As Programmatic Revenue Grows, The Guardian UK Shores Up Its Data

The Guardian UK is taking ownership of its ad stack.

“Publishers have given away control of our digital businesses through programmatic. And we have all been disintermediated,” said Danny Spears, programmatic director of Guardian News and Media.

Programmatic accounts for 85% of the Guardian UK’s display advertising business, Spears said: “And as programmatic becomes a more significant revenue stream, publishers’ appetite for taking control back will move to the forefront.”

Over the past year and a half, The Guardian switched to a server-side header bidding setup and brought on more advanced analytics from Adomik to see across all of its programmatic partners.

The analytics save time and help the programmatic team understand the contributions of an individual exchange or advertiser with greater precision.

For example, The Guardian can see how much a brand bought across all the exchanges the publisher works with. The sales team can then use that data to open private marketplace discussions.

“By understanding what audiences and environments the individual advertiser is competing for, and what they are bidding at, we can create some quite intelligent sales conversations,” Spears said. The Guardian can also give buyers ideas about how to increase their win rate by advising them on bidding strategies.

The Guardian prefers moving high-value open marketplace spenders to private marketplaces because it brings back the direct relationships between the buyer and seller. And fees are usually lower than on the open exchange.

“For exactly the same bids and budget, we can increase the advertiser’s working media and optimize our shared business,” Spears said.

Tactically, Adomik’s tech makes troubleshooting private marketplaces easier because the analytics centralizes all the information. “Being able to scale at troubleshooting is massively valuable,” he added.

As publishers increase their sophistication in data, Spears sees more opportunities for collaboration between publishers and brands. Especially within the context of a PMP, the two parties will share data in order to make the deal succeed.

“What’s opened up in the past six to nine months is buyers’ and sellers’ willingness to collaborate around sharing data, and comparing our records of what should be the same events,” Spears said.

Adomik plans to layer in more audience data and viewability information into its platform in the future, which The Guardian predicts will further increase its understanding of its business.

“They will be even more interesting when it brings together the publisher’s audience data with other third-party data sets, like having granular viewability data in your trading history,” Spears said.

To understand its revenue holistically, The Guardian not only uses Adomik, but has devoted more engineering and product resources to programmatic over the past nine months. Publishers should rely on a mix of vendors and their own internal expertise, Spears said.

Because of Adomik and its own data initiatives, The Guardian understands better than ever how advertising dollars move throughout the value chain, he said.

“Until recently, data has been hard to come by for publishers,” Spears said. “It’s been locked within vendors, and one step removed from the publisher.”

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