Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why curation is key to unlocking programmatic’s potential: Q&A with Rob Bootle of Multilocal

Robin Bootle is Multilocal’s COO and an expert in transforming publisher businesses to increase profitability and efficiency. During a two-decade career in programmatic, publisher-side sales, Bootle has led global and regional teams for Xandr, AppNexus and Microsoft; driving programmatic monetisation wherever he goes. He brings that international pedigree to multilocal, reflecting our belief that, to deliver audiences at scale, advertising should always be local, wherever in the world it is being seen.

New Digital Age recently spoke to Bootle to find out more…

Hi Robin, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved in the ad tech industry and multilocal?

My first real job was with Media Brokers as an ad ops executive, a job that allowed me to leverage my maths degree fully. There I was responsible for getting campaigns up and running, trafficking creative and stuff like that. Within a couple of days I managed to automate my role in [Excel programming language] VBA, and was soon asked to help launch Media Brokers’ retargeting platform (this was before retargeting was even a thing).

When Media Brokers was acquired by Microsoft I became a product manager and analyst, and helped launch the company’s first ad exchange in Europe. This ultimately led to me  managing a special project to increase Microsoft’s profitability through programmatic. Through various acquisitions I moved within the group to Xandr as a senior director and, after six years and looking for a new challenge, I joined my old friend James Leaver at multilocal. We set out to try and help publishers monetise their supply, a mission which quickly evolved into what we now call curation. 

Congratulations on your recent ’40overforty’ nomination – is this the first time you’ve received an industry award nomination? 

Yes, it’s my first industry-level award nomination and I’m delighted to have received it. I previously won a significant award at Microsoft, where I was named in their top 100 employees of the year, but it’s really exciting to receive this nomination and frankly – looking at the incredible competition – I have no expectation of winning!

You referenced Multilocal’s move into the curation space… how do you define curation?

Curation means different things to different people, and I think the industry at large is still trying to get to grips with it. Curation, taken at face value, is the ability to pull together the right audiences and executions for buyers and that’s true to some extent for us. But we don’t want it to stop there. What we’re building can help people on the DSP, on the SSP, or on Curation platforms, do everything related to media planning and execution in a smarter, easier way and ultimately unlock the potential of programmatic.

Curation is enabling us to simplify digital marketing at a time when the programmatic supply chain has become both opaque and complex. We consider everything necessary to execute a campaign, and make the delivery of that campaign as simple as possible. We advise our clients which websites and audiences they should buy, let them know what it’s going to cost, presenting all information with clarity and transparency.

I think the marketplace analogy is a good one. If you go to a busy market, there’s likely thousands of vendors all trying to sell you similar things, some are better than others, some are more suited to your needs, but without a guide advising you it’s chaotic and hard to know what to buy. 

For programmatic, we are that guide.  We will help you ascertain what’s worth buying, from where and for the right price…and what to avoid.

Multilocal has a growing roster of impressive clients, including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and General Motors. What is attracting these brands to curation?

We like to think we’re unlocking programmatic’s original potential. Programmatic was born to simplify, scale up and speed up the digital advertising buying process. Advertisers expected to plug their campaign into a DSP, find the audience they want, press play on the campaign and for their budget to magically deliver and their KPIs to be beaten. That’s not the reality, unfortunately: finding an audience in most DSPs is a minefield. You don’t know what you’re actually buying, how big the audience is, how much it’s going to cost and where you’ll find the audience.

We’re using Curation as an opportunity to simplify the process and bring transparency and clarity back to programmatic, that’s why brands have been turning to multilocal. We make sure buyers can easily find the right audience on high quality placements, and that their campaign will deliver and beat its KPIs. 

And looking to the future, what’s next?

That’s a very interesting question. Curation offers benefits to most players in the programmatic space: if you’re a data provider, you can sell your data across media directly. If you’re an agency, you can improve your planning and supply path. If you’re an advertiser, you can do your own media planning and so on. While Curation enables these things, actually making them happen is very hard. Multilocal is building tools designed to help these different players maximise their potential. Curation has enabled us to think about the bigger programmatic picture, and to consider different ways in which the buying process can be simplified for everybody, but it’s only the beginning.