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The State of Programmatic Advertising in Japan

Jason Fairchild
Jason Fairchild, Co-founder, OpenX

Digital in Asia asked Jason Fairchild, Co-Founder of OpenX, one of the largest global sell-side platforms, to tell us about the state of programmatic advertising in Japan.

Digital in Asia: How is the Japanese market approaching programmatic advertising? Is Japan ahead, behind, or just different compared to other global programmatic markets?

Jason Fairchild: Programmatic is taking off in Japan, however, the market is still in its nascent stages, and spend is lower than other markets, such as the US and China. Despite this, more marketers than ever are using the technology to boost reach, relevance and impact, and a recent study from PwC predicts that the increasing demand for programmatic technology is set to push Japan’s media market to US$170 billion by 2020.

It’s not surprising that programmatic is growing as the technology streamlines the buying and selling of online ad space, allowing publishers to efficiently monetize their online content and brands to execute audience-based buying at scale – that is, putting the right message in front of the right user at the right time at massive scale. With investment in online ads expected to increase by more than US$3 billion, marketers will benefit from leveraging this technology to make their advertising more efficient.

DIA: How is OpenX addressing the issue of quality in digital advertising?

JF: As programmatic grows in Japan, it’s important to ensure the advertising ecosystem remains a clean and safe place in which to do business. In 2018 alone, OpenX is investing US$25 million in different quality-assurance measures, and we’re making sure we comply with industry recognised quality standards and have received independent certification for our efforts.

It’s important to note, however, that there are steps that everybody can take to take to stamp out bad practices and tackle fraud. Technology companies, marketers, publishers and every other part of the supply chain all play a role in solving for the quality issues across the industry.

With the recent emergence of new industry standards and initiatives, marketers are now at a point where they can make informed decisions about their technology partners, based on the partners’ commitment to quality.

One example is the IAB’s ads.txt initiative, which has nearly stamped out the threat of domain spoofing, also known as misrepresented domains, and dramatically increased clarity in the supply chain by public record of who is authorized to sell a publisher’s inventory. Another is third-party certification with Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a cross-industry accountability program to create transparency in the business relationships and transactions in digital advertising. Technology companies who meet the stringent standards for certification outlined by TAG earn a seal of approval, and because these demonstrate good practice among vendors, these standards can help buyers and sellers make better decisions on technology partnerships. But it’s important to note that these quality controls are not automatic – they require proactive choice by buyers.

DIA: Mobile now accounts for half of all digital ad spend in Japan. What does this mean for advertisers?

JF: More Japanese consumers own smartphones than ever before, so it’s not surprising to see users spend more time on mobile devices, which in turn drives a marked shift in content consumption towards mobile. Advertisers and publishers have picked up on this trend and now understand that mobile has become the place where consumers spend a majority of their time, and they must adjust their digital strategies accordingly.

To effectively take advantage of this growing channel, advertisers will need to incorporate a range of mobile-specific ad formats and move aggressively away from the desktop-first mentality that most of them have been using. This includes building creative that considers the smaller screen sizes and leveraging rich location data to add more context to their campaigns. On the other hand, publishers must also think about screen size and the user experience to ensure that users aren’t bombarded with too many ads or ones that impede a users’ ability to see or read the content they want.

DIA: Speaking about mobile, what is the future of in-app advertising in Japan and globally?

JF: Quite simply, in-app advertising is the future of mobile advertising. Japanese adults spend three hours and three minutes every day consuming digital media, and in 2017, mobile accounted for more than half of all time spent on digital, so the opportunity is huge.

Studies reveal that the most lucrative in-app ad opportunity is a new innovation called opt-in video, where the consumer is given something of value in exchange for engaging with a video ad. This type of video advertising has proven to be the most consumer-friendly ad format in mobile, and in fact, consumers like it three times more than a non-skippable pre-roll. Completion, viewability and engagement rates are significantly better with opt-in video than other types of mobile video, and the consumer-friendly nature of the ad format makes it a great option for publishers and app developers trying to monetize their content as well.

DIA: What are OpenX’s plans for the wider Asia Pacific region?

JF: Both our Japan and APAC business are continuing to grow. In fact, early this year we announced record new revenue growth in Japan of 52% year-on-year and have signed more than 40 new clients in 2018 alone. The growth derives from us being the largest independent advertising exchange in the country (second only to Google) at a time when programmatic is gaining traction in Japan.

As a result, last quarter we announced that we will be opening our Singapore hub, and plan to move into Australia by the end of Q1 2019. To complement our expansion, we’re committed to growing our team in the Asia Pacific region. We appointed Satoru Yauchi as the director of partner services in the region, who has already played a key leadership role on the team since joining late 2017 and will continue to support us in delivering on our ambitious plans for growth across the region.