Turning Off A Supply Source Is More Complicated Than It Seems

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Michael Berkowitz, solutions architect at Jounce Media.

In the age of supply-path optimization (SPO), marketers are more deeply evaluating how their bids reach publishers, and many brands and agencies are working to establish strategic alliances with a short list of trusted ad exchanges.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that is shaking up the industry, the cost savings benefits of these strategic alliances have become even more important. Marketers benefit from reduced sell-side fees in return for agreeing to bid into five to 10 exchanges and turning off the rest.

But “turning off the rest” is harder than it seems.

Unchecking the box

In every demand-side platform (DSP) user interface, there is a collection of ad exchange checkboxes that allow the marketer to control where its bids are submitted.

Let’s say, for example, that a marketer decides to disable bidding into Unruly. (This is not necessarily an SPO choice I would recommend, but it serves as a useful example.) Unchecking the DSP’s “Unruly” button prevents the marketer’s campaigns from responding to bid requests from Unruly:

Unruly's supply path

But it turns out that isn’t the only way the marketer’s bids reach Unruly. There are actually four different supply paths that connect DSP bids to the Unruly auction:

Unruly supply path is more complicated than it seems.

Index Exchange, AppNexus and Rubicon Project all act as authorized resellers of the Unruly auction. There are good reasons why these reselling relationships exist. But those reselling supply paths make it operationally difficult for a marketer to stop participating in Unruly auctions. In most DSPs, unchecking the “Unruly” button disables bidding into the blue path, but not the red ones. The marketer who intended to disable Unruly continues to participate in those auctions, but now only through multihop paths.

Path-level blacklisting

Disabling all bidding into the Unruly auction requires the marketer to implement path-level bidding rules that reject bid requests from the following three ads.txt entries:

appnexus.com, 6849, RESELLER
indexexchange.com, 182257, RESELLER
rubiconproject.com, 15268, RESELLER

Now expand this challenge to dozens of additional programmatic marketplaces that marketers might want to disable as part of a broader SPO initiative. To disable Sovrn, they’ll need to also disable these supply paths:

appnexus.com, 1019, RESELLER
appnexus.com, 1360, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 558511, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 560360, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 560621, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 560961, RESELLER
gumgum.com, 11645, RESELLER
openx.com, 537103367, RESELLER
openx.com, 537120960, RESELLER
openx.com, 538959099, RESELLER
openx.com, 539620057, RESELLER
openx.com, 539924617, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 137711, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156212, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156700, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 157595, RESELLER
rubiconproject.com, 15380, RESELLER
rubiconproject.com, 17960, RESELLER
smartadserver.com, 2923, RESELLER

Want to disable Verizon Media? They better make sure they disable all these Verizon resellers:

appnexus.com, 1226, RESELLER
appnexus.com, 1868, RESELLER
appnexus.com, 273, RESELLER
appnexus.com, 3292, RESELLER
appnexus.com, 3663, RESELLER
brealtime.com, 1246, RESELLER
brealtime.com, 273, RESELLER
brealtime.com, 485, RESELLER
brealtime.com, 72, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 558299, RESELLER
contextweb.com, 561707, RESELLER
indexexchange.com, 175407, RESELLER
indexexchange.com, 183875, RESELLER
indexexchange.com, 183965, RESELLER
indexexchange.com, 184110, RESELLER
openx.com, 537125356, RESELLER
openx.com, 537126269, RESELLER
openx.com, 537143344, RESELLER
openx.com, 539959224, RESELLER
openx.com, 540236670, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 133799, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 155967, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156078, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156084, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156138, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156139, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156140, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156248, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156325, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156377, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156458, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156530, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156556, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156674, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 156971, RESELLER
pubmatic.com, 158430, RESELLER
rubiconproject.com, 17250, RESELLER
rubiconproject.com, 18222, RESELLER
spot.im, 266658, RESELLER
xad.com, 240, RESELLER

Fully disabling nonpreferred exchanges might require the marketer to blacklist hundreds or even thousands of supply paths.

Thankfully, many DSPs now properly support this path-level bidding control. And open source tools such as our free supply path database make it easy for marketers to comprehensively identify resold inventory that does not meet their SPO strategy. Savvy marketers have all the tools they need to encode their preferred exchange partnerships into precise bidding rules.

Getting to perfect

Path-level blacklisting goes a long way to allowing marketers to stop bidding into nonpreferred supply sources, but it isn’t a perfect solution. The programmatic supply landscape is littered with value-extracting three-hop and four-hop supply paths that might continue to lead a marketer to auctions that it wants to disable.

There are emerging solutions to address the challenges of multihop supply paths, most notably the RTB SupplyChain (schain) object. The schain object, provided by the exchange, allows buyers to see the full chain of payment hops between the DSP and the publisher. And with this information, marketers and their DSPs are armed to disable bidding into long supply paths that lead to nonpreferred exchanges.

We’re optimistic that both sell-side and buy-side technology companies will more actively support the SupplyChain object. But for now, we think path-level blacklisting is a robust solution that allows most marketers to achieve their SPO goals.

Follow Jounce Media (@jouncemedia) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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