Programmatic Advertising with Dhaval Kotecha
January 20, 2021 – By Simon Erickson
An estimated 6 million American families are expected to cut the cord of their cable TV subscription this past year. When combined with previous years, it’s now believed that more than 31 million households have permanently said “so long” to cable. And an additional 15 million more families will join those ranks by 2024.
That is a massive trend, though all of those people aren’t just completely giving up on television. Instead, they’re shifting their viewing habits to watching internet-connected TV options such as ROKU, YouTube, or Hulu.
These new “over the top” options allow viewers to subscribe to and watch individual channels, and this transition is extremely important to the advertising industry. Rather than selling ads to the cable providers through zoned or geographic regions, they’re able to place advertisements that target individual viewers within specific channels and even in specific shows.
Making that level of precision possible is a very large and interconnected ecosystem. Publishers who are providing the content being watched and advertisers are paying to place ads in front of the people watching that content. But in between, there’s a complex network of AdTech platforms and analytics aggregators. They’re collecting data on who’s watching what shows, and where the greatest Return on Investment lies for the sponsors.
So how should investors play this innovative, yet incredibly complicated, shift in advertising?
In this exclusive interview, 7investing founder Simon Erickson chats with individual investor Dhaval Kotecha about the changes underway in programmatic advertising. Dhaval is an expert in this space and has personally built several real-time bidding platforms. He presents a (rather incredible) presentation giving an overview of what’s taking place in the market. The two then discuss what’s driving the industry, who are the most important players, and why investors should expect future consolidation.
Publicly-traded companies mentioned in this interview include Disney, LiveRamp, Magnite, Netflix, Roku, and The Trade Desk. 7investing’s advisors or its guests may have positions in the companies mentioned.
Additionally, Dhaval will be co-hosting a FinTwit Summit upcoming in early March. Several of Twitter’s most popular investors — including many of 7investing’s podcast guests — will come together in an epic two-day investing extravaganza. If you are interested in learning more about the FinTwit Summit, please click here.
00:00 – Overview and Introduction to Dhaval
1:26 – Slideshow presentation: Professor Dhaval’s presentation on programmatic advertising and industry trends
23:20 – Discussion about data privacy and Unified ID 2.0
24:43 – Connected TV’s addressable market opportunity
28:42 – Discussion about AdTech players (DSPs and SSPs)
31:12 – Dhaval shares his thoughts about Netflix and Disney
33:01 – Description of FinTwit Summit
35:26 – 5 words of wisdom for individual investors
Simon Erickson 0:00
Hello everyone and welcome to this edition of our 7investing podcast. I’m 7investing founder and CEO, Simon Erickson. I’m very excited for today’s show because we’re going to be talking about programmatic advertising. We’ve seen the world kind of unbundle the cable TV subscriptions we’ve gotten used to and start going over the top. That’s going to have some big changes for the digital advertising industry. And so I welcome a very special guest, somebody who’s an individual investor that covers this programmatic advertising space. And that’s Dhaval Kotecha. Dhaval’s a good friend of mine, really always looking forward to hearing your perspective on this market. Thanks for being a part of our 7investing podcast today.
Dhaval Kotecha 0:42
I’m pleased to be here.
Simon Erickson 0:44
Dhaval, now we’re gonna do things a little different than our normal podcast, because you actually prepared some wonderful slides for our presentation that I’d like you to get a chance to go through those first, and then we’ll follow up with a more detailed conversation. But if we could start this off with Professor Kotecha walking us through an overview of some of the things going on in the industry. I think that’ll spot us up pretty nicely for a conversation afterwards.
Dhaval Kotecha 1:07
Absolutely. I will share my screen and we can get going with the presentation.
Simon Erickson 1:15
Perfect. I will hand the floor to you, my friend.
Dhaval Kotecha 1:21
Alright. Awesome. Are you able to see my screen?
