Microsoft, Yahoo! And Aol Announce Pact On Non-Guaranteed Display Inventory – Live Blog!

Triumverate UniteIt’s only been 60 or so days since All Things D’s Peter Kafka broke the story, but Microsoft, Yahoo! and Aol made it official in a press release:

“The agreements will allow ad networks operated by Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL to offer each other’s premium nonreserved online display inventory to their respective advertising customers.”

And now we await the conference call as display lovers lean into their speakerphones everywhere…. it’s time for a “live” blog!

As the call is beginning late, I imagine bottles of well-priced champagne being passed among Yahoo!/MSFT/Aol execs.

Call begins!

Ross Levinsohn is joined by MSFT’s Rik van der Kooi and Aol’s Ned Brody. Ross is thrilled – calls this about the buying and selling of “premium” non-guaranteed. Oxymoron? This is about ad network sales through Microsoft Media Network, Yahoo!’s network and Aol ad network.

Levinsohn claims data, optimization and planning as differentiators between the big 3 as they offer each other’s inventory.

A non-exclusive agreement. Levinsohn says they’ll all still compete for advertisers and publishers but that access to the inventory will increase overall demand, choice and scale.

Yahoo!’s Jim Heckman gets a shout out from Ross in addition to Aol/MSFT teams.

Aol’s Ned Brody takes the microphone and says again it’s about “brand-safe, premium inventory.” Reiterate competition of sales among the three. I wonder how each of these companies will figure out pricing – do they swear they won’t sell below a certain threshold set by all three?

Microsoft’s Rik van der Kooi now takes the phone. He stresses the importance of this to Microsoft Media Network and Microsoft Advertising Exchange.

Hey there are a lot of execs on this call! Back to the call… another shout out to “brand safety!”

Questions from the WSJ about inventory, CPM increases and what about the DOJ – have they gotten approval?

Here we go!

Levinsohn says they’re all committing inventory and won’t start ’til January. And he stresses they will continue to compete.

van der Kooi says that 100% of non-discretionary inventory will be available which offers scale. No idea about CPMs at this point but “reduces friction” in a an open marketplace. The transparency will lead to more competition says van der Kooi.

Aol’s Brody takes a crack at the question about CPM and says there’s “no mechanism to drive pricing.”

paidContent’s David Kaplan asks about new additional ad partners and if this is in response to Google and Facebook…. and can they be a part of the group?

van der Kooi again says this is about high quality inventory in an open environment versus less valuable, non-premium inventory.

Levinsohn adds that this is about premium (ok, we get it!). Sounds like this could lead to more publishers joining at some point.

Ned Brody says they’re looking forward to working with Yahoo! and MSFT on formats – including the Pictela/Devil format.

As for a use case, it appears that all this buying spins off the data (cookies) that each buying group brings. Highest bid wins.

Digiday’s Shields isn’t buying that this will drive price. The triumverate thinks this unique inventory will get attention with marketers and pricing will follow. We’ll see.

Levinsohn says there’s nowhere else to buy this except through Aol/Microsoft/Yahoo!.

This is about that layer of inventory between direct sold and non-guaranteed. But, how long until it all gets thrown in one big pool (probably AppNexus or RMX) and everyone is allowed to buy on an RTB basis? Right now, it appears you have to go through the sales teams of each. That’s their publisher prerogative – sales teams will be looking to extract a higher price, bigger deals.

By John Ebbert

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