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District m: the creative programmatic player

The company has introduced new and revamped products to drive deeper consumer engagement and performance for its clients.
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“Over the last two years, we’ve really worked to bring creativity to the programmatic landscape.” – Benoit Skinazi, district m’s senior vice president, sales

Media agencies are at the heart of programmatic advertising’s ongoing evolution. They not only face client challenges, but those of publishers as well. It’s double the pressure, but double the opportunity to learn and innovate.

The Montreal-born media company district m has been learning well over the last five years, expanding its programmatic expertise to take on the big issues facing brands in this changing landscape. Its success can be seen in the development of new formats and an expansion of its client base in new markets.

Given the ongoing brand safety and fraud risks that programmatic advertising faces, district m SVP of sales Benoit Skinazi says agencies have had to up their game to remain relevant to clients who are investing in their own in-house programmatic teams.

Gone are the days when advertisers would fire a campaign into the automated ether, oblivious to the many companies that would play a role in getting that work in front of consumers’ eyes. Advertisers want transparency at every level of the programmatic chain, and are investing in measurement tools to drive that.

“Clients are more educated about programmatic capabilities — the platforms and the players,” Skinazi says. “For us, that’s great. We think it’s only the beginning of that. Advertisers and agencies are taking more and more control.”

Skinazi says district m leverages strong relationships with its clients and publishing partners alike, which has built its reputation as a centre of expertise for partners up and down the chain. For example, district m’s clients aren’t hoarding all the information those new reporting tools provide. “They trust us, they’re sharing their findings and reports with us,” he says, allowing the team to benefit from those insights.

The company is also investing in research that keeps tabs on technological innovation. Blockchain, for example, has become a technology of great interest among trading desks and online advertisers. It tracks and verifies transactions, recording who makes every change and spends every dollar for stakeholders to vet. The industry hasn’t quite figured out how to best use it yet (it’s mainly a tool for cryptocurrency tracking). But district m has staff dedicated to researching how it could track spending across automated campaigns. Not only could it help make them more efficient in their delivery, it could hunt out fraudulent players in the programmatic chain.

“We’re working on developing new technologies and tracking industry trends, and Blockchain, AI and machine learning will play vital roles in these developments we’re working on,” Skinazi says.

Overall, district m aims to develop tech that empowers its clients, giving them the tools to handle as much or as little of the process as they want. Rather than positioning itself as an expert on just one side of the full-service/self-service market, the company focuses its expertise in a different arena altogether.

“Over the last two years, we’ve really worked to bring creativity to the programmatic landscape,” Skinazi says. Better ads means a better user experience, so the company is focused on putting stronger creative into the market on its clients behalf. “The main objective is to provide advertisers with maximized engagement. This helps campaign performance.”

The company’s new touch mobile web ad format is a prime example of district m’s intentions. Designed to incorporate three creative components – a sticky banner, animated images and rich content – touch is meant to engage no matter where it pops up on the mobile web.

DistrictM - Touch ad

district m’s new touch format is a triple threat of mobile creativity

Canadian millennial media company Narcity Media incorporated touch into its properties. This, coupled with the company’s header integration solution, drove a 20% increase in revenues for Narcity, with CPMs reaching between $3 and $5.

The company also recently overhauled its mypixel self-serve platform, rebranding it as go and expanding its capabilities. It’s intended to serve small- and medium-sized businesses (but is not limited to those clients), which district m sees as a growing market now that programmatic tools are no longer the domain of large-scale companies.

Initially, go was designed just for ad buying and retargeting. With the addition of search and display advertising capabilities, however, it’s now a prospecting tool as well. Skinazi says the revamped platform is designed to help SMBs use programmatic advertising at scale quickly.

“It’s a creative play for advertisers so they can add more creative to an existing campaign at no cost,” he says. “It brings creativity to everybody.”

district m’s team grows “almost daily,” Skinazi says, as it continues to invest in tech innovation and stronger partnerships across the industry. As clients demand more, he wants the teams across the company’s four offices to be ready to meet any challenge. Whether it’s GDPR compliance, stronger creative or using new tools to get smaller businesses up to speed, district m sees creativity as its strongest advantage.

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