The Future of Programmatic for Publishers

Publisher adoption of real-time bidding and programmatic display has changed significantly in the last few years. Some publishers have been quick to embrace new features like private marketplace deals, premium video inventory, and viewability. Others have been more reluctant to move to a programmatic-friendly environment and have been left behind in the plans of savvy marketers as a result.

Programmatic Industry History

The programmatic display industry, of course, continues to change. For years the display industry was extremely fragmented, making multi-inventory, large-scale campaigns difficult to run. The creation of the demand-side platform (DSP) changed this drastically, and meant the process for advertisers to reach publishers seamlessly was much improved. This led to a decline in the need for the previous publisher/agency relationship, and evened the playing field for agencies and advertisers who didn’t benefit from preferential rates due to huge spend or relationships.

With the rise of the DSP allowing advertisers to reach any content easily, the next step was to create even better targeting with the addition of first- and third-party data. Advertisers are now using both data types to refine targeting and improve campaign performance.

Again, there were a few savvy publishers who quickly got on board with data-sharing and began to see an entirely new value to their on-site inventory. They could align with data companies or data management platforms (DMPs) to sell their customer audiences within private marketplace inventory deals. This has now expanded to private data marketplaces, which allow advertisers to access an audience of users from a particular publisher, and target that audience not only on the publisher’s site, but across the advertiser’s entire inventory pool. For example, a B2B advertiser may reach out to a publisher who promotes thousands of job listings, and set up a private data marketplace to buy an audience of people who have applied for C-level roles. This is a huge step forward for precise targeting within programmatic display. It’s beneficial to publishers because they’ve found a new revenue stream by selling their data, and beneficial to advertisers as they can continue to refine their targeting and expand on success they have had within the private marketplace.

Publishers Take Note

The best-case scenario for an advertiser is to be able to serve all campaigns via a single ad-server using a single demand-side platform for easy setup and clear attribution reporting. Advertisers don’t want the industry to change back to being hyper-fragmented and clunky to manage.

Many publishers have seen the benefits and continued to allow access to their data directly through existing DSPs. Unfortunately, as some premium publishers have realized the value of their data, they have been reluctant to make their data available to purchase via DSPs. They have instead chosen to build an entire new DSP, blocking advertisers from buying their inventory or data programmatically anywhere other than their owned systems. I wrote about LinkedIn ceasing private marketplace deals, and it turned out that the reason was they were working on their own exclusive DSP, making their inventory and data only available programmatically with this tool.

Publishers moving their inventory and data to a new and separate DSP causes a multitude of problems for advertisers. The industry again becomes more fragmented, which is not what agencies or advertisers want. The use of a large number of DSPs means performance is difficult to track and we miss out on frequency capping, conversion de-duplication, and an easy view of the user’s path to conversion. Systems created just for one publisher don’t have the manpower to build a really slick interface and often support is sub-par, meaning advertisers are less efficient. Agency or trading desk teams lose the option to be platform specialists, meaning budgeting, reporting, and optimizing are much less efficient. That gives advertisers the choice to either miss out on these publishers’ first-party audiences or have a less efficient campaign architecture.

The hope is publishers recognize the value of their data. This benefits agencies, advertisers, and publishers alike, as campaigns are better targeted. If publisher data and inventory is made available via existing DSPs rather than creating more, the industry will remain as de-fragmented as possible and everyone will have the option to see improved campaign results.

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