Australian Publisher Fairfax Expands Ad Buyer Position With Google DoubleClick Deal

Australian media conglomerate Fairfax Metro Media has extended its existing relationship with Google DoubleClick’s Ad Exchange to focus on online video inventory. However, unlike most publishers, Fairfax is in the middle of trying to extend its ad platform, known as drx, to allow the company to buy — not sell — inventory tied to streaming video.

Fairfax is one of the Pacific region’s largest publishers and among its holdings are two of Australia’s largest daily newspapers, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Like publishers everywhere, the traditional revenue lines are declining and the company is looking for ways to strengthen its digital businesses, which include about 200 owned and operated online brands. Many publishers have opened digital marketing services operations, but few have worked to establish their own formal ad exchange trading desks. Still, as Toby Ross, head of strategic alliances, told AdExchanger, the company — and the Asia-Pacific region generally — is still looking for ways to embrace real-time bidding in a much deeper way.

“In terms of the relationship with Google, we’re actually a big client in both ad serving through the DFP and we have in the past used [Google subsidiary] AdMeld’s sell-side platform,” Ross said. “We’re one of their largest customers in the APAC region. We recently explored the idea of becoming a buyer of inventory through AdEx. We have a lot of data assets that we leverage across our network right now. This is really a way for us to increase the scale and reach outside the Fairfax network.”

Ross was quick to note that Fairfax does have its own original video assets, with both short- and long-form content that it distributes through its newspaper, magazine and other media sites. It also syndicates video from third parties. But the expanded relationship with Google is separate from Fairfax’s focus as a publisher. This is strictly a demand-side proposition, not a sell-side one.

“The Fairfax video products are 100 percent sold by our sales team on a premium CPM-basis,” Ross said. “The audience extension we’re doing through AdEx with YouTube is also sold through our sales team. We’re becoming a buyer of inventory where we can overlay our data assets and then sell that to buyers and planners.”

While that’s a pretty progressive move, Fairfax doesn’t feel any rush to establish a substantial RTB marketplace in the APAC region. As such, it will not be making inventory available on an RTB basis right now through trading desks, though Ross said it’s something the company thinks of.

“There is no doubt that RTB is a growing medium in Australia with significant increases in trading activity through DSPs over the past 12 months,” he said. “Buyers and sellers are still getting around the best ways to operate on a pure display level. RTB is something we certainly have our eye on. We’re a pretty open-minded publisher. As it stands, the most sensible strategy for us as a major publisher right now is to couple our data with our inventory, or off-network inventory, and sell that as a package to the agency community.”

Publicis Groupe’s ZenithOptimedia in Sydney was the first to trial Fairfax’s audience extension product. The agency ran a test of the video ad inventory with Fairfax and Google’s AdX for its client DrinkWise, a non-profit group involved in raising awareness of alcoholism.

“We saw an immediate uplift in performance,” said Emily McConnell, ZenithOptimedia digital account director, in a statement.  “Compared to standard contextual placements, the product delivered a 75 per cent increase in click through rates for Drinkwise.”

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