Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The future is bright for curation services but only if value is delivered

By Rhys Denny, Co-Founder & CEO, @curate

Curation is one of those words where no one can really agree what it means and for many it’s nebulous; it’s just packaged media, isn’t it?

We read about publishers keen to begin reclaiming their spot as the preeminent intersection of media spend and consumer engagement; we also read about agencies not wanting to waste impressions on MFA sites and poorly classified media within SSPs; brands are also in the press pushing sustainability narratives and lofty goals of lowering wastage wherever possible – we read a lot about most constituents across the industry wanting to be better at media activations, all of them.

Whilst not every campaign will include curated media packages, more and more will; they will because of the value provided in performance increases, waste reduction in superfluous impressions being bid upon & bought, and premium access beyond the reach of mediation & header-bidding software sold by many.

One core group who are under-represented in curation are publishers – publishers who partner directly with curation vendors are able to enjoy differentiated revenue at price points they set; curation partners are essentially an outsourced sales force pitching for unique budgets based on the value they can add to premium publisher media, in the context of a bundled media buy from an agency.

At @curate we have and are continuing to build, many of these direct relationships as we overlay our AI engine AiRK onto the media which then selects which ad units are better placed for such clients; rather than a standard SSP buy for a campaign which then requires optimising once live to weed out poorer performing ad units – this pre-activation optimisation can save anywhere from 10-35% of media wastage, depending on the size & length of the activation which in turn delivers instant upside for any advertiser & agency.

As many media-buying houses optimise their own available resources to meet the current market, more & more are outsourcing media packaging to companies like ours. They do this as it provides assurity & accountability for delivery whilst also allowing the buyer to define the media they are appearing against without the day-to-day hassle of continually optimising – at @curate we let the AI & machines do the heavy lifting and our Ops people watch the screens not dissimilar to the cascading code of Matrix fame!

To access premium audiences at scale it is imperative to leverage the publisher’s consumer data, and there is no better way to do this than buying publisher-defined audiences – many know these as PMP’s or AG activations – but in doing so it’s also a known that whilst the audience is correct, are the ad units being provided suitably matched to the campaigns creatives, and frequency the ads are being shown to each?

This is where our pre-activation optimisation comes into its own – @curate have the access to these audiences/PMP’s, however, we also overlay our AiRK technology to ensure we aren’t activating the optimal audience with sub-optimal ad units, and subsequent poorly performing campaigns with equally poor overall yield to publishers. 

Pricing is also super relevant in curation right now too – there are curation vendors working to revenue share pricing that is, quite frankly, hoovering margin out of the activation chain and leaving many confused as to where the value is actually being realised, and if the curation vendor is anywhere more than around 10% of the overall value, there will ultimately be a scale & value-delivered challenge for many; we know this to be a truism as our growth is coming directly from these incumbent revenue-share vendors.

We have fixed CPM pricing for standard media packaging and another price for bringing AiRK into the equation – and neither is priced at over $1, ever, and we want this to be normalised for the sake of the industry, and starting the fighting back against the “it’s just an AdTech tax” narrative over-priced revenue-share vendors have created.

The future is incredibly bright for curation services, but only if value delivered is far greater than value extracted.