Simon Erickson 1:24
Dhaval Kotecha 1:25
Excellent. So I will be talking about the overview of the pay TV and the transition to OTT as the linear TV, the ads were sold as upfront. So what upfronts meant was the advertisers would approach the TV channels, and they will sign a contract saying, “okay, these are the ads that we are going to be buying from you for these particular ad slots.” Now, these ad slots were bought based on what shows are playing on that particular channel, and when those shows are kind of broadcasted – based on that they are trying to guess what would be the user demographic that are viewing that show, and accordingly, they are planning to buy those ad spots. Now the problem with the ad upfronts was that there was no measurement of who is seeing your ads. I cannot tell if the ads are performing well, or ads are not performing well, because I don’t have any sort of data with my upfronts. Now the world moved from upfronts to programmatic because of the pandemic, when what happened basically was during the pandemic, there was no original content coming in the linear TV, the live sports, those kind of stuff. So now what happened was people were paying for their cables, and now they wanted to cut the cost. So what they did was they looked for options where they got free content. Now, what happened was when the subscribers were cutting the cords, and they were moving to seeing the free content, the marketers also were seeing that shift happen. And what that meant was they also started moving to where the subscribers were moving to, and they were moving to programmatic. And now with programmatic, what’s happening is they have so much more data about what user is watching your show. And what they could do is they could kind of target you specifically, target the subscriber specifically, and show them that ad, which is much more relevant than what upfront would be able to show, right? So this is what happens when the upfronts is the traditional TV buying here. The targeting is is very limited because you are not sure who is watching your ads. But with the programmatic connected TV buying, you could target the households in real time. You could absolutely tell who is watching your content here. And you can target them and that’s where the connected TV buying if you see more CPMs compared to the lower CPMs on the upfronts.
This is a graph from eMarketer where we are seeing the USB TV versus non PTV households and the PTV households are declining rapidly over the few years. Starting from 2019 to 2020, it went from 84 million to 77 million households. Which is a dramatic shift in in the number of households which are consuming the TV, and also the non pay TV households, they are increasing. So what the pay TV households are your cable TV households, whereas the non pay TV households would be your Roku and anything that you are using the streaming services for. On the right hand side, I have one more stat where the spending, the total global ad spending, which is reported by Trade Desk, total is $725 billion. Out of that $725 billion $230 billion are still spent on the linear television. Now, if this linear television people are cutting the cord, and now the marketers are not spending it on the linear television, now we know where that $230 billion would be assigned to. And the answer is connected TV. We are seeing this pan out when we are seeing the connected TV ad spending grew up year over year. In 2019. It’s $6.38 billion 2020. It’s 8.11 projected at 18.29 for 2024. Which is huge. And if you look at one stat which was from Magna Global, the OTT accounts for 29% of TV viewing, but so far only has captured 3% of TV ad budgets. Now there’s a big gap between this, just because if you see the ad budgets or not moot, still aware the viewers are moving. So there’s a huge opportunity of the TV ad budgets moving to the companies and the companies which are going to be a beneficiary here are the DSPs and SSP’s of the industry in the ecosystem, right? So there’s an enormous potential here in the ad tech space as it stands here. This is a recent survey conducted by The Trade Desk along with YouGov, and this is December 2020. So this is a very recent survey. And if you look at the key findings, we are seeing the same findings here which we saw starting Q2 and Q3 of 2020, which is cost is driving the cord cutting. People don’t want to pay for the cable subscription. They prefer the ads that the a word basically, which is ad based video on demand. Consumers look to CTV for sports. They conducted the survey where 39% of sports viewers are now watching sports primarily on ad supported streaming platforms or social media platforms. And the TV buyers on the other side, they are also rethinking the offerings because without friends you get very little flexibility, and you don’t have that level of precision as well without perks. On on the other side, we are also seeing that the marketers are boosting the connected TV skills. marketers are favoring CTV because it’s more effective than the linear TV. So those are the key findings and it is all going in the direction where CTV is benefiting here. We are going to see this trend continue in the next few years. Roku also if you saw they posted some preliminary results, like early preliminary results for the Q4. This was the first time they hit the 50 million active accounts as of December 31, 2020 which is 285% growth from December 31 of 2016. And in Q4 itself, they grew like 5.2 million accounts. And if you look at year over year, the active accounts it it was a 45% increase in year over year.
