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The New Zealand Programmatic Market with Acquire Online NZ


Ashwin Sundaram
Senior Programmatic Specialist
Acquire Online


For those of us not familiar with Acquire Online NZ, please tell us a little more about your company and inventory you have access to. 

Acquire Online is New Zealand’s first independent trading desk, focused on providing programmatic solutions across a variety of channels to agencies of all sizes in New Zealand. With access to a variety of DSPs, Acquire Online specializes in providing a complete digital advertising solution, across different channels like programmatic display, video, social, native and search, to advertisers. With a motto of “Results First,” we have always prided ourselves in being the first to market with new tools, digital strategies and reporting practices to drive the best possible results for our clients.

In terms of inventory that we have access to, we plug into over 40 exchanges, across 3 core DSPs, 2 video specialized DSPs, 4 Native Platforms, a mobile DSP, and multiple social platforms, giving our advertisers access to over 17 billion biddable NZ monthly impressions.


What is the current state of the digital advertising market in New Zealand? (Total spend, if you have the numbers) What percentage of the NZ market would you say has switched to programmatic buying, as compared to still working on a managed-services basis with publishers and ad networks?

As per IAB NZ Q2 2016 results, the total digital spend is $218.76M with a 13.55% YoY growth.

We have notice a rapid adoption of programmatic buying with our agencies and direct clients. This is due to the fact that programmatic buying gives our agencies/clients transparency, scale, better attribution modelling and in-depth reporting. We feel that the NZ market sits at about 45% adoption, and this is only rising.

The rest of the market is still engaged in automated buying, but only using the GDN.


Your company has an extremely interesting technology that is able to sync up Linear TV campaigns with digital ads. How does your TV Sync technology work?

With dual screening becoming a natural phenomenon in most homes, we saw a great opportunity to introduce this product to the market, to hit the second/third screen user at the right time and moment.

We signed up for a two-year exclusivity with our technology vendor and this resulted in a great first mover advantage for Acquire Online.

The TV Sync technology uses what is called “fingerprinting”. It is based on picture analysis, not audio and OCR. This is done by analyzing the pictures of TV streams, and for each picture, creating a fingerprint. This fingerprint is then compared to our database of fingerprints to see if we already know a similar picture, and to detect which video this picture has come from.

There are two main components to our TV-Online Sync offering: we call these TV Sync and TV Counter Sync. Our TV Sync offering enables advertisers to trigger their online campaigns to run in tandem with their TV buy. Once we index an advertiser’s TVC (TV commercial), our TV ad-detection technology triggers the advertiser’s digital campaigns to go live for a specific time period after the TVC is aired. This helps us target users that are multi screening during the commercial break.

TV Counter Sync, on the other hand, helps advertisers hijack their competitors’ TVCs. When a competitor’s TVC is detected on air, the sync process is initiated, flooding premium NZ websites, and social media with the advertiser’s ads, thus reaping benefits of the competitor’s TV campaign. Example: Dominos can set up a counter sync activity to trigger when Pizza Hut’s ads are on air. If the competitor aligns its messaging and offer to match the TVC, the user could be led into believing that it is the same brand as on TV.

We offer sync across display, video, social and search platforms, thus providing advertisers with a complete array of tools necessary to capture viewers’ attention.

In addition to TV Sync, we also offer weather sync, financial sync, sports sync, social trend sync, and even sync based on pollen levels in the air!


What are your thoughts on native advertising? Do you make a distinction between the native ads bought programmatically, as compared to those purchase directly from a publisher (branded content, sponsored post / promoted posts)?

What appeals the most to me about native advertising is the inherent non-intrusive nature of it, and with the biggest complaint about digital ads in general being that they affect users’ browsing experiences, native is certainly the way to go for the future. To me, there definitely is a distinction, especially in the flexibility and granularity that programmatic provides when compared to direct buys. With a programmatic native buy, we get to overlay contextual, demographic, keyword, and behavioral options, and even employ retargeting/custom and lookalike audiences, with the freedom to change things around, and to try and test different strategies, which I believe is the essence of digital advertising. In addition, with programmatic native, one gets to experiment with bid rates and frequency caps, helping deliver the best results to advertisers, as opposed to a fixed CPC rate or FC that is generally negotiated with a publisher in a direct buy.


What are some of your must use tools? (Display / Mobile DSP, Video DSP, MOAT, Quantcast, comScore, Doubleclick for Advertisers, Flite / PaperG, SimilarWeb, etc)

I have always believed that the wider the arsenal of tools at your disposal, the better the results you will be able to provide. That said, with digital ad buys becoming increasingly cross-channel in nature, some of the tools I consider absolutely essential are at least one display/mobile specialized DSP, one video specialized DSP, a pre-bid brand safety/quality control tool (IAS, Peer39, ComScore), a post-bid viewability tracking tool (Moat), an adserver (DoubleClick Campaign Manager), a reporting aggregation/visualization tool to track activity on multiple platforms, a tag management/depoloyment tool (Google Tag Manager, Tealium, or equivalent), and a website activity analysis solution (Google Analytics or equivalent).

