WPP Group just scored a win at the intersection of social and programmatic display. Facebook has confirmed to AdExchanger that it added the holding company's Xaxis audience buying unit to its list of approved real-time bidding partners for the new Facebook Exchange.
Xaxis is the only one of Facebook's RTB partners to hail from within an agency holding company, which could become a point of contention between Facebook and the other holding companies (Interpublic Group, Omnicom, Publicis, and Havas) which are likely to want equal access for dollars spent.
Meanwhile other agency trading desks are lobbying Facebook for the right to plug directly into its new RTB inventory, though it's not clear whether Facebook Exchange uses the concept of a "seat," as others do.
The move may be seen to validate WPP's technology strategy, which has been markedly different from that of other holding companies. The Dublin-based conglomerate has been much more active in acquiring and incubating ad platforms than have its rivals, which has sometimes led to criticism from some corners for alleged conflict of interests. In addition to Xaxis, which incidentally has its first birthday next week, WPP owns 24/7 and its Media Innovation Group (MIG) subsidiary. Of course, it doesn't hurt that WPP also is the largest of all the agency holding companies with its GroupM media buying arm carrying significant leverage with supply sources. This would not be lost on Facebook.
Here's how Xaxis CEO Brian Lesser described the Xaxis secret sauce in a 2011 interview with AdExchanger:
"What makes us different is proprietary technology, multiple channels, a unifying data management platform and a team of operators that have been running successful audience buying businesses for the last several years.
It’s also important to point out that we don’t operate in a vacuum. We actively engage the marketplace to find the best media, data, and technology partners in the business. We rely on our partnerships for things like premium inventory, ad verification, OBA regulation, third-party data, and important technology applications that we seamlessly integrate into our platform."
With Xaxis, the number of technology partners on the new social RTB marketplace reaches nine. The other eight are TellApart, Triggit, Turn, AppNexus, TheTradeDesk, AdRoll, DataXu, MediaMath.
How high will the number go? Global marketing exec Carolyn Everson, speaking with AdExchanger in Cannes this week, cautioned against drawing any major conclusions about Facebook Exchange, describing it as a work in progress:
"I don't know if you'd call it a version 1.0, it's version 0.1. We consider it an Alpha internally. We're trying to understand how it's going to work. Some made it seem like the whole thing is tied up and ready to go. It's early stage."
-By Zach Rodgers