Yahoo Unites Its Programmatic Tech Under The BrightRoll Name – Will Advertisers Get On Board?

BrightRollumbrellaFirst there was Right Media. Then there was the Yahoo Ad Exchange. Now there’s BrightRoll.

Yahoo started off Advertising Week on Monday with the announcement that it had consolidated all of its programmatic ad tech under a single umbrella – the BrightRoll brand.

The purple platform has been on a bit of an ad tech spree since snapping up app analytics company Flurry in July 2014. The acquisition of video ad platform BrightRoll followed in November.

“It’s been an interesting year for us, but now we’re trying to be really thoughtful about the integration,” Yahoo Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Utzschneider told AdExchanger. “It’s given us the opportunity to think long and hard about what our programmatic strategy is and what we want it to be.”

And what is that?

“A unified DSP where advertisers can buy video, native and display both directly and indirectly from Yahoo, whether that’s managed premium or through the exchange,” Utzschneider said.

Yahoo appears to be taking a step in that direction with the BrightRoll rollup, combining Yahoo data and Flurry analytics with the BrightRoll DSP – programmatic buying services for Yahoo display, native and video inventory – and the BrightRoll Exchange (BRX), which has hooks into around 100 different DSPs.

Although BrightRoll was primarily known as a video platform, Utzschneider doesn’t foresee any major issues around using the name for Yahoo’s full programmatic stack.

“The overarching ‘MaVeNS’ strategy stands for mobile, video, native and social, and most clients know that,” she said, referring to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s somewhat ham-fisted acronym for the four core components that underpin Yahoo’s turnaround plan. “When we acquired BrightRoll, it was a video DSP, but marketers recognize that we’re trying to do a better job to integrate our ad products throughout.”

But Yahoo’s first flirtation with programmatic started long before the acquisitions of BrightRoll and Flurry with the purchase of Right Media, which Yahoo picked up way back in 2007 for $680 million.

In the years that followed, the Right Media Exchange (RMX), which started life as an early bastion of the exchange model, became associated with low-quality inventory, and impression volume started to decline. (One AdExchanger source didn’t mince words, describing RMX as “a swamp.”) Yahoo ultimately shut down the exchange for all non-Yahoo O&O networks and publishers at the end of 2014.

From there, Yahoo funneled its advertisers and publishers into what became known as the Yahoo Ad Exchange, an ostensibly more brightly lit (read: private) atmosphere where demand could tap into Yahoo supply.

Now, YAX will give way to BrightRoll, which also includes access to the wider programmatic ecosystem through the BrightRoll Exchange, with the hope that more advertiser dollars will flow.

But despite Yahoo’s claim that BrightRoll powers digital advertising for 99 of Ad Age’s top 100 advertisers, Monday’s restructure points to a Yahoo casting about for the right formula to attract advertisers.

LisaUtzschneiderYahoo“Marketers today want it all – they want the chance to connect with consumers in a premium environment with rich content and they want the opportunity to buy programmatically with flexibility and scale, along with data and the ability to purchase great targeting,” Utzschneider said. “We’ve combined Yahoo data and Flurry analytics within the BrightRoll DSP to do just that.”

Although it remains to be seen whether the BrightRoll rebrand is a good move, Christopher Hansen, chief product officer at IgnitionOne, said it should help Yahoo “address the programmatic space much better than they have over the past few years” and give it a stronger position as a competitor to Google.

“Now they have a far broader offering, with their owned and operated inventory and the breadth of the programmatic ecosystem,” said Hansen.

And in terms of Yahoo’s O&O, that inventory has “always performed” and been “very desirable,” said DataXu CEO Mike Baker in a previous interview. DataXu was also one of the first DSPs to integrate with BRX in 2011, along with MediaMath, RocketFuel, Turn and several others.

But Martin Kihn, research director at Gartner, wasn’t overly impressed by what he called “more an exercise in brand focus than a strategic shift.”

Yahoo seems to be “following AOL’s strategic lead with an emphasis on video,” said Kihn.

“Yahoo’s strategic position emphasizes video and mobile as an end run around their disadvantages in display, [and], again like AOL, they’re trying to evolve from the difficult business of selling ad space to offering an ad tech infrastructure to lure buyers and get some platform revenue,” he said. “[But] the winds of change aren’t going their way as Facebook and Google build out parallel universes and AOL probably benefits from Verizon’s device graph and their own Convertro acquisition.”

Another challenge is keeping the right talent on board, which is key to Yahoo’s future success.thefourmavens

But despite the recent departure of BrightRoll’s COO Bruce Falck, who left Yahoo in mid-September to take the reins as chief exec at Turn, Utzschneider doesn’t seem concerned about any kind of exodus, pointing to the fact that BrightRoll founder and former CEO Tod Sacerdoti is staying on board as Yahoo’s VP of display and video advertising products.

In other news, Yahoo also announced on Monday that it had added a custom audience feature to Yahoo Gemini, its search and native advertising marketplace to enable advertisers to target users across devices.

Although one could argue that Yahoo is late to the mobile game and that its $1.1 billion Tumblr acquisition has been a bit of a flop, native and video – the “V” and the “N” in “MaVeNS” – are still up for grabs.

“Native as a ‘channel’ is in its infancy and Gemini is poised well,” said IgnitionOne’s Hansen. “Video is [also] still a huge channel, and Yahoo has the platform and content to support it well.”


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