In auctions, buyers and sellers must reach agreement on the value of an impression. Here's how ad operations fit into the mix.
RTB (real-time bidding) is changing online advertising's dynamics. For buyers, RTB offers the possibility of buying only the impressions they need at a price they are willing to pay. An incredible amount of investment in time and energy is being expended by DSPs (demand-side platforms) and SSPs (supply-side platforms) to connect all the dots and run even more impressions through RTB. Initiatives such as OpenRTB will only increase the amount of impressions and revenue that run through RTB platforms.
Yet, publishers feel relegated to the sidelines watching this new marketplace evolve. RTB holds the promise of higher CPMs for publishers, but is that it? What can a publisher - and more specifically, ad operations - do to ensure that RTB will help grow the business?
Use RTB to learn. Ad operations should put impressions onto an exchange or work with an SSP to see their impressions traded on a RTB platform. Select a partner that gives visibility into who is buying impressions, for how much, and why. With this information, ad operations can inform the sales teams of the brands that are running on their site and make educated sales planning decisions. Brands targeting specific audience segments may be willing to spend additional budget on sponsorships or direct site buys to reach that audience.
Set pricing floors on valuable inventory. Partners should not only provide visibility into how impressions are being purchased, but provide tools to control which impressions are sold and for how much. Setting pricing floors on valuable audience segments enables publishers to help determine the market value of their impressions. Without these controls, buyers alone determine the value of impressions, which creates a very lopsided marketplace. Ad operations should use pricing floors as levers to ensure their inventory isn't being sold at a fraction of its value.
Put data out to the market. One could argue that publishers are sitting on some of the most valuable impression data available. The problem is that most audience segments aren't big enough or predictable enough to create ad products that can be sold effectively by the sales team. RTB solves this problem. Impression amounts don't have to be guaranteed by the publisher. An ad operations team can help lead the charge in getting audience segments into the marketplace and getting higher CPMs based off their own data sources.
Centralize relationships. Managing remnant partners is time consuming. Daisy chaining networks and managing multiple relationships is something ad operations folks dread because they know the return on all of that work won't amount to significant gains. Working with an SSP or exchange can eliminate the need to do that work on the publisher side, freeing up operations team members. They can focus energies on managing pricing floors and putting data out onto the market, endeavors that will ultimately drive more revenue. It also allows for a straightforward conversation with network partners - networks and other vendors need to provide value beyond just filling unsold inventory.
RTB and the auction model is based on both buyers and sellers coming to an agreement on the value of an impression and making the transaction. Too much of the development on this front has been on the buyer side. Ad operations teams for publishers must start doing more to help set the fair market price for their audiences.
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Rob Beeler is vice president of content and media for AdMonsters, a global community of ad operations and technology leaders. Rob's responsibilities include developing content for AdMonsters forums in the U.S., Europe, and online.
Rob Beeler joined AdMonsters in October 2008 after nearly 10 years at Advance Internet. At Advance Internet, Rob started as the only ad operations person and developed a department of 15 people in eight locations across the country responsible for operations, project management, business development, Web analytics, and financial reporting, becoming executive director of ad operations and analytics in early 2007.
Rob graduated from Syracuse University in 1990 with a dual major in Producing for Electronic Media/English.
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