Private marketplaces not delivering

27 November 2014

NEW YORK: One response of publishers to the programmatic boom was to build private exchanges where they could retain more control and achieve higher prices, but anecdotal evidence suggests they haven't always succeeded in these aims.

DigiDay spoke to a number of players in this space, and found opinions were divided between whether the fault lay with the tech itself or the people using it.

"When it works, it's beautiful," said Pete Spande, Business Insider's CRO. "We're not exchanging insertion orders or amending them seven times a month. It's far superior to how traditional deals are done online. But we're not bullet proof yet as an industry."

Compatibility can be one problem, as the supply-side platforms that publishers have built don't always dovetail neatly with the demand-side platforms used by buyers.

"Getting the parts to work together is often a big challenge," admitted Daniel Young, ‎ programmatic director at The Weather Channel. "There are a lot of technologies, and each of them are trying to build the whole buy side or sell side one-stop shop, so there's an element of control."

And quite apart from the adtech world's internecine struggles, advertisers and agencies are often approaching the publishers' private marketplaces (PMPs) with the same intent as when they use open exchanges, expecting to find large audiences at low prices - which is precisely the opposite of what PMPs set out to achieve.

"They cannot apply the same numbers-driven approach to buying quality inventory and audiences as they do when they cookie-match in exchanges," declared Brian Fitzgerald, president of Evolve Media. "The two will never marry up, and quality publishing will always get marginalised for the bottom line."

Rich Routman, president and CRO of Sporting News Media, also had some useful advice for publishers: "If they [buyers] are using a DMP you haven't heard of and are targeting a very specific audience, you probably should think twice."

He further emphasised that publishers should ask buyers the right questions ahead of any PMP deal – about numbers being targeted, spending intentions, and so on – to avoid either side being disappointed.

"Blaming the tech is the easy way out," Routman said. "The tech works, but probably not up to the standard we set for ourselves. There's also a people process here that's a little broken."

Warc's Programmatic Primer is a guide to the latest online advertising techniques and includes detailed advice on how to work with companies operating in this ecosystem as well as case studies of programmatic in action.

Data sourced from DigiDay; additional content by Warc staff