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Scout Rewrites Its Programmatic Playbook

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scoutThe football site Scout attracts avid fans who congregate en masse during the season but spend the offseason elsewhere. That seasonality adds complexity to Scout’s advertising sales business.

Scout employs a small sales force on the direct side, focusing on custom integrations and some display. Most advertisers buy direct in-season.

It sells the rest of its display advertising programmatically. During football season, Scout sees a massive uptick in traffic and fills about 60% programmatically. During the offseason, programmatic can account for 90% of all impressions.

Because Scout employs a small team with a dramatically varying workload, yield management SVP Andrea Granucci has looked for ways to automate some of its work optimizing its programmatic partners. For the past year, Scout has used Operative Compete to combine all its SSP dashboards into one platform. Publishers pay a software-as-a-service fee and a piece of the revenue uplift.

“You click a few buttons and can easily see across all partners the fill rate for the past seven days and what CPMs you are getting on a daily basis,” Granucci said.

She previously needed to log in to each partner’s dashboard and manually pull, analyze and merge reports.

Because she now only checks one centralized dashboard, Granucci uses that data to optimize her programmatic partners more frequently, which has boosted revenue. Over the past year, traffic has remained flat while revenue per page view grew 25%.

Having a centralized dashboard also makes it easier to spot bad creative or malicious ads quickly and shut them down, a common challenge for publishers working with programmatic partners.

Since introducing the platform improved yield, Scout has taken a wait-and-see approach to header bidding. Scout employs a small team with limited development resources to work on header-bidding implementation.

“I ultimately think I’ve seen the same growth I would be getting with header bidding, but header bidding would have been more of a headache,” Granucci said.

“A lot of the behind-the-scenes [work] makes it tough to justify.”

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While the platform doesn’t unify the auction in the same way as header bidding, Operative Compete does offer a holistic view of inventory. That in turn makes it easier to identify poorly performing partners and optimize in ways that reflect each partner’s value – one of the more difficult parts of making programmatic work.

“Programmatic is supposed to be the ‘easy’ solution,” Granucci said, “but for publishers there is still a lot of maintenance that goes with it.”

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