Business Insider Brings On Small Advertisers With Publisher Trading Desk

BI Prog Ad EngineThe salespeople at Business Insider had a problem. Some potential advertisers wanted to buy directly with the publication, but due to minimums implemented in mid-2014, their budgets were below the minimum spend and CPM required for a direct buy.

That would make them candidates for programmatic sales, but these clients didn’t have DSPs. Some were traditional TV and print advertisers just branching out into digital, while others just weren’t as technologically sophisticated.

“We had a sales force that was constantly saying to me, ‘A private marketplace is the right thing for this advertiser and they don’t have a DSP. What can we do?’” recalled Jana Meron, VP of programmatic and data strategy for Business Insider.

While hearing a pitch for Rubicon Project’s Ad Engine – a publisher trading desk that’s part of its Seller Cloud – Meron realized the tool could be used to support direct buys at minimum spends.

“We want to make it so advertisers can buy us however they want to buy us, but we still have rules for the direct sales force,” explained Meron. By loading the deals into the ad engine on a fixed-price, non-guaranteed basis, it could service these small direct buys.

If Business Insider implemented these deals as direct, guaranteed buys, they could usurp a programmatic buy with a higher spend – not a good thing. But if these deals were submitted programmatically using Rubicon’s DSP technology, they could still compete for impressions as long as the CPM was high enough. That made it an ideal solution for advertisers without a DSP.

“If we’re very highly sold, we don’t have to worry about giving someone these valuable CPMs for a low dollar amount,” Meron said. “At the same time if there’s a traffic spike, they win.”

Business Insider began using Ad Engine, then in private beta, to run small buys this way two months ago. Since then, four advertisers have bought ads on Business Insider this way, and there’s more in the pipeline.

Kaylie Smith, head of the seller cloud at Rubicon, said 25 sellers are using the ad engine product, 60% of them international. The publishers that will benefit most from this technology have “highly sophisticated programmatic strategies,” and usually bring in over half their revenue from programmatic, Smith said.

The publisher trading desk borrows technology from Rubicon’s buy-side bidder, but with interfaces and reporting that make sense for publishers.

With Ad Engine as its publisher trading desk, Business Insider can not only set up advertiser campaigns bidding into its own inventory, it can also bid outside on Rubicon’s exchange.

Meron envisions using this technology if Business Insider chooses to do audience extension on house ads. At the moment, they run when nothing’s left. Using Ad Engine, Meron will be able to look at the true value of a conversion and assign a CPM that will trump a paid placement for the right user.

Giving publishers access to bidding technology for their own purposes arms the sell side for a programmatic future. Meron, as she dives deeper into the product, professed to having a “grand vision” of “being really strategic about how we put things in [the Ad Engine]” as it figures out the possibilities of having a sell-side bidder.

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