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France's New Digital Publisher Partnership Takes on Digital Ad Duopoly

Gravity Alliance promises data-driven programmatic advertising at scale via homegrown media

July 7, 2017 | Media Buying

More than a dozen of France’s media and digital players are joining forces to deliver data-driven programmatic advertising, in a move to compete against digital ad ecosystem giants. The new partnership is aiming for a potential combined audience comparable to that of the online advertising “duopoly” of Facebook and Google.

Dubbed the Gravity Alliance, the group, which has about 15 members, includes national media publishers Lagardère, Les Echos Group and L’Équipe; classifieds publisher SoLocal (formerly PagesJaunes); broadcasters SFR and M6; magazine publishers Prisma Media and Condé Nast; several regional newspapers; and retailer FNAC Darty’s ecommerce sites.

Their plan is to pool user data from their various websites to boost the reach and effectiveness of programmatic advertising across those digital properties, according to the group’s launch announcement.

The sites involved attract approximately 44% of consumers in France daily, according to Les Echos. Additions to the group are expected to boost the network’s reach past 50% of the population by this fall. By comparison, Google reportedly has a 60% reach in France, while Facebook has a 70% reach. (eMarketer’s more modest projection estimates 40.4% of France’s population will be regular Facebook users this year.)

eMarketer expects adult internet users in France will devote nearly 39% of their total daily media time on internet-based activities in 2017, a figure that has risen slowly but steadily throughout the internet era.

Digital ad spending in France has also swelled in recent years, with display ad spending rising to €1.20 billion ($1.34 billion) in 2016, and 38% of those outlays invested in social media, according to a study by Syndicat des Régies Internet (SRI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Display Ad Spending in France, Social* vs. Nonsocial, 2015 & 2016 (millions of €, % change and % of total digital display ad spending)

eMarketer predicts a larger share of France’s digital display ad spending—73.0%—will be transacted via programmatic methods this year, up from 64.0% in 2016.

The Gravity Alliance isn’t the first instance in which media in France have sought to collaborate on projects designed to increase their appeal among digital advertisers.

In 2012, La Place Média was founded as a centralized “premium publisher exchange,” offering aggregated real-time buying of display ads across digital properties from leading media outlets in France.

Audience Square is a similar initiative founded by a different group of leading publishers and digital players. In 2016, it claimed to offer monthly inventory of 4 billion impressions on more than 100 websites and reach over 30 million unique visitors per month, according to eMarketer’s September 2016 report, “Programmatic Advertising in France: Publishers Help Spur Transformation of Digital Ad Landscape” [available only to eMarketer PRO subscribers].

Gravity’s principals say its effort “goes further” than those earlier efforts, claiming its data profiles give advertisers the ability to target ads to very specific audiences, such as women of a certain age, income group and geographic area, according to Les Echos. With participation by retailers like FNAC Darty, marketers will also be able to incorporate the data of ecommerce site users who have searched for specific products.

Gravity Alliance participants will be paid for their data in addition to receiving revenues from ad sales. Founding member companies will hold joint stock in the corporation created to operate the network.

Cliff Annicelli

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