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SPO: media-buying made clearer and cleaner

Axel Jonuschies of WPP’s GroupM explains how supply path optimisation (SPO) is bringing clarity, sustainability and efficiency to media-buying

Programmatic advertising is an $88bn global market, according to a recent ANA study. The study also found that “information asymmetry is a serious issue for advertisers”, and that “sustainability efforts can be enhanced with productive programmatic media buying”.

GroupM’s Jonuschies says that client requests, campaign objectives and the demands of the day-to-day obscure the bigger picture for media-buying. But when you step back – as GroupM has done – and survey the landscape for media-buying, both now and into the future, SPO from GroupM is compelling. 

So, what is the problem SPO seeks to solve? While demand side platforms (DSPs) on the media-buying side, and supply side platforms (SSPs) on the publisher side, make perfect sense – in today’s highly automated environment. But when DSPs work with multiple SSPs, and these SSPs, in turn, work with multiple publishers, the upshot, says Jonuschies, is complexity. In fact, too much complexity.

“Programmatic media buying is very fragmented. There is a lot of technology in play and the situation has become very complicated,” he says. And all this has snowballed in the last five or six years. “That's why we started the SPO project and created our very own global framework in 2020. We wanted to come up with a transparent workflow that provides our agencies with more visibility and control, and our clients with transparency and added value.” 

The GroupM strategy to achieve transparency 

“First of all, we cut down the longtail. Instead of working with, say, 100 different SSPs, we decided to work only with a handful of SSPs in a single market,” says Jonuschies. 

“We started by reviewing global and local SSP partners, then worked out a Code of Conduct to ensure SSPs provide us with greater transparency on their ways of working, i.e. brand safety, fees, roadmaps and so on. Finally, we put commercial partnerships in place with a shortlist of global SSPs to ensure our clients benefit from these arrangements.” 

He continues: “Focusing on a reduced number of SSPs not only drastically simplifies the process of buying media programmatically, but it also reduces the duplication of ad opportunities – which limits the use of servers’ capacity. This practice, as stated by both the IAB Tech Lab’s and WFA GARM’s respective Playbook and Action Guide on sustainability, helps reduce carbon emissions. And this directly contributes to WPP's goal of operating a net zero supply chain by 2030." 

For clients, it also enables accountability and visibility around the movement of funds, which is a huge win. “If you have a cleaner setup, you obviously gain the control in this process needed to ensure the money lands where it should,” he says.  

“All this work has paved the way to the development of our marketplace. GroupM Premium Marketplace (GPM) is a single access point to premium video inventory (online video and CTV), that is transparent, direct and efficient. It is the best route to supply to date, and it is exclusive to our clients.” 

The bigger picture  

According to GroupM’s This Year Next Year global mid-year forecast for 2023: “We are at an inflection point where the secular drivers of advertising growth above and beyond GDP growth are maturing, the pandemic upheaval is receding, and the dynamic rise of digital advertising has slowed. This is the basis of our underlying forecast of mid-single-digit advertising growth over the next five years.” 

And the report’s findings are caveated with a comment about AI: “However, the pervasive impact of AI on the world of advertising could change that. Advertisers in this environment will be well-served by having proactive guidelines and the right partners to navigate these waters so that choices in budget allocation and the use of AI are made intentionally with the long-term health of the business in mind.” 

Change is not being driven by AI alone. TV is changing too. “A significant part of our overall investment at GroupM globally sits in the traditional TV market,” says Jonuschies. “We are seeing a transformation in the TV landscape, driven by consumers. All of us are watching less linear TV. We are increasingly watching connected TV and apps. But TV is not going anywhere. It's just changing. It is digitalising.” Nevertheless, clients’ budgets must still be controlled. That is why GroupM has launched GPM.  

Jonuschies explains that clients benefit from two layers of saving: the first is from the tech cost perspective within the supply chain; and the second is from the actual cost of purchasing media. This means clients can buy more impressions, make their budgets work harder – while increasing their reach – and do so more sustainably.  

Regardless of the driver, there is change 

Whether the driver is cost, efficiency, sustainability or consumer behaviour, programmatic media-buying is changing and GroupM is responding. There is both $88bn at stake and client expectations to meet. 

But importantly, media-buying must also be about doing the right thing. Visibility of funds (throughout the programmatic process) and a thorough understanding of value (throughout the programmatic process) is how the ‘asymmetry’ pointed out by the ANA will be corrected.  

Axel Jonuschies


published on

11 July 2023


Communications Experience

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