“We’re completely focused on the creative” Ben Regensburger in conversation with Terence Kawaja
The CEOs of LUMA Partners and Peach talk about the future of creative in the new advertising world
09 November 2023
Peach’s Ben Regensburger sat down with LUMA Partners’ Terence Kawaja in New York, for a wide-ranging conversation covering everything from the history of Peach, its digitisation of TV workflows, Convergent TV, the inefficiencies of digital ad workflows, the huge opportunity of optimising creative, AI and much more.
Watch the whole video:
Terence Kawaja: Hi, I'm Terry Kawaja, Founder and CEO of LUMA Partners, and I'm here with Ben Regensburger, CEO of Peach. And Ben, I thought we could have a conversation about the intersection of television and all things creative.
Ben Regensburger: It sounds like a really good thing, and I'm really happy to be here.
TK: Why don't we start off with a level setter? Not everyone knows Peach and it’s a new name in the last four years. Tell us a little bit about the company. It's history, and how you go to market.
BR: Sure. Peach's been around for 25 years. We started out digitising radio tapes that needed to go to the radio stations. And from there, very quickly, it got into broadcasting. So Peach, for the past 25 years, has been market leader in Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, delivering ad creatives to 40,000 broadcast destinations worldwide. We have since diversified into digital with a very interesting company we recently acquired called Cape, and we’re about to bring that to the U.S. Cape is all about creative automation, and doing that especially for social media as well as CTV.
TK: So 25 years, you've seen a lot of changes that have transpired at that intersection of television and creative as it's manifested across its many channels. What channels do you currently serve, ranging from digital to all forms of TV delivery?
BR: So we do all things Converged TV — so both Linear TV as well as what we call BVOD — or Broadcast Video on Demand. We do video on social and we do Digital Out Of Home.
TK: And I noticed a distinct gap in that geography that you described. Tell us where you are in North America.
BR: So it's really funny. I'm from Boston, and the one place that we're not in yet is North America. We decided to put the saddle on the horse from the opposite way. And rather than launching our linear product, we'll be launching our digital product here.
TK: Got it. OK, so you're going to start on the digital side?
BR: We're going to start on the digital side in the US.
TK: Given probably the preponderance of the penetration?
BR: Given the preponderance of the penetration, given especially also that we've got a really, really great product that's been taking Europe by storm. And we think it's the right time to be doing this here.
You know, it's interesting — as much as digital should be all about automation, in many ways digital is a much more manual workflow space than broadcast is today. Digital is more manual than linear broadcasting.
TK: That's a sentence I would not have foretold! Is that because there's been more advancements, been around longer with linear, that they've managed to automate the systems with respect to creative or is it the fragmentation? What's driving that?
BR: I think it's a combination of the complexity, the fragmentation of players. And basically, the fact that just about every player [in digital] has their own workflow, right? So whereas in linear 15, 20 years ago, we basically got the entire industry to do one workflow and standardise it. And digitally, you don't have that. So you've got Excel sheets, emails, you name it. You've got all kinds of workflows that are happening.
TK: And I'm sure that's going to be prohibitive to innovation when you lack that level of standardisation.
BR: Well, especially — it’s causing people to not be able to do as many campaigns as they'd like to. It's causing campaigns to be late. It's causing a whole bunch of things that are just not good for the top and bottom line.
TK: Right. Years ago, we noted that when people talk about the CTV ecosystem — in our parlance, the C stands for Convergent, not Connected. Because for the foreseeable future, we all recognize there is a shift in viewing from linear to digital or OTT. However, you know, linear is going to be around for a long period of time. And marketers still need to be able to holistically manage their campaigns on a cross-channel basis — across linear, addressable (all those forms it takes), OTT and digital. And yet, as you mentioned, all of those subchannels have their own identity parameters, workflow coordinates, ad serving, delivery technologies. How is it that you're able to coordinate the creative aspect of those campaigns between those channels with those varying technologies?
BR: So the cool thing is that if you take linear and you take CTV, then basically the common denominator is that the master copy is the same across both, which is very different when you start comparing Convergent TV with social, or where you've actually got two very different production flows happening. So common formats with respect to say a 30-second or a 60-second spot.
So when I'm Unilever and I produce a TV ad you know that three-day shoot is going to be the basis for all the different versions that are going to be coming in both linear TV and Convergent TV. So production also is changing quite a bit as a result of that, but there's a commonality.
TK: You mentioned social display, how many different formats does Peach also manage creatives across?
BR: You know, you could do a matrix across the formats — it's staggering, right? It's in the hundreds and thousands of formats because you're not just looking at time, you're looking at the different devices, you're looking at different channels that have, especially in broadcast land also have different requirements. In a country like France, you have different requirements compared to what needs to happen before the copy in the UK? So there's a huge matrix of formats.
