Over the past year, many sell-side ad-tech companies have offered publishers solutions around "programmatic direct." Publisher analytics provider Yieldex has rolled out a simple tool called " YieldEdge Sponsorship Calendar" that has been adopted in recent weeks by Comcast Spotlight, the local media sales arm of the cable giant.
The product sounds fairly mundane, but it addresses the complexity of a sales system that covers 80 local markets across the country, said Tom Good, Comcast's director of digital ad operations.
"You hear a lot of talk about data visualization these days and all the various tools you can have to manage forecasting, analytics and inventory avails on the back end," Good said. "But many systems have difficulty tying all our processes and teams together to help figure out when the best time is to run a sponsorship, while avoiding conflicts within the sales group. The value proposition is that this is the first time we can get a calendar view of our sell-throughs at a very granular level, not just the local level. We've needed this for a long time."
The calendar is part of the wider YieldEdge inventory-management system and represents a single space available to publishers' sales teams and their ad servers. Comcast Spotlight has been using it for more than a month, and now the offering is being rolled out widely, said Yieldex CEO Andy Nibley.
The calendar allows sellers to organize their requests for proposals from vendors and buyers, putting everyone on the same page when it comes to the sponsorships available on any date and time and as much as 15 months in advance. By making it clear that a date has no competing sponsorships, sellers don't have to spend more hours than they'd like checking for possible overbooking of certain inventory.
Because of the obvious requirements that go into sponsorships and native ads, these kinds of sales have tended to resist the pull of programmatic that has begun to change the way direct-response display ads are sold. For publishers wary of exchanges, even private ones, but also fearful of CPM declines for "traditional direct" sales, customized ads are something of a refuge.
But the value inherent in sole "share of voice" that comes with sponsorship is hurt by advertiser concerns about inefficiency and lack of accountability. The introduction then of automation into the back-end processes of sponsorships and potentially native ads should appeal to both publishers and marketers as automation of other segments of the business becomes more common.
"Because there's direct linkage to ad servers, the Sponsorship Calendar adds a great deal of automation to the process that was previously slower and more uncertain," Good said. "It's better than duct tape and spreadsheets, which is what we've often used – no kidding."
Sponsorships make up nearly 10% of all display ad revenues, Yieldex's Nibley said, citing eMarketer and Interactive Advertising Bureau stats.
"We're talking about $1 billion or so that publishers have not been able to forecast or manage efficiently,” Nibley said. "We're in the business of giving publishers more visibility into their inventory. And because we look at over 130 billion ad impressions a month, which works out to roughly 4 to 5 terabytes a day, we can provide actual visibility instead of relying on sampling to help publishers act on the data."
Over the past year, Yieldex has revamped its dashboard and brought in data covering video and mobile as well into its inventory management. It's all leading up to a larger project around more services to promote programmatic direct and greater use of automation beyond exchanges.