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Should agencies be doing more to back publishers' joint ad platform Ozone Project?

Now one-year old, the Ozone Project, a joint venture to sell digital display-ad inventory, is giving corporate advertisers access to a monthly audience of 42.5m.

For the four media publishing groups involved, the platform could help them to monetise their offerings. But are advertising agencies doing enough to back the initiative?

A collaboration involving News UK, Guardian News and Media, Telegraph Media Group, and Reach, the Ozone Project is attempting to compete with the powerful duopoly of Google and Facebook for a bigger slice of corporate advertising budgets.

In an industry where national newspaper circulations have fallen from 11.5m daily copies in 2008 to 5.8m in 2018, and the way people choose to consume news media has transformed, publishers realise that collaboration is one way to match the scale and reach of the social media giants.

The collaboration brings a number of key benefits for corporate brand advertisers. In addition to an impressive reach, the merged resource offers a brand-safe environment and access to key (GDPR friendly) data about readers – their preferences and habits.

Using this information, brands have an opportunity to build a custom audience and maximise the relevance of their ad spend by targeting their messages at the right people, at the right time.

While there has been some positive feedback from corporate brand owners, ad agencies have been more ambivalent about the Ozone Project – but is that really surprising? The initiative is re-defining the relationships that exist in the media advertising world.

Whereas once a corporate brand owner would have placed their entire annual budget (and their trust) with an agency and rely on them to come up with a strategy that was both impactful and effective, they now have an opportunity to strike up a direct relationship with publishers and leverage their status as media buyers to the full.

Rather than waiting for this new way of working to catch on, corporate brand owners, and the agencies that act for them, need to take a long-term approach by supporting quality journalism and placing their brand alongside it. This approach could enhance the appeal of their brand.

From the publishers’ perspective, it is obvious that cutting out the ad agencies could help to shorten the supply chain and drive more value in their direction. For some time, publishers have been aware that they only see a small proportion of every pound spent on corporate advertising. With circulation figures and ad revenues falling, the time has come to do something about it.

Despite its promising proposition, the Ozone Project is only part of the solution for publishers seeking to monetise their content. Each will need to develop a holistic digital monetisation strategy, involving the use of paywalls, free content, loyalty programmes, affiliates and/or subscription models.

Supposing the Ozone Project continues to gain momentum, corporate brand owners and their agencies will be forced to take it seriously – investing in connecting data and strengthening their association with quality content.

Simon Woodcock (pictured) is a media and entertainment sector specialist at management consultancy, Vendigital.

Picture: Vendigital

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