Intermarkets Prizes Programmatic Connections Alongside Direct Conversations

When it comes to anything new in the programmatic space, Intermarkets tends to be an early adopter. Header bidding? Check. Server-side header bidding? Check. Programmatic native? Check.

Erik Requidan, VP of sales and programmatic strategy at Intermarkets, which represents right-leaning political publishers such as the Drudge Report, aims to balance all that new tech with a human touch.

He tries to keep open lines of communication with buyers, particularly around brand safety and private marketplace deals, in an automated world where “direct sales are becoming a subset of programmatic.”

Requidan chatted with AdExchanger about why Intermarkets is trying to optimize connections with buyers, the post-election ad sales climate and his opinion of how agencies structure their programmatic teams.

AdExchanger: DSPs are doing supply-path optimization. You’re advocating publishers do “demand-path optimization.” What does that entail?

ERIK REQUIDAN: Supply-path optimization is about buyers finding optimal paths to the supply they want. The reverse is true, too. Publishers want to understand who their top buyers are and their preferred way to find inventory, because they do have preferences. The idea that buyers are completely agnostic at this point is not true.

Publishers are going to optimize those paths to demand. For example, you may not work with more than four exchanges, or maybe you choose just two or three. Buyers and sellers are growing closer than ever, and this is an exciting and positive thing.

Intermarkets represents a number of conservative sites, and it’s been caught up in the brand safety and blacklisting that brands have done post-election. Was that fair?

I don’t think it’s about fairness. This is where relationships matter. It’s about how hard you are working to make sure that buyers know they are buying you and why they are showing up somewhere.

We work on RFPs with the best advertisers in the marketplace because we have the best audiences, and we have a history of being a great place for advertisers to meet their KPIs. On Drudge Report, nine out of 10 people are typing in the URL. That’s premium.

Dollars are not blue or red. It may not be your cup of tea, but it is for 65 million other Americans. We are more established than the folks causing trouble out there. They have been public about not even wanting a relationship with buyers and brands. They want to fight them. That’s not our mission. Our mission is to help buyers buy the way they want to buy. 

Many agencies have moved to embed programmatic and dissolve trading desks. What’s your perspective on that shift as a seller?

Both are great. But when the trading expertise is housed somewhere, you see them spend more, faster. With some of the redistributed roles or embedded roles, there is a learning process, where they are trying to get their counterparts to understand as well. That knowledge transfer is critical. And in 18 months, things will be different than they are now.

As agencies shift programmatic spend to private exchanges, what’s the impact to you as a publisher?

We are absolutely seeing growth in private marketplaces (PMPs). One, when you are a premium publisher it’s a great way for a buyer to feel safe about executing their buy there, and often. Then they want more.

But the PMP is a restrictive sort of product. It’s a slower process, and it often doesn’t unlock something that’s different from other opportunities. There has been burn from buyers. They wanted to buy something that was premium and where they had a higher priority, but they didn’t get anything different. For us, we have been successful in saying, “If you want a private deal, it will give you a higher priority and better access.”

Intermarkets tends to be an early tester of new publisher features. What are you working on now that you think other publishers will be doing in the near future?

Working with programmatic native through headers. The interaction rates with native ads are great, so it’s good for our buyers. Advertisers are dedicating more budget to native.

We are also continuing to evolve with our ecommerce partners. Some say the web is performance-based but not the best place to convert, and that’s just not true. We have been growing relationships with brands that are filling shopping carts and booking hotel rooms.

What kind of consolidation do you see happening in the space?

I don’t think that a lot of companies will go away, but you will see a lot of companies changing their position on the Lumascape by moving more to the publisher side or to the advertiser side.

Right now, there is a lot of money moving toward the publisher, and you see ad tech going that way. On the brand and advertiser side, there is more money going into managing their data, so you’re seeing all the DMP, analytics and measurement tools go that way.

What progress has been made in ad tech transparency, and what should publishers be advocating for?

There have been huge strides in advancing transparency, from what URLs I am running on, to finding out the path of supply and what partners buyers and sellers are working with. Transparency also requires good partnerships. With any tech partner, relationships are important, and it’s absolutely critical you leverage those to gain transparency.

What about transparency in fees?

This is where you have to spend time reviewing your paperwork. Even within revisions in agreements, there can be things buried in there. Buyers and publishers have choices. If you don’t like it, go to another partner. You aren’t locked into it. Part of it is doing your own homework on who your partners are.

We have to be realistic about fees not being zero, because these are technologies that we haven’t built. There are humans behind it. Zero fees don’t make business sense.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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