If You Can’t Beat Them, Build an Alliance
How Belgian publishers created DaviD to compete with the Duopoly
No one knows their readership like a local publisher. However, in 2016, Belgian publishers noticed a decline in ad revenue that they attributed to a familiar interloper: the Duopoly. Facebook and Google’s granular behavioral and interest data offered advertisers the ability to target the audience that local publishers had spent decades building. These platform giants were capturing most of the region’s ad spending, and individual publishers didn’t have the data or tools to compete.
To even the playing field, three leading Belgian publishers—IPM, Produpress, and Pebble Media— forged the DaviD alliance, the Digital Alliance on Valuable Inventory and Data. This alternative to the global networks would offer competitive features while showcasing local publishers’ strengths—namely strong brand recognition, an on-the-ground understanding of local audiences, and support staff that nurtured personal relationships with advertisers.
The alliance had four distinct challenges to overcome. First, while the shift to programmatic buying hadn’t caught Belgian publishers entirely by surprise, none had taken the steps needed to really capitalize on the technology’s efficiency. They still relied primarily on direct sales teams who were skeptical of or not adequately trained for programmatic platforms. Nor had they built technology that could sufficiently address advertiser needs. Advertisers accustomed to working with global platforms were pushing for the same kind of high-quality, standardized data from independent publishers.
Further, advertisers insisted on new levels of transparency. While Facebook and Google benefitted from a logged in state and the data agreements that govern them, local publishers had to assure their clients that the data they used was GDPR compliant. Finally, meeting those needs would require collaboration among competitors. DaviD members committed to sharing data and best practices, splitting the build budget and implementing a common standard for data collection, analysis and reporting
DaviD built a flexible platform unrivaled in Europe
A one-stop shop for brands and agencies
Solution and results
DaviD decided to partner with Cxense to build a system unrivaled by any other European alliance. They needed technology that would merge their inventory and their data sets on a platform that included shared data management, sell side, and demand side technology. The new system had to allow publishers to collect and analyze data, create segments, sell inventory and allow advertisers and alliance members to gauge each campaign’s success. In other words, they would have to build a complete programmatic ecosystem. Cxense’ DMP became the foundation for the ambitious project.
“Cxense is especially well-suited for data alliances,” Pieter Jadoul, Business Strategy and Development Director at Pebble Media said. “It’s independent technology that integrates easily with other systems. Our tech people especially really the great API and all the integrations.” Those APIs played a role in standardizing publisher data per advertisers’ wishes.
Each publisher has integrated a Cxense script that tracks audience data consistently across properties. However, the platform also allows for Chinese walls between publishers— each publisher can see all of their data and segments but need only share agreed upon information with allies.
DaviD’s network, connected through Cxense DMP, comprises 120 websites with 260 million page views and 20 million unique visitors. The media network available to advertisers for programmatic buying consists of 200 websites, manages 6 billion bid requests each month and reaches 30 million unique visitors. By contrast, Facebook reaches about 7.5 million Belgians, according to a report by Statista.
While the alliance is still new, early indicators point to success. Still, it has ambitious goals and plans to grow from its three founding members. “We want to enlist every publisher in Belgium. That’s our goal, and I think it’s in the cards,” Jadoul said. Most importantly, there’s interest from advertisers. “All the big agencies are signing up. The DaviD alliance is getting a lot of support from the local offices of all the big international agencies already,” said Jadoul. “That’s an excellent sign.”