Brand.net Addressing Forward Markets And Guaranteed Buying With MFP Platform Says COO Atherton

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Brand.netLast Thursday Brand.net announced the launch of "MFP On Demand, the demand-side interface to its Media Futures Platform, in partnership with Digitas and one of its largest customers." Read the release.

Brand.net COO Andy Atherton discussed the new platform and its implications for the company as well as the futures and market concepts.

How will the workflow of today's online media planner change with the introduction to futures-based, automated buying?

Today’s online media planners and buyers have many challenges.  Staffing is as tight and turnover is as high as ever, cycle times are compressing and there’s an ever-expanding and changing mix of sites, formats, etc. to stay on top of.  In parallel, client demands for market insight – particularly forward market insight - are only increasing.

MFP On Demand helps buyers meet these challenges in two key ways.  First of all it gives them direct desktop access to Brand.net’s sophisticated forecasting capability for impressions, reach, audience composition and pricing up to 12 months forward.  Our  forecasting technology leverages the deep expertise of our team and a rich historical dataset developed through buying for and managing hundreds of web-wide campaigns over the last several years.   Planners & buyers can work through scenarios with different targeting parameters, flight dates, creative types, etc and see impact on pricing and availability immediately – no phone calls or emails required.  This information is extremely valuable in planning, budgeting and negotiation with media owners.

Secondly, MFP On Demand gives buyers efficient access to scalable, high-quality, guaranteed media buys from Brand.net.  The forecasting and quoting capabilities operate independently, but are also tightly integrated; any inventory shown in the forecasting view is available with a delivery guarantee through the quoting view with a few mouse clicks.  And of course, the quoting functionality smoothly integrates with agency workflow apps like MediaVisor for I/O generation.

All this said, the best way to understand the workflow though is to experience it for yourself – there’s a flash demo (sign-up required) available on our site that gives a good sense of the depth of capabilities and usability of the application.

How does the platform work in terms of distributing risk? Does Brand.net go out and secure all inventory ahead of time before it lands in the futures marketplace?

The price and delivery risk is all absorbed by Brand.net, but we do not pre-buy inventory.  We use the sophisticated forecasting technology I described above to understand prices and availability for the media target, flight dates, etc. that meet the requirements for a specific buy.  Based on the forecast we write a delivery guarantee up to 12 months in advance.  Just prior to delivery, we acquire on the spot market the inventory we need to fulfill against the forward commitment.   This model allows our customers to secure commitments of volume, price and quality well in advance at fixed rates that are extremely competitive, with a much more efficient operational process than the typical phone/email/fax required for forward buying.

So while we bear the risk – we’ve made a delivery guarantee at a fixed price and we must honor that regardless of the spot price at the time we acquire inventory - our forecasting technology has been extremely accurate.  We have fulfilled on >99% of our delivery commitments on hundreds of campaigns to date.  That’s as good or better than any media owner I know of.

Ideally, in a futures market, shouldn't the market itself be an agnostic platform where publishers and buyers come to transact "pre-buys"? How do you overcome this conflict of interest?

While our technology platform is called “Media Futures Platform”, the current transactional model is more precisely a “forward” contract and not a “futures” contract.  I highlighted this distinction in my last article on ad exchanger.  A true futures market is the ultimate goal – one that our largest customers are keenly interested in pursuing – and our platform has been designed with that in mind, but it will take more time and work to get there.

One distinction is the point you make in your question - that in a true futures market, the market platform itself takes a more neutral role.  However, for that to happen other trading partners must be willing to and have the capability to participate and generate liquidity.  As I mentioned, we have identified willingness and we can provide capability.  This is an area we’re actively exploring with our customers.  Secondly though, a true futures market – with standardized, re-tradable contracts, margin requirements and all the rest – is subject to regulation.  So in order to establish a true futures exchange we would also need to receive regulatory approval.

In an Ad Age article, you said the new business was about "accuracy". Please explain.

Forecast accuracy is not a new thing.  It has been important from day one, which is why we’ve invested so much in that area.  The online ad market doesn’t need any more “best efforts” delivery platforms, where the burden is on the buyer to chase an auction around to get the delivery/quality/etc. that is required to fulfill on a campaign.  Large advertisers carefully forecast every core element of their business, so if we in online media want the *real* media budgets – TV Budgets - we need to provide a platform that accommodates this business process.

What's your expectation on volume levels in terms of impressions and ad spend through the platform today?

MFP On Demand offers guaranteed quotes on >10B impressions, reaching >150M Unique Users in the US, each month.  That’s a tremendous amount of top quality inventory right at buyers’ fingertips.

By John Ebbert

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