What about other types of "trading mistakes?" A recent programming error by Goldman Sachs set stock option prices far too low and caused orders to flood American exchanges early last week, costing the bank as much as $100 million.
The odds are slim that any such system failure or human error will lead to massive "media trading losses" in the online ad space. That's because losses created by mistakenly undervaluing inventory would be on a much cheaper scale – and isolated to whatever publisher or go between caused the error.
But the distributed nature of digital ads is no guarantee against downtime – and advertisers and agencies are bound to notice when that downtime hits the biggest players, such as the DoubleClick Ad Exchange or FBX.
According to Duncan McCall, CEO of PlaceIQ, "While there's not necessarily the same single-player marketplace model, there still exists the same inherent risks that computing or digital glitches that could cause large swings, shutdowns and erroneous behaviors."
Gombert agrees, though she sees limited risk: "Because the ad-tech trading markets are campaign-based, there are ways to make up the downtime by front loading. Regardless, glitches and issues do result in revenue loss in the short term, of course."
Concerns about uptime are likely to track with growth in RTB spending. US marketers are on track to invest $3.3 billion in RTB ads this year -- 19% of all digital ad spend. That share will grow to 29%, or $8.69 billion, by 2017. Platform players had better be ready.
"As the digital advertising market matures and becomes more and more programmatic," McCall said, "a focus on security, regulation, failover and controls will be more and more important."