Business Insider Filling ‘The Middle Layer’ With Private Marketplaces

bridgetThe private marketplace – or exchange – strategy has been bubbling for several years as large publishers look to collect programmatic media budgets from advertisers that are hunting audience across “brand-safe” sites. On Wednesday, sell-side platform PubMatic announced that business news site Business Insider had signed on as a client for its private marketplace product. See the release.

AdExchanger spoke to BI’s Senior VP of Business and Audience Development Bridget Williams about the company’s private marketplace offering and programmatic media.

AdExchanger: As it relates to programmatic, what do you see as the big challenges for a publisher of your size today?

BRIDGET WILLIAMS:  Well, today, it’s a much better landscape than it was even a few years ago. There is a volume of spending that has moved over to what I’d call “network spending” or “audience spending.” For publishers, previously, it was a black hole. You either participated or you didn’t. And, if you participated, people were selling against your audience.  Programmatic feels more encouraging to me in its current form because I have transparency into what’s happening – and more control. And, with the private marketplace, [it creates] the direct relationship with the advertiser.

What about cannibalizing your direct sales? Do you think about it at all?

We don’t. We feel like our advertisers are spending elsewhere. It’s less worrisome because it now allows us to have a whole conversation. If the only thing that advertisers want to buy from us is banners, then this makes it efficient in real time and easy – great. Most brands should be doing more than the banner. They know that and we know that. No one is coming to our direct sales team and just doing banner buys without some really smart things around it.

What were some of the elements you were looking for from a private marketplace technology provider?

When I first took over our remnant business, we were having a tryout with different partners – SSPs [sell-side platforms] and direct networks to see what the whole experience was like. All of them were saying, “If you just gave us all your inventory, everything would be better and would change.” We said, “Yeah. Let’s see what happens.”

It was a mix of the UI, which is important in the reporting, the controls and then, frankly, who was responsive, who had operations and systems set up in place. This was new for us. There are going to be hiccups. Really quickly, we decided to go with one person. There are definitely similar, good products out there, but we made a choice that we only wanted to work with one.

Can you quantify or qualify the opportunity that is happening with agency trading desks for a publisher like Business Insider?

From the quantifying viewpoint…it’s hard to say. What I know is that they are bringing a more direct relationship with an advertiser. Talking with them about a large brand program that is taking place across multiple sites is very different than getting a call from an ad network who says, “We’ve got the sidebar units and leaderboards. It’s two bucks. Do you want it or not?”

Now it’s us at the table talking about expectations, our product and bringing in our direct sales team to say, “This is great. Do you know what would complement that really well…” or “For Q2, if you did a brand, buy with us…” That’s what agency trading desks bring to the table for us.

What are we talking about here with private marketplaces or exchanges? Are we talking about maybe raising a remnant inventory layer from $.20 to $.40 or $2.00 CPMs being raised to $2.50? What layer you are targeting with this private marketplace?

Obviously the middle layer is what we look to grow.  So far, our direct sales team is in the mid‑20s, down to the teens. Our goal is to not be far below that eventually with this strategy.

What about sourcing demand through self-service direct markets?  Do you think real-time bidding/private marketplaces can fill that layer?

Automating the process by which advertisers may buy simple ad products on our site, whether using audience data or not, can be solved through the private marketplace layer.  I’m not optimistic that small/local advertising is a huge opportunity for business sites [through self-service direct markets], and I’ve seen no data from publishers which suggests otherwise, so I wouldn’t be planning a separate strategy for that.


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