Tribune Digital Looks To Programmatic To Build Mobile Ad Attraction

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Lori Tavoularis, Tribune DigitalTribune Digital, the interactive arm of the newspaper and broadcasting company, expects mobile traffic on its 36 WAP sites and 60 apps to exceed the PC-based usage it gets this year across its 50 websites. But the question facing it and other publishers looking to nudge ad spending to more closely match users' smartphone and tablet activity involves mostly turning to programmatic methods, said Lori Tavoularis, managing director for Revenue Partnerships at Tribune Digital.

Speaking at Rubicon Project's Automation event in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon, Tavoularis noted that since signing on to Rubicon's REVV platform for mobile, Tribune Digital's mobile CPMs have doubled (she didn't specify prices, however).

"We want to make it easier to buy mobile advertising at scale," she told her interviewer, Josh Wexler, Rubicon's GM for mobile. "And as our biggest area of growth, we want to be able to explore better ways of inventory packaging, including embracing private marketplaces."

In an interview with AdExchanger backstage at the event, Tavoularis noted that Tribune Digital has been working with Rubicon since 2008. But that partnership has remained fairly limited to helping the media company on its remnant inventory. "They backfill a couple of areas on the PC-based advertising inventory," she said. "But mobile is where were focused right now with Rubicon's REVV system. We understand the users are ahead of advertisers when it comes to mobile. We hope that by being proactive and having everything buttoned up on our side, we can drive those dollars into mobile inventory."

Since mobile, at least when it comes to Apple's iOS, is cookie-less, the idea of using programmatic in a larger way is more appealing to publishers, since they hold the keys when it comes to targeting users. Or rather, they share the keys with Apple, which tends to keep a tight rein on user data. However, users tend to publicly share certain location and marketing information with publishers, so there are certain advantages there that don't necessarily exist as readily in the PC content realm.

"Having premium inventory at scale is really important in a cookie-less environment like mobile," Tavoularis added. "That has been one of the great hesitations in the marketplace. There are certain things that marketers can do on the desktop that they can't do in mobile. It also opens up a lot of opportunities in rich media and ad executions that have a one-on-one connection between users and marketers in a way that the desktop doesn't."

Furthermore, she sees working with Rubicon on the mobile ad business as a way to expand the kinds of controls that the direct sales teams have, not give it up to greater automation.

"We can make more strategic decisions about... using programmatic methods when it comes to mobile ad sales," Tavoularis said. "We work very closely with the national sales organization and sometimes have dual calls going on. So someone goes and talks to the agency trading desk and someone talks to the media buyer to try to capture more of that budget. For example, we'd like access to marketers' search budgets. Using programmatic on mobile and to some extent on the PC side is our way of working towards that holistic ad sales approach that everyone is talking about. And in just a short amount of time, it's making a lot of sense."

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