Glam Taps Rubicon For Private Exchange As Automated Buys Move From 'Auctions' To 'Orders'

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Female-leaning lifestyle content network Glam Media is the latest publisher to adopt the private exchange model, as more companies look to buttress and protect their guaranteed, direct sales with the increasing demands for more real-time offerings for advertisers. Rubicon Project will power the exchange for GlamAdapt, the publisher's ad serving unit.

The move comes at a pivotal time for both companies. Rubicon, while generally known as a publisher-facing supply side platform, has been trying to position itself as a wider "exchange operator." At the same time, Glam Media has been working to carve out even more distinct content verticals within the women's lifestyle arena by adding niches around food, parenting and wellness over the past year. At the same time, it has sought to build up its own targeting capabilities by buying technologies such as social media platform Ning. Glam and Rubicon are frequently mentioned as possible IPO candidates.

Through this partnership, the companies will continue to make the case that premium ad sales and programmatic buying aren't mutually exclusive.

Glam will use Rubicon's primary exchange product, REVV Connect, to plug into Glam Adapt. Interestingly, Glam has tended to either build its own ad capabilities in-house or acquire technology from outside, as opposed to working with third parties. About four years ago, Glam did experiment with its own programmatic product, the Glam X Exchange, but it was shuttered after less than half a year, as Glam sought to concentrate fully on its direct sales during the beginning of the global recession that hit other display -- and the rest of the economy -- hard.

A lot has changed since 2008, and going it alone this time seemed unnecessary.

“For us to do a private marketplace, it was key to be able to fully control the targeting segmentation and inventory differentiation within our own technology stack,” said Art Schram, Glam Media’s VP, Adapt Platform. “Rubicon’s forward-thinking and flexible REVV Connect made it easy for us to build a marketplace that allowed for maximum control and differentiation. The resulting setup allows for a really elegant and seamless way to target our premium inventory for our clients, such as combining multiple segment IDs to create a multi-layered, custom segment for brands, and other implementations.”

With REVV Connect, Rubicon promises Glam an added ability to markup individual impressions with attributes in real-time through the tools API’s. These attributes allow Glam to classify impressions into various inventory segments designed to increase and maintain "premium" prices. Through REVV’s real-time rules engine, Glam can now make tradeoffs between the direct demand, RTB and private marketplace demand. The idea is promoted as an all-in-one approach that balances the efficiency demands on the buy side without sacrificing the direct sales control Glam and other publishers need to protect.

That appeals to a growing array of traditional publishers, like recent Rubicon private exchange partner, the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and others, like Hearst and Condé Nast. As Glam competes more directly with those publishers, the idea of a private exchange becomes a natural extension.

Of course, there are differences in the goals and aims that Glam has with its new private exchange. For instance, the WSJ Digital Network's and other Rubicon-powered exchanges were mostly about bringing in different classes of marketers that normally didn't advertise on their sites. Glam's exchange is aimed squarely at current advertisers only and even then, only by invite, a Glam rep noted. "It is high CPM and only limited inventory," Glam said. "We are in programmatic for current advertisers that are finding RTBs and other forms not working as well as they had hoped."

That said, many industry observers are quick to say that the notion of private exchanges is really just a marketing term that's intended to give publishers more comfort about how much control they can have over their sales systems. Be that as it may, expect many more "private exchange" announcements over the next year. With more ad dollars flowing to programmatic systems, publishers will need to find a way to make peace with the notion of exchange-based media buying.

"The big trend we are seeing here is that automation has moved beyond just 'auctions' to automated 'orders,'" Frank Addante, Rubicon's CEO, told AdExchanger in an email.  "Auctions in the past have been many to many.  Now we are seeing one to one deals between publishers and advertisers -- where the deals are being done by humans but the orders being transacted and managed by computer automation.  This enables publishers to leverage their technology (such as Glam Adapt) and unique differentiators (Glam's brand and data), while giving advertisers and agencies more efficient, transparent and easy access to buy premium audiences and content at scale."

"Essentially, what we are seeing here is that we are pushing the buyer and seller closer to together, taking technology out of the middle and putting it underneath," Addante continued. "Glam is a perfect example - high end content, unique technology and data - leveraging automation to better service their customers."

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