And if you look at hours stream, which is 58.7 billion hours, that’s 55% year over year, hour streamed in just Q4 is also 54, 55% year over year. This is tremendous growth in the connected TV space. I also wanted to share what’s taking place behind the scenes. And I had posted a few of these slides on Twitter, but I still wanted to go over how the real time bidding works in in the background, and also wanted to talk about a few players in the ecosystem. So on the left hand side, it begins with the publisher. In the middle you have SSP. And on the right hand side you have the DSP and the advertisers. So basically, what happens is a user opens a publisher website on their device. They are integrated with SSP, and SSP is the one who is responsible to conduct an auction. Here SSP is a company like Magnite or Pubmatic, which are also integrated with the DSPs. Now on the DSP side, we have the Trade Desk, MediaMath, adform, which are responsible to be having those campaigns running on behalf of the agencies and advertisers, right? So in this scenario, if the user opens a web site on the device, the request gets sent in real time to SSP asking them to fill that ad spot. The SSP is responsible to send those requests to the DSPs, which it has integrated with. And the DSPs will look at what information is coming in the bid request, and based on that, they have those campaigns running on behalf of advertiser, then determine what bid price they should be on, if they even want to bid on. And once they bid on that particular request, that response is sent to the SSP again, from all of them if they choose to bid, and SSP is responsible to conduct an auction and determine which was the highest bid price and send that ad to the publishers device. Now all of this happens in less than 100 milliseconds, which is is very fast, because the ad is loaded almost at the same time where the content is being shown on the device, right? So this helps to monetize the publisher, because publisher is the one which is generating that content. And they want to monetize themselves. On the other side, the advertisers are also happy because now the advertisers can reach to the people who are on the publishers device. They are wanting to view that content. And they deem the end user as relevant for their brand, right? So that’s a win win for everybody in this ecosystem. And it’s not something where the advertiser is not knowing who they are sending their ads to. So this is how the real time bidding works. Now, I also wanted to touch upon the Trade Desk unified ID solution because this is important thing that has come up in the recent past. But I wanted to give a brief history of why the Trade Desk unified ID solution is needed.
Simon Erickson 22:10
Dhaval, that was that was fascinating. Thank you for such a thorough presentation – walking us through what’s going on. Now you and I are both engineers. So we’re going to love getting into the details of the hashes and the IDs and all of the the the nitty gritty. Just to kind of lay the land of this in layman’s terms, we’ve kind of at the far end got the publishers, right, so 7investing is creating content. People are coming to our website, we’re publishing that out there. That’s kind of at the far end of the spectrum. And then the middle, you said DSP’s and SSP’s a lot, right, there were 7investing was to want to use an ad tech platform, a supply side platform and SSP to manage a lot of the inventory we have on our site. So we might want to start showing some advertisements. We’re not by the way, this is purely hypothetical. But if we were wanting to, we might work with one of those companies like Magnite to start actually programmatically placing those advertisements. Of course, there’s another side of that too, a demand side platform, a DSP, like you said, That’s then working with the advertisers themselves and the ads that they’re wanting to place. It’s all kind of in the middle taking place programmatically. My big first question for you is it seems like that entire ecosystem is in flux. You talked about unified ID too and Trade Desk, and companies like Magnite are pushing for an open source, less invasive system to start placing those ads. Are you seeing that the publishers are also on board with these changes? And these moves away from cookies to a new solution like that?
Dhaval Kotecha 23:50
Yes. I think that publishers have no other option, but to embrace this new technology, because if publishers will not start embracing this sort of unified ID, then what will happen is third party cookies will go away. So publishers will not be able to monetize their content in the best possible way. Right. So now the CPM’s will drop for that publisher because now advertisers don’t have the information on the publisher. Right? So the most important part in this puzzle is the publisher being able to embrace this unified ID and it starts with them because they are the ones where the end users are going to for getting the content.
Simon Erickson 24:42
We’ve been seeing this and kind of framing programmatic so much in terms of internet websites, right? Then everybody went after mobile at the same time too when we did header bidding and all the other innovative things taking place in this space. But you mentioned something very interesting. That television is perhaps the next horizon for this marke. What was the stat that you said? There’s $230 billion in linear TV spend, but only $8 billion of that’s taking place on connected TV or programmatic TV? So 30x increase? I mean, are we seeing the same transition in television that we’ve seen in the internet and desktop and mobile?
Dhaval Kotecha 25:21
Yes, absolutely. This has been a shift that got accelerated, just because of the pandemic. And Anthony Wood, the CEO of Roku, he mentioned this as the decade of streaming, right? So people are moving towards the content, which is ad supported. Based on the service again, right, what we saw was people don’t want to spend more than $20 for any sort of streaming services. So what they are trying to do is, they are trying to add a free ad supported platform along with the streaming services, right. So basically, if you say I want to own – like I have a streaming service, say Netflix, then I’m paying a certain amount for Netflix. If I want Disney, then I’m paying something for Disney. You can keep piling up that cost and that cost will be exorbitant at one point. So what people are trying to do is they are trying to keep those services like some of them, but then also trying to also go to channels like Roku channel, where they are getting free content, but they will have to just see those ads, right. So that’s where the world is moving. According to Roku, all this content, which we are seeing we are paying for they will be ad supported at one point in time.
