Securing The Publisher, Serving The Marketer

InventoryOh leakage, leakage, leakage.

Last week’s Adobe acquisition of Demdex made clear that many of those working hard on a broad software-as-a-service solution for the advertising industry, see the securing of inventory supply as the key lever. If you don’t have any supply, you won’t have any ad spend floating through your ad pipes and plumbing.

In outlaying several tens of millions of dollars for an acquisition that some might term a “tuck-in,” Adobe positioned the move as putting a finger in the publisher’s “data leakage” (thank you, Tom Chavez) dyke (thank you, dutch boy). Adobe’s Mellor said on, “The market that Demdex is currently focused on is exactly where we want them to stay. Regarding our customer base, over ½ of the volume of our transactions that we measure are from publishers – a rich customer set that includes 7 of the top 10 publishers who use the Adobe Online Marketing Suite. That will be a customer base that drives a lot of value out of the Demdex solution.And then, he talks about the marketer.

For Adobe, supply first, and the marketers will follow. Publishers need to feel confident that they’re maximizing yield and not risking future success -which means a solutions provider that secures their data. Demdex helps addresses this requirement in part – and thus builds Adobe Omniture’s solutions case for the publisher. And, if you can have the publisher AND advertiser’s data pulsing across your platform – here comes the attribution solution!

Adobe isn’t the first to realize that securing the supply – particularly the right supply – will bring the marketing dollar that ultimately drives the SaaS-y solution.

It Always Comes Back To Google

When Google bought DoubleClick way back in the early 2007s, much was made about Big G owning the marketer’s favorite ad server as Atlas and others struggled to gain, if not maintain, market share.

The theory went that if Google owned the digital hearts, minds and wallets of marketers – and the ad server and the data that goes with it – game over! But wait. Quixotic marketers will switch digital solutions faster than a brake-induced, neck-snap during a New York City cab ride as they spray test budget hither and thither in hopes of new ROI streams. That’s one reason today’s big, ad tech ecosystem has been cranking out demand-biased (for the most part) innovation at a steady clip with inefficient marketplaces getting rapidly streamlined and data fueling its core.

The big DoubleClick For Publishers (DFP) websites were the gold in the DoubleClick transaction. If you don’t have supply – especially quality supply – you won’t get the marketer’s business especially as the audience buying evolves. AdSense publishers can help provide reach, but for brand awareness campaigns, marketers care about the URL and transparency -particularly in today’s non-guaranteed space.

Getting Brand Dollars

As has been tirelessly noted, big brand dollars have yet to make an appearance requisite to time spent on the Web by the consumer in comparison to television. This is for good reason as marketers know the content and audience they’re getting (digital will improve the audience targeting component drastically), and get big reach. Good content is where the big gold-plated brands play.

Give them a safe place to play – which includes overcoming challenges around behavioral advertising through self- or government regulation – and they will spend. But, Mr. or Ms. SaaS solution, you must have to the big publishers’ inventory to attract the big marketers and create a sustainable business.

Which reminds me… how long until Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, IBM and so on buys a company like Viacom in order to secure the addressable, cross-channel digital future?

By John Ebbert

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  1. Josh Wexler (Rubicon Project)

    As always, great insight and thanks for getting the industry thinking/talking about this. That said, I think you got it half right. The deck has been stacked against publishers for too long. The only point when publishers will ultimately be secure is when publisher technology serves their needs – and isn’t just working to “grab” their inventory.

    Marketers have benefited from billions of dollars invested in advertiser-centric tools. An explosion of third party buyers, audience technologies, exchanges, and platforms have brought meaningful dollars to the ecosystem. This is good. Yet premium publishers have not seen the majority of the value created by these technologies. Not even close. This is bad.

    Publishers do have choices today, and that’s good news. The question that remains is whether the tools and platforms premium publishers are considering are engineered to their specifications, or to the specifications of companies whose ultimate goal is to serve the marketer and ONLY the marketer. Want an ecosystem that truly thrives? Secure the publisher, serve the publisher.

    Of course, I could go on forever about this topic. Feel free to read more of my response to this article on our blog

  2. Hither and thither? I’m going to have to start working that into my lexicon!

    The value of the DFP publisher base (only about ~400 at time of acquisition) is actually quite insignificant compared to the value of the installation base of DFA. Two reasons:

    1) Agencies are loathe to move their media buyers onto new platforms because of the amount of training and protocol changes involved. There is a lot of inertia in DFA that is not appreciated by us DSP-minded folks. (Note too: The innovation is happening here because that’s where the money is — most players are just taking a little off the top while they can — not because the buyers are demanding it.)

    2) DFP publishers’ inventory is locked up. Think of DFP like Microsoft Word and the Ad Exchange like Google Docs. In fact, imagine that some major pubs still run DFE (a self-managed version in their own datacenter), which is the equivalent of a typewriter. While related, these systems don’t talk to each other unless there is a big incentive to make them do so. And still, most big pubs have no real interest in putting their display inventory on the Exchange. So really, the DFP business is just about servicing legacy clients at insanely low margins on an old tech stack.

    But your thesis is correct; all of these things must come together to win the spend of big brand marketers. And Google is way, way ahead of all other players right now.