If you are running retail or travel campaigns and are competing with other vendors, a good attribution system always helps.


Have you had the opportunity to run any private marketplace campaigns, and what was your experience with it? Is this how you typically engage with the premier sites in NZ?

PMP deals are increasingly becoming an essential part of programmatic campaigns, here in New Zealand. We hardly see an IO anymore that doesn’t have a premium buy related line item. While we are able to access more than enough premium inventory via the open exchange, PMPs and Programmatic Guaranteed deals give us the ability to have a first look at the impression as well as secure inventory during high demand season.

Our definition of premium sites is a bit different from the traditional school of thought. For example, a popular local news site might have a good NZ audience, but could possibly have a bad viewability rate. We believe that a premium site is a site that has a good engagement rate, a high percentage of new users, low levels of fraud (less arbitrage), and has fresh content alongside rich banner ad units.


Currently, what does the ad blocking situation in New Zealand look like? Does the ad blocking situation affect ads that are purchased programmatically at all?

It is hard to put a number on the ad blocker usage in NZ, but its definitely on the rise. As a programmatic trader, it doesn’t really affect our buys as we are unable to bid for the ad-blocked impression anyway. In terms of inventory availability, simply because of the sheer volume of inventory available programmatically, and because this only continues to grow exponentially, the ad-blocking situation has not gotten too dire for us.

The industry has been taking measures to tackle the ad-blocking situation head on. The IAB has introduced the L.E.A.N ad program for advertisers so that creatives can build ads that are light, encrypted, ad choice supported and non-invasive ads in the hope of improving user experience, and thus beating the need for ad-blockers.

As for publishers, the IAB introduced D.E.A.L to persuade users to stop deploying ad blockers.

  • Detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation
  • Explain the value exchange that advertising enables
  • Ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange
  • Lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer choice


What level of transparency do you have in programmatic platforms – do you have site-level transparency? Do you think there will ever be a day where this level of buying transparency is the industry standard?

Site-level transparency is now a basic requirement in choosing a programmatic platform. It is absolutely vital to know where your advertising dollars are being spent. I think as more awareness grows about programmatic, the level of transparency that buyers possess, and the capabilities of programmatic, advertisers will start demanding that they have the same visibility as the buyers on where the budget is being spent. Additionally, site transparency is only the tip of the iceberg. With the level of granularity we have today, we have transparency into almost every element of the media buy, such as exchanges, devices, time of day, day of week, audience composition, geo performance, creative performance, creative size performance, mobile make and model performance, environment, and ad position, to name a few.


When buying programmatic video, is most of it in-stream, or in-banner inventory? Are there ways that you ensure these are not below-the-fold, auto-play, in-banner video ad units that annoy users?

Most of programmatic video, at least in New Zealand is in-stream inventory. We also ensure that we do not buy auto-play inventory, as user-initiated video not only improves user experience, but also increases the chance of user interaction with the ad, and provides increased engagement. Most standard pre-bid solutions, including platform targeting options allow us to exclude below the fold inventory, anyway, so that is not really a problem. The key to getting engagement on one’s ads is to ensure that they are delivered in a way that aids and enhances a user’s experience, rather than in a way that is detrimental to it.


How do you partner with MOAT? In what ways are you able to leverage their viewability reports for campaigns to ensure ads are seen by consumers?

Being the first company to bring Moat into New Zealand, we have been experimenting with it since mid-2015. Moat provides a high level of detail, not only into where the ads were served, but also about how long they stayed in view, how a user interacted with the ad, and for how long, the nature of the traffic that interacted with the ad, and even comes with heat maps based on user activity with ads, that we provide to our advertisers. While optimizing campaigns, we exclude devices, browsers and sites that do not provide the level of viewability we desire. We also use Moat to assess the effectiveness of pre-bid viewability solutions that we implement on our campaigns to increase viewability, and make changes based on the same. In addition, we also provide “100% human and viewable campaigns.” These campaigns, unlike traditional digital campaigns (which are usually bought on impressions or clicks), are bought on human and viewable impressions, and thus advertisers can rest easy knowing that each dollar of theirs is being spent on ads that are seen and interacted with by real people.


Lastly, what is your take on the future of digital media buying?

The future looks very exciting with programmatic TV, audio and outdoor starting to get popular. Data is going to play a key role in all future campaigns and I predict advertisers will invest heavily on getting their CRM systems to talk with their DMPs in order to tailor make advertising for their clients. We are living in a world of change, and I strongly believe that the only way to survive is to embrace new technology, and use it to one’s advantage.


Acquire Online is an independent full service programmatic agency trading desk. We run a range of online customer acquisition campaigns for media agencies in New Zealand. Our platform has access to 6 billion Display, Video, Facebook and Mobile ad inventory every month which reach New Zealanders online across 130,000 local and international websites, including access to New Zealand’s premier sites.

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The New Zealand Programmatic Market with Acquire Online NZ


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