Are You Ready? Real-Time Bidding Breakout Next Year Says Contextweb EVP Sears

Real-Time Bidding QA with ContextwebJay Sears is EVP, Strategic Products & Business Development of ContextWeb, Inc. / ADSDAQ Exchange who announced their real-time bidding API recently. What will demand-side optimization provide for the advertiser/agency? Can you quantify performance improvements an advertiser might see in comparison to futures or reserved bidding/buying?

JS: More control. Very simply, real-time impression level bidding lets you make decisions at the impression level. The new agency “demand side platforms” are designed to interact with exchanges and conduct real-time valuation of impressions; layer proprietary data held by the agency or marketer and dynamically allocate impression level media to specific clients and creative units.

With guaranteed delivery (futures), decisions are made at the campaign level. Because of our name-your-price model with publishers, ContextWeb have been conducting real-time impression transactions and packaging this into a guaranteed delivery product since 2005.

Are there any publisher benefits? For example, could real-time bidding turn remnant into premium inventory?

More advertisers equal more money for publishers. More control equals more premium inventory for advertisers. The ADSDAQ Exchange AskPrice, where publishers set the CPM clearing rate for inventory, is still the primary publisher benefit. Real-time bidding is one way for another segment of advertisers to “plug-in” and trade. The more control (first look, content and context, specific audience, real-time decisioning) you hand the buyer, the more value they derive from each impression.

How long before real-time bidding and spot market buys achieve scale in the online display ad marketplace?

Market players—the agency demand platforms (WPP’s B-3, Omnicom’s trading platform, Publicis’ VivaKi, Interpublic’s platform, Havas’ Adnetik, MDC’s Varick Media Management), the exchange re-sellers (Invite Media, Media Math), the ad networks—will test and experiment with real-time bidding in 2009. Then 2010 and 2011 are the breakout years.

Will futures/reserved buying “go away” someday with the exception of sales through a publisher’s direct sales team?

Not a chance. Reserved buying is here to stay. The value of predictability—guaranteed delivery—in a digital media world than is more and more fragmented—is something advertisers ascribe high value. With our ADSDAQ Exchange, it is about being additive—facilitating spot buying, facilitating real-time bidding—how else do we make the exchange most relevant for customers in each market segment.

How does the real-time bidding (RTB) API leverage ContextWeb’s existing technology? Is there a contextual component to the API that buyers can tap?

Contextual is one of the key impression attributes available in the real time API. Marketers have always associated value with context. Content is an essential “basis grade’ or high value common denominator that can be used across billions of sites and trillions of impressions to make media tradable at scale. Content is an excellent entry point upon which to then layer additional targeting such as geography or behavioral.

Effectively, we have been running real-time, impression based valuation, buying and allocation inside a futures offering since 2005. Now that the market is a bit more mature and some agencies and other supporting companies are ready to take part of this control themselves. You will see an entire industry emerge around exchanges, just like search engine marketing firms grew up around Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

When will the API be ready for implementation and open for real-time bidding?

Now. We have specifications and a development sandbox available and continue to roll trading partners into a live environment. Digital agencies, ad networks and other arbitrageurs interested in ContextWeb’s ADSDAQ’s Real Time API can contact the company and download the technical specifications at

Will there be any additional infrastructure implementation required with ContextWeb’s real-time bidding API? Co-location, cloud?

No. If your data center happens to far away from one of ours, partners may consider co-location for performance improvement. We need to keep the entire bidding process around 100 milliseconds.

How have your publishers responded to having their URLs exposed in the API? Is there potential for channel conflict with your publishers?

Channel conflict is solved by giving a publisher control over URL disclosure. Of 9,000 publishers, a couple hundred—mostly comScore 250 publishers—request we suppress the URL. In those cases we offer a “PID” or publisher ID number so a buyer still has the option of tracking that element.

Will all of your publishers be part of the program or will there be an opt-out?

Publishers don’t choose to be part of a futures, spot or real-time program. Publishers can opt-out or block specific advertisers from appearing in their inventory. It is a must-have feature, but in practice relatively few publishers actively use this capability.

Follow Jay Sears (@JaySears), Contextweb (@contextweb) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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