As the bloated Display LUMAscape shifts, more and more companies focused on real-time bidding are turning their venture-funded ships in the direction of "programmatic premium" and trying to pivot toward an area where nearly 80 percent of display media budgets are spent. This has been called the "Sutton Pivot," referring to the notion of robbing banks, because "that's where the money is."
The fact that that 80 percent - over $6 billion - is largely transacted using email, Microsoft Excel, and fax machines is staggering in a world in which Facebook is becoming passé. The larger question is whether or not publishers are going to enable true premium inventory to be purchased in a way that lessens their control. At a recent industry conference, publishers including Gannett and Turner completely rejected RTB and "programmatic" notions. In a world of ever-growing inventory, the premium stuff is shrinking as a percentage - and that means scarcity, which is the publisher's best friend. Selling less of a higher margin product is business 101.
As I wrote recently, at the same conference, Forbes' Meredith Levien laid out the three principle chunks of inventory a super-premium publisher controls. I want to examine the programmatic premium notion against each of these:
"The middle layer - deals that are currently being done via the RFP process - is where "programmatic premium" is going to take place. In this type of buy, a demand-side platform will create efficiencies that eliminate the cutting and pasting of Excel and faxing and emailing of document-based orders, and a supply-side platform will help publishers expose their premium inventory to buyers with pricing and availability details. That sort of system sounds more like a "systematic guaranteed" platform for premium inventory.
So, is programmatic premium? Not the type of programmatic buying happening today.
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Chris O'Hara is an ad technology executive, and the author of "Best Practices in Digital Display Media," a contributor to ClickZ, and the author of the new whitepaper "Best Practices in Data Management." He can be reached through his blog at www.chrisohara.com