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Q&A with Fabien Magalon, La Place Media

Fabien Magalon, MD of La Place Media is speaking at our next event: AOP Programmatic Trading - Emerging Models Forum on 13th February.
What prompted you set up La Place Media? La Place Media is a joint venture, conceived, formed and funded by four major French publishing houses (Amaury Médias, Figaro Médias, Lagardère Publicité and TF1 Publicité) in response to the way we were witnessing the trading ecosphere change. RTB and other forms of automated trading were growing fast and we were seeing most of the major agencies developing trading desks. Meanwhile, leading dominant exchanges were emerging in the form of Google and Facebook with the ability to operate with massive scale. We were left with one burning question - how can publishers compete? We needed to find the best way to address the changes, while capitalising on the existing assets of publishers to maximise the benefit with new ways of trading. The answer was to come together with La Place Media.  How do alliances like La Place Media work?  Alliances work by creating scale which delivers a far higher impact. In short, the power for publishers is derived in numbers. The aim of alliances is to find a place of agreement between players in order to create critical mass across any vertical (e-commerce, travel, car, finance etc). Any vertical alliances can be made to work if it can reach sufficient scale to a) exist and b) compete La Place Media was built around this concept with three key factors for success: 1) Huge reach 2) Valuable inventory 3) Quality data. No one player in the marketplace, publisher or not, can match this unique and valuable combination on its own and it is this that gives our publishers an edge. What do you see as the main advantages and disadvantages to publishers of taking a collaborative approach towards automated trading? Through collaboration publishers can continue to provide quality, premium inventory, but on the scale the market is asking for. And along with scale comes power, and the ability to call the shots.  By aligning with similar quality media, publishers have the ability to create niche vertical channels comprising top quality premium inventory, but in sufficient volume to be financially viable. Publishers are able to maintain and capitalise on context, position on page, format etc. and maintain its value. La Place Media represents the highest quality, premium exchange possible. Any perceived loss of control is mitigated by the fact that La Place is owned by publishers themselves, so they can determine the direction and the practices under which they are prepared to trade. In our opinion the benefits to publishers through collaboration, far outweigh any drawbacks. The results speak for themselves. How what kind of results are you seeing?  Results, so far, have been very strong. We are filling a gap in the supply chain by providing a quality premium product and so demand is proving exceptionally strong. As a result, we have been beating revenue targets month on month. La Place Media launched just six months ago and is still in its early stages of development. Even so, we have already worked with 12,000 advertisers. Nine further major media groups have joined La Place Media as clients, since launching, and today we are able to offer 28 million unique users and 4 billion impressions - far exceeding what the largest French publisher could achieve individually. This is still far short of Google's 30 billion impressions, yet the quality of the inventory on offer is second to none. In recent weeks we have seen competition emerging in the form of copy-cat organisations within France. I suppose that in itself is testament that we have hit upon an attractive formula. It will be interesting to see how scene continues to evolve in the months ahead. Do you think an alliance model would benefit UK publishers? What do you think it would take for an alliance model to succeed here?  There is no good reason why the alliance model can't succeed in UK. For UK publishers there are  political hurdles, as with any type of media collaboration, that will need to be dealt with. But the main factor will be securing strong enough commitment at a senior level to push through. A main factor in the successful creation of La Place Media was that, from the outset, it was the absolute commitment from amongst the top management tier of the founding partners that made this venture happen. Had it been players from the operational level, for example, it may not have happened - or at least not as fast. There needs to be a strong wheel pushing the creation forward. The human factor is vital. In order for that to happen, people need to understand how the benefits of sale far exceed any drawbacks and to be prepared to reach agreement and work hand-in-hand with players, who in other ways, they may see as competitors.  At a time when trading desks are so keen to accelerate the development of the quality of inventory a UK collaboration would be seen as a huge boost to the exchange market. Do you have any plans to roll-out La Place Media in the UK or other markets? In reality, La Place Media has no experience within UK market and we would be unlikely to roll-out operations directly beyond France. Initially, we had ruled out the possibility of partnerships in other markets too, in order to concentrate on establishing the business in France. Six months down the line, however, the benefits of scaling are so apparent that we have started talking to some potential European counterparts about whether a form of collaboration would merit consideration. Alliance exchanges in other markets are really very much in their infancy, but there are fledgling  projects being discussed in Denmark, Netherlands and UK which are looking to replicate La Place's model and these could provide the opportunity for a form of inventory exchange. For example, we could take French inventory from these alliances and introduce it into La Place Media's platform, to help with reach, sale and volume to further strengthen our product. In exchange we could look to off-load non-French inventory to theirs. As long as the quality remains intact, I see no reason why this wouldn't work.