TK: You know, it seems that in the last 12 years, since the advent, really, of programmatic ad buying, we've seen a tremendous amount of investment and acquisitions in the data space. So around audiences, figuring out who to target. And in the media space in terms of where the ad will be seen. And yet on the creative side — I would argue perhaps one of the most important, if not the most important attribute of an ad — we've actually seen very little investment activity. And we have been calling for more attention to be paid on creative technologies. And perhaps with the advent of AI, we may see more of that. How have you looked at that relative lack of investment on the part of the ecosystem?
BR: So we're completely focused on the creative side. So for example, if we talk about creative automation, we only focus on DCA. So really the creative automation, we don't go anywhere near the media optimization piece. And the reason we do that is because we believe there's a huge opportunity there to actually create advertising that will really leverage purchase intent.
And if you look at just 1% of purchase intent more or less, that can make a huge difference to whether the campaign has a strong ROI or it doesn't. And that's been, as you rightly say, something that's been totally ignored — it's not had this prominent role as media optimization has.
BR: I mean, you could almost say in digital media, the tail was wagging the dog. Because media optimization was driving everything else. And it's funny, isn’t it? In linear broadcasting, it was always about creative first and getting the purchase intent right. And then media optimization kind of came after that. And I think this is a huge opportunity now that we have a shift that's going to be going on — that creative is going to play a much more prominent role. Going forward this is going to have an impact on tech, tech investments and technology and so forth.
TK: Well, you gave a hint as to what the impact of advancement and innovation on creative technology is. And it feels to me like media optimisation and audience optimization data all drive largely efficiency, right? You have better buys. And listen, there's nothing wrong with that. By all means, let's make it efficient. But on the creative side, you have the opportunity to enhance efficiency. Will the ad work better on your target audience? And it seems to me that's the kind of objective that could really move the needle relative to getting a marginal 10% improvement on efficiency.
BR: It's not only going to move the needle, but it's a huge factor, especially for the large advertisers who are spending probably as much on the production of ad content as they're spending on media, right? So it's crazy that actually you're doing all this optimisation on media and digital and so little on the creative itself.
TK: Who's driving this? Are we talking about the more sophisticated brands that are coming to you asking for solutions in this realm?
BR: Yeah, it's the large brands that we know, right? The Unilever’s and Nestlé’s of this world. But interestingly, it's also those brands that have taken part of marketing in-house, those that, you know, have very very strong e-commerce revenue, and are seeing that this optimization of creative — the scaling of creative — has a huge impact on both efficacy and efficiency for them.
TK: Now, of course, we know that television is democratising in front of our eyes, you know. Historically, it was the realm of large marketers with huge budgets who could, you know, pursue brand advertising, and now we're seeing it democratised in the sense that smaller, more performant advertisers are able to choose that channel because of the targeting capabilities. Is this a whole new realm of potential customers that will need to coordinate their workflow?
BR: Definitely, right. And this is one of the reasons also why we're starting with digital in the U.S. Because, I mean, one of the great things that a lot of the social media platforms like YouTube or Instagram and so forth have done is they have taken what used to be like a universe of maybe 250 large national video advertisers, and all of a sudden you've got a million, right? And so a much bigger pool of advertisers that are creating competition amongst themselves — also for the space that is available. And that's exactly what you're saying, right? I mean, it's democratising the way it works. But in the end it also leads to the whole industry as a whole being incredibly more innovative than we are today, especially on creative.
TK: There's a lot of buzz in 2023 about artificial intelligence, right? We saw the early days of the consumer apps, the ChatGPTs, the OpenAI’s of this world getting everyone's attention. But it feels like that might be a little bit of a flash in the pan, where we will likely see the biggest impact of AI is in B2B software. How much of an impact do you think it'll have in this new realm of creative technology? And how will Peach take advantage of that?
BR: It's having an impact already, right? So especially in the area of analytics it's helping us, for example, just analyse the content that's happening in an ad and giving good feedback points right back to advertisers that allows them to optimise creative. So, for example, in the area of sustainability, in the area of diversity — for them to be able to look at all their advertising content and very quickly be able to take decisions on whether they need to change content to actually match the targets that they have in this area, right?
So that's just like one example, right? We will actually see AI also help in the form of actually creating, versioning at scale. And there's obviously this promise that AI can actually produce content without you having to go in the studio and have, you know, real people stand in front of the camera. The latter one is one that still has a lot of contention points, right? Because there's all kinds of topics from copyright to others. It'll eventually happen to some degree.
I see the majority of things that will impact us actually in the first two. So versioning at scale and the analytics piece.
TK: Well, there's a proverb that says, may you live in interesting times. It certainly feels like we're in an interesting time now with the advent of creative technology over and above what we've seen in data and media.
Ben, fascinating time. Thanks for sharing.
BR: Thanks for having me here.