Publishers Must Set Private Marketplace Rules, Pursue Two-Way Transparency

brianmikaliseditedThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Brian Mikalis, senior vice president of monetization at Pandora.

Publishers that want to retain their premium stature are executing programmatic deals through private exchanges or directly with advertisers as they jump in to figure out how programmatic will become a growing part of their revenue.

Doing deals on an invite-only basis allows publishers to retain control over which advertisers can run programmatically, how the inventory and audience is priced, what data is made available to the advertiser, agency and demand-side platform and what rights each have with the data and creative guidelines. These considerations are all incredibly important to publishers.

A few years ago, publishers had to give up these deal points if they wanted to clear some remnant inventory at higher rates through open RTB, so many premium publishers sat on the sidelines. Today, all of these deal points can be discussed and negotiated with buyers without relegating publishers thinking solely about remnant inventory or lower CPMs when transacting programmatically.

These new developments have created several opportunities that premium publishers should seize.

Premium Programmatic 

All publishers may like to think of their audience as “premium.” But what is “premium?”

For private exchanges to take off like we want them to, publishers need to do a better job describing why their inventory is truly premium, while making that inventory available programmatically. This will entice buyers to put in the effort to get private exchange deals in place, even if it takes more work or requires additional requirements, such as a data rights contract. Publishers should ask themselves what makes their inventory stand out from what is generally available in the open exchanges.

Do they have unique data available for targeting, a high viewability rate and a highly verifiable audience? Publishers must make the case for why their inventory is premium. Then they can find the advertisers that covet that audience and get the deals set up through the private exchange. They should also ensure that buy-side contacts at those exchanges know what they have available in the market. Both sides win in this situation.

Define The Rules Of Private Exchanges

Many would assume that publishers and advertisers could negotiate a programmatic deal that runs through a private exchange and is set up as a special, dedicated pipe between seller and buyer.

However, with the infrastructure originally created for many sellers and buyers all competing in an open exchange environment, private exchanges are not always private. With supply-side platforms (SSP) supporting publishers and demand-side platforms (DSP) supporting advertisers and agencies, there are layers of middlemen that also have access to the pipes and data.

Everyone involved needs to be aware of the rules of engagement around a private exchange deal and must be cautious about leaks in the pipes. Most importantly, leaks needs to be fixed immediately. Publishers should not accept technology layers in the middle claiming that this is how the system works. Buyers and sellers should be the ones making those decisions.

As such, it’s important to have a cadence with your private exchange partners, where you share reporting with one another on a biweekly or monthly basis. This is the best way to ensure that the deals are behaving as intended by both sides.

Two-Way Transparency

Publishers just getting started in programmatic may be disappointed in the data they get back in return. It doesn’t seem to flow naturally back to publishers, and the data that is available is not easy to interpret. Most of the tools available are evolving and having someone, or even a small team, to interpret and analyze is critical.

One of the promises of programmatic has always been the transparency – of audience data, inventory, price and bidding strategies. With the buy side often using multiple DSPs, creating a high level of competition among them, there has been much more innovation around the insights given back to advertisers when it comes to programmatic.

Ideally, the sell side would have the same types of insights around bidding strategies as the buy side has around available inventory and pricing. As both sides develop a better understanding of the other, many of the original promises of programmatic will come into fruition. Seeing demos of the platforms at industry conferences or simply inviting the other side to see how day-to-day operations take place will take some of the guesswork out of the equation and drive better overall results. Quarterly discussions with a publisher’s SSP and buyer’s DSP are always a good idea to ensure product road maps line up with everyone’s goals.

Without clear discussions around product needs, ad tech companies are left to do what they feel is best for the market. This may or may not line up with the individual needs of specific publishers and marketing partners.

Overall, the more buyers and sellers can be transparent with one another and feel like they have control over what they consider to be important, the more premium inventory and ad dollars will flow through programmatic pipes.

Follow Pandora (@PandoraPulse) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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