Conversant (formerly ad net ValueClick and now owned by Epsilon, for those who haven’t updated their M&A scorecard) uncorked a private exchange Wednesday, designed to hook up programmatic buyers with 6,000 publishers via Deal ID.
The ad tech company will build Deal IDs for advertisers working with a trading desk or using a demand-side platform in order to access publisher inventory exclusive to Conversant. It will also add value to that inventory with audience intelligence overlays and controls around quality, brand safety and viewability. The exchange, naturally, is called Conversant Private Exchange (CPE).
“This is the first time we’re making the private inventory with exclusive partners available in the private exchange,” said Raju Malhotra, the company’s SVP of product and technology. “This is the first foray to make that available with our audience targeting.”
Inventory includes web, mobile web and mobile app. Participating online publishers, all of whom Malhotra said Conversant has direct relationships with, include ABC News, History.com and Car and Driver. App partners include digital radio station Pandora and Zynga-owned Scrabble knockoff Words With Friends.
Conversant hopes to get video inventory up and running later in Q1. “That’s something we’re working on right now,” Malhotra said. “We’re in the middle of integrations so I can’t get into detail of who will be there.” He claimed Conversant is gunning for video inventory that’s “relatively scarce in the marketplace.”
All of this inventory, he added, will be married to Conversant’s audience data and built off the various programmatic assets it’s spent the last year combining into a common platform. This includes ad tech from Dotomi and video tech from SET Media – all of which revolves around a data identifier called Common ID.
But what about tie-ins to Epsilon’s tech and data assets?
“Right now we’re not,” Malhotra said. “It’s a month after the close, but right now I’m working with our Epsilon team to figure out how we marry it.”
Conversant had been working on CPE since late 2014, Malhotra said, and while a production-quality version had been available, the company is rolling it out with a big PR push.
“Given this hadn’t been public, we’ve been working with just a handful of marketers,” Malhotra said. He mentioned that one early client, a brand advertiser he wasn’t allowed to name, had been using CPE through a trading desk, and that the exchange “performed at the top, compared to 17 other partners they’d worked with.”
Private exchanges have been a hot topic in of late, as brands, content creators and vendors work to set them up. While many laud the concept – because who wouldn’t want to advertise to select audiences devouring exclusive content? – there has been a lot of criticism of the execution, much of which centers around lack of inventory or the complaint that Deal IDs don’t really work since it’s wasted inventory if advertisers don’t bite.
But private exchanges are certainly maturing and their role in the digital advertising ecosystem is beginning to clarify. Many advertisers see private exchanges as complementary to the open exchange, not as a replacement, wherein the open exchange enables audience discovery and the private exchange lets advertisers buy inventory on specific sites in a well-lit media environment, where they have a better chance of hitting that audience.