella would love to use DCO, but due to legal constraints having a lot of creative is prohibitive, can’t do it on the fly, they have a more manual approach, specific banners for specific groups.  There is a conversion team that does testing on our site, find out what journeys convert best for people. They believe in it, they want to be able to have a dynamic landing page, with decisioning based on client value, know what experience they are more likely to convert on.  Jonathon would like to personalize the customer journey based on their fans, give them sneak peaks, real-time audio spots, and personalized messaging.

Again, thank you to our wonderful panelists.  We look forward to our next events in New York May 8th, Seattle, May 22nd and Boston, June 12th.  If you are interested in attending or speaking please reach out to us info@digilant.com.

DC Dinner Panel Discussion: How To Fast Track to an Integrated Digital Media Strategy in 2018?

On Tuesday, March 6th, 2018, Digilant hosted a discussion and dinner at SEI D.C. in Penn Quarter.  I joined local digital media agencies and brands to hear their colleagues discuss their approach to delivering new and innovative programmatic strategies.

As programmatic technology becomes a commodity that everyone is using and has access to, it’s even more important to have integrated teams and strategies to get ahead of the competition. Today’s CMO will be delivering a single media strategy that includes search, social and programmatic. They will be partnering with agencies and businesses that can help them strategize, implement and optimize their digital media across audiences, formats, screens and inventory to most effectively deliver on business goals and objectives.

During this intimate dinner conversation, Digilant Executive Chairman, Alan Osetek, moderated a panel with Professor of Digital Strategy at Georgetown University and former SVP at Edelman, David Almacy, SVP of Media Strategy and Analytics at Discovery Communications, Seth Goren, VP of Marketing for Tegna, Meredith Conte, and Senior Digital Marketing Solutions Manager for ResonateLisa Villano.


Alan kicked off the evening by reminding everyone that Digital Media has evolved enormously over the last 5-10 years, in the sense that when agencies used to present their media plans there used to be one slide at the end of a presentation about trying some digital.  Now for many agencies, not only do they lead with digital, but it could be the whole pitch.

So his first question to the panel was, what words would they use to describe what programmatic means to them?

Seth from Discovery kicked off by saying that programmatic to him is real-time buying, addressable and algorithmic, that their strategy is audience based. For David at Georgetown University, programmatic is an opportunity to use and collect data, because if your data is not good you might miss finding the right people as well as finding new audiences that you might want to communicated with. For Lisa at Resonate, programmatic is about being able to access all types of inventory through one platform and then being able to get audience insights that they can use to make decisions from.

What are the expectations that your brand/today’s brands have of their programmatic partners?

Companies are experiencing growing pains when it comes to digital, according to Lisa, which means that you need to have specialists for all the new topics like programmatic TV, OTT and all the new ad formats, along with a subject matter expert to keep them informed.  Meredith responded that for her, in-house education can’t be underestimated, that they have in-house teams that suit all of their clients needs and they constantly need to be kept up to speed on what’s going on in the market. For Seth, programmatic expertise has become an important part of the strategy and it’s making less and less sense to ship it outside of their company.

How much of your buying strategy or media is based on walled garden platforms? What are your general thoughts on walled gardens? 

Seth jumped in to say that it’s not that walled gardens are frustrating, but that you can’t live without them. Meredith said that for her it depends on your goal; sometimes it may be 100% in Facebook, but mostly it’s about who you are going after. David said that there are tried and true approaches out there, so with video and images Facebook might work better. Platforms like Snapchat are evolving, for example teenagers are using Snapchat to mobilize together to organize a protest against guns, the fact that protests were generated on this channel and it’s becoming a language and a tool for a certain age group, the originators of Snapchat never thought their platform would be used this way.  The lesson is to be open. The platforms will evolve and you have to be open to which are the most effective tools for your brand or campaign depending on what you want to achieve. Lisa finished by saying that Resonate can now use their data on Facebook, successfully pulling data out of the walled garden to try and reach the right people, though they can’t be sure that they will convert but have to manage to a KPI to make it work. It’s an education for all their clients.

What are you using to bring your digital strategy to the next level? 

Meredith started by saying that following the customer journey is really important to them, how people are engaging and when during the day, so that they can engage people when it’s relevant to them, it’s on their roadmap to solve. Seth’s goal is to build modular creative, hundreds of creative! For him the next level is on the execution side, “my first matzo ball out there, traditional metrics are terrible predictors, likes, comments, etc. has nothing to do whether they like the show,” it comes down to tracking attribution, and weighing each touch for attribution. For Lisa geolocation tracking is really important, knowing what people are doing and where, so that we know when to reach them. Lastly for David, he wants to measure what tools are most effective and when the optimal time to use them is.

What company organization changes are moving the company forward?

Meredith answered first by saying, audience based elements. Everyone can buy programmatic media now and old economies of scale go out the window.  You also have to hire the right people who are willing to take risks. It’s a time of massive disruption, people have to want to embrace the change.  Seth said, start somewhere, solve one problem at a time, then scale slowly. For David if there isn’t someone internally to educate people about these trends, get that buy-in, so that they can educated their bosses then it’s going to fail.  Maybe there are new tools available that might work better. Test, learn, iterate, repeat… Identify best practices locally and then scale if they work.

Has anything changed on the way you hire?

EVERYTHING! said Meredith. Communication skills, you have to have them… if you are great at data and can’t explain it, that’s not going to work for us.  Data and knowledge of digital is critical. Creativity and resilience are also important, if you can’t adapt and grow you won’t make it.  According to Seth the whole game has changed, it’s all about data scientists not just digital marketers. Lisa commented that they are constantly changing process and procedure, and you have to be able to keep up with it. For David, you need to be naturally curious or naturally creative, can’t teach that.

For the last question Alan asked the panelists to talk about a problem they are trying to solve for their company.

For Lisa it’s inventory scarcity for the newer formats. If customers want to spend a million dollars on OTT and they can’t deliver that programmatically it’s a challenge.  They are packaging it into a bigger offering, the idea of having access to different omni-channel inventory through one buying platform is great, but not completely achievable yet.  David’s personal challenge is to empower women in Mexico to use technology so that they can use the same channels that men are using to get elected into government offices. For Seth 2018 is the year of automation, his goal is to eliminate email and powerpoint communication in his company in exchange for dashboards. And Meredith wants to revisit audience segmentation for local broadcasts.

It was a wonderful evening of food, drinks and programmatic conversation.  We are looking forward to the next event in Atlanta, stay tuned for details.

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