Zynga Taps Rubicon Project To Make All Inventory Tradable Via Programmatic Direct

Zynga RubiconZynga has made 100% of its direct-sold inventory available for purchase programmatically, courtesy of Rubicon Project’s guaranteed orders capability.

Buyers can access all of the premium Zynga ad formats, including “sponsored play” and “gamified units,” exclusively through Rubicon Project, a process that took months to set up.

The deal offers important upsides for both Zynga and Rubicon.

For Zynga, the guaranteed deals expansion continues its foray into programmatic, giving it one more way to sell the units that resonate most with users and perform best with advertisers. According to Julie Shumaker, the game company’s VP of global sales, players prefer a longer video ad that gives them 48 hours of uninterrupted play to shorter, more frequent ads. And brands tend to get higher performance from those ads.

“The top brands that are willing to take the time and energy and money to create high-quality, high-value ad experiences also happen to make the better experiences for the players,” Shumaker said.

For Rubicon Project, the deal helps it differentiate itself from exchange competitors by giving it access to unique supply. That’s important in an SSP market that’s been squeezed, with PubMatic undergoing layoffs and OpenX reportedly seeking a buyer.

According to Joe Prusz, the head of mobile for Rubicon Project, “We became the fastest-growing of SSP companies [early on] because we had the most exclusive relationships with the comScore 500, and that’s why we had more buyers accessing our inventory.”

While many publishers now expose their inventory to multiple SSPs, which commoditizes open auction environments, private marketplaces and automated guaranteed channels are more often set up with an exclusive platform partner.

“A big focus for us has been working with publishers to get exclusive access to the inventory, to make sure the buy side is incentivized” to use Rubicon, Prusz added.

Since most mobile apps don’t even have direct sales teams, Prusz sees guaranteed orders as a way for them to go premium with limited resources.

Although Zynga does have a direct sales team, Shumaker sees Rubicon’s direct orders platform easing the burden placed on her salespeople. Compensation will remain intact no matter how the deal is executed.

Zynga prides itself on a “nimble philosophy with resources,” Shumaker said. “On a per-seller basis we’re doing very well in the mobile ecosystem, and by giving my sales team a broader sales structure to facilitate deals, I’m increasing yield per head without increasing heads.”

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