Simon Erickson 26:57
And do you have opinions on what type of content is going to drive advertising in this new, over the top world? I’m going to set the stage for that. Bundled cable was so heavily subsidized by live sports, right? ESPN in particular commanded a disproportionate size of cable bills, just because everyone was tuning in and buying the bundle, just because they wanted to watch live sports. That’s not the case anymore. We see you know, companies like fubo that are giving people over the top options or the skinny bundles that you now have some live sports. I’ve even watched football games on Twitter this year for free. Do you think that live sports is still the premium content that people are going to watch? Or if not, what content is going to be driving the advertising prices in this new over the top world?
Dhaval Kotecha 27:49
Yeah, so I definitely think live sports is going to drive advertising on the connected TV, because that’s the shift that we saw and everything stopped amidst the pandemic, right? So original content, right. So that stop, and that mood, people from the linear TV, they cut the cable and they they moved to the connected TV. Because of all those reasons. Now, we are not expecting them to go back to switching to linear TV again, getting the cable subscriptions again. So people who have moved already will stick to the connected TV for the sports and original content. So coming to your point, I do think that sports is going to be a big driver there.
Simon Erickson 28:42
Sure. And kind of in the middle section, right between the publishers we talked about in the advertisers. Let’s talk about the DSP’s and SSP’s, the the ad players, the ad tech platforms, you’ve done a lot of work in this, including your personal work, Dhaval. Which which of these players do you think stands out? We’ve talked a lot about the Trade Desk as a DSP. We’ve talked about Magnite as an SSP, but you also mentioned pubmatic. And you know, I know live ramp is in there. There’s several other players. I mean, how do you see the relationships between those? Is there consolidation that happens in this place in this space? And who do you think are the front runners in terms of the platforms?
Dhaval Kotecha 29:23
So in ad tech, everything works based on relationships, and if they have good relationships, that’s where they are, they are going to do well and I see on the DSP side. Trade Desk is the number one player, and I continue seeing them as a leader in that space. On the SSP side, I I see Magnite as the top dog on the SSP site. And again, they have relationships with publishers and also relationships with the DSPs. So again, on the exclusivity of the content Well, Rubicon and Talariain the motion, they became Magnite with Talaria. They had exclusive relationships with Hulu, Disney. So basically, when they have those sorts of exclusive relationships, that is very important in the ad tech space. I do think those are the two companies that are really poised for success in the coming future, when we are seeing such over the top connected TV trends panning out, and also a Roku, right. So Roku is a is a very special player in this space, because now they own the content as well with the Roku channel, and they have a lot of other streaming platforms that people can play on their platform too. And also, they have something called OneView, which is the dataxu acquisition, which they made a couple of years back. So they are also in a strong commanding position in this space, specifically for connected TV.
Simon Erickson 31:13
And I’m curious, do you have any thoughts about Netflix? This is kind of tangential to this conversation because Netflix wants to charge you a subscription and build all of its own content and not have any advertising. But do you think Netflix continues to be as dominant as it’s been for the last 10 years? Or is this kind of a shift away from what Netflix has been trying to build.
Dhaval Kotecha 31:34
So Netflix is a is a different kind of a story where they are charging people for subscriptions. But again I saw Jeff Dean, CEO of Trade Desk, he talks about he envisions Netflix to be a turning to a board model from a sport model in the near future because he thinks that it’s not sustainable for Netflix to operate based just on the subscription, because now, majority of the people have a subscription to Netflix. So where would the next growth come from? International is one avenue, but still there are limitations on on that front too. And the best way for them to move forward would be to provide a model where they could have a kind of a model where they could have ads, along with their subscription service and do some sort of a hybrid model instead of just relying on the subscription services.
Simon Erickson 32:42
Yeah, it’s very interesting and even comparing Netflix to a company like Disney, who is of course, all in on content at Disney+ is blowing it out of the water right now. Completely knocking it out of the park in subscribers. But then also, you know, they tried out their Hulu experiment. They’ve been very willing to work with advertisers and building out the front end of the service too. Dhaval, we will change gears in just a second here because I’d like to hear some advice that you have for individual investors, which is who our audience is for our 7investing podcast. But before we get to that, could you tell us a little bit about the FinTwit summit that you are working on right now, and what what that is, and why we might be interested in this>
Dhaval Kotecha 33:21
So we came up with this idea of FinTwit summit where we wanted to share knowledge, and we have a lot of people on FinTwit that people follow on a day to day basis. They share tremendous content. One of them is you, and we have around 13 speakers confirmed at this point. Two of them are still tentative, but a 15 speaker lineup spanning over a day and a half to two days. People are just going to learn a lot from from the summit. So we are just trying to share as much information as possible from the amazing speakers that we have got, and grow together. So it’s it’s going to be a great thing. It’s going to be huge. We almost have around 1700 people showing their interest in in the FinTwit summit. So FinTwit summit is going to be around the second week or third week of March. That’s what we are aiming for at this point. We are working with the platform partners. We are working with everybody to make this happen. So stay tuned for that. We are pretty excited for our FinTwit summit.
Simon Erickson 34:47
I’m very excited about it too. You know our mission with our company is to empower individual investors and you put together quite a lineup of some incredible investors that we’re going to all be able to learn from minutes in a single day. All this is going to be a single day or is it going to be a little longer?
Dhaval Kotecha 35:03
So we were initially thinking of a single day but with 15 speakers, if we will are talking about for an hour, then we will want to go a day and a half to two days.
Simon Erickson 35:18
So that’s the plan. Yeah, really looking forward to that. We’ll put a link for people that are interested in the FinTwit summit into this podcast description. Let’s close out with with some of your advice as well. Dhaval, you know, I’ve always looked to you. We chatted actually, earlier this year, when we interviewed you about investing in India, you came with a incredible, thorough presentation for that as well. You’ve got another one here talking about programmatic advertising, but let’s kind of look maybe at the 10,000 foot level, just as an investor, I really liked one of the tweets that you had earlier this month, which you retweeted from someone else. But it said if you get 1%, better every single day of the year, look at the compounding of where you’ll be after 365 days. And I love that. And then I just wanted to kind of close out with you maybe providing a couple tips that you have for individual investors who want to do a better job and their returns in the stock market.
Dhaval Kotecha 36:11
Right. So I would say I’m not capable of providing advice to anyone. But what I would say is, this is the advice that I give to myself every single day, right? So I have five things, which I told to myself. One thing is keep it simple, because when it comes to investing, I have tried a lot of different tips and tricks. Ultimately, I have come to a realization that if I keep it simple, I dollar cost average into my investments and put every single paycheck into the stock market every single month or bi weekly, then I will see much better results than just trying to speculate, or just trying to go and jump from one stock to the other. So keeping it simple is the first thing that I tell to myself. The second thing is less is more when it comes to investing. So I was a type of investor where I tried to look at the stock prices every single day, multiple times a day. And I still try to and I still do it like multiple times a day still, but I don’t try to kind of make decisions based on what’s happening in the market on a day to day basis. Just trying to focus on work more and then looking at the stock market less. So less is more when it comes to investing. The third thing is know what game you are playing. So if you are looking at someone who is making 100% returns, you don’t know what game they are playing, you just need to look at your game and try to play it your way. So if you look at the media, CNBC, they are playing a different game to you if you are just trying to invest for long term. So they if you are listening to a trader, and then you are an investor, then you are not understanding what game you are playing. You’re taking cues from someone else. The fourth thing that I tell myself is risk is something that is not knowing what you are owning, right? So if I don’t know what I am owning, and just trying to just trying to take cues from someone else who is telling me “okay, this is the best stock here” and I don’t understand it, then that’s not going to work. And that’s where like people like you, 7investing, provide a stellar research in getting that risk level down. Because if people are not understanding the business, and they’re wanting to own that stock, they don’t know what they are doing. So once the stock goes down, then they don’t know if they want to add more, or they want to sell right. And the fifth thing, the most important thing, this is what I learned from Steve Jobs is stay hungry, stay foolish, right? So be curious and try to learn every single day and you will be better if you try to learn on a daily basis. So those are the few advice that I have it written in front of me and I try to follow them on a daily basis.
Simon Erickson 39:37
Those are fantastic words of wisdom Dhaval. Love those. Keep it simple, less is more, know what game you’re playing, risk is not knowing what you’re getting into, and then stay hungry. I really liked three and four together. I think that is the perfect description of you know, you see so many people out there that are trying to – it’s almost FOMO, right? Fear of missing out? People are posting “oh, I’m up 300% this year”, and everyone just says, “oh, well, let me just buy immediately whatever stocks they’re buying”, without really knowing what they’re getting into. And maybe that doesn’t match their risk tolerance. You definitely want to know the companies that you’re investing in. Certainly chatting with you on this podcast has opened my eyes and hopefully our audience’s eyes to what’s going on in advertising, and programmatic and the internet and then we chatted with you about India. So we’ll have another topic I’m sure in a few months to discuss as well, but I really appreciate your perspective as always here with our 7investing podcast.
Dhaval Kotecha 40:33
Absolutely. It was a pleasure.
Simon Erickson 40:36
And once again Dhaval Kotecha, our guest today. You can follow him on Twitter, and also follow his FinTwit summit that’s coming up here in a few months. Really appreciate his perspectives on our podcast today. And once again, we’re here to empower you to invest in your future. We are 7investing.
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