“The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today's column is written by Rachel Parkin, senior vice president of strategy and sales at CafeMedia.
In ad tech, we either spend a lot of time hunting for the next big thing or kvetching about what’s broken in our ecosystem. Rarely do we stop to take stock of what we’re doing well and give ourselves a deserved pat on the back.
Private marketplaces (PMPs) are one such thing that’s been all too easy to pick on. Yes, there’s plenty of room to innovate – I’ve said so myself – but the industry is also getting a lot right about how it’s using the tools we have today. PMPs have come a long way.
Now a scalable solution
It wasn’t that long ago when PMPs simply didn’t work. Many deal IDs never left the starting blocks. It could take quite a bit of back and forth with sell-side and buy-side exchange partners and multiple sample bid requests to literally get the pipes to connect.
Today, we don’t need to do that. Technical issues are a rarity these days and it’s to the credit of exchange and DSP partners that many now take PMP mechanics for granted. Most deal IDs start bidding and delivering from the moment they are activated.
Another commonplace reaction to PMPs was, “I tried it, and it didn’t scale.” But PMPs today can deliver at scale, and not just in a lab environment. PMPs work well with all the bells and whistles, such as the data and filters advertisers want. Overlaying any data on PMPs used to be a non-starter.
Now, first-party data is often part of the norm, and PMPs can run successfully with reasonably defined advertiser audiences to combine rich targeting with safe and high-performing inventory.
Troubleshooting tools also help drive progress. Good tools can help uncover roadblocks around filtered inventory and size mismatches. Sharing that information often starts a conversation that allows publishers and buyers to quickly fine-tune the campaign setup and put a PMP back on track, making it a reliable and scalable tool.
A structured investment approach
Historically, PMPs may have been siloed with the trading-desk teams or even been an afterthought, but now they’re embedded into the holistic campaign investment strategy. Agencies increasingly use programmatic-specific RFPs and ask what elements of custom proposals can be executed programmatically. With this front-and-center treatment comes greater scrutiny and innovation driving the success today.
Having a process around planning puts the onus on publishers to recommend solutions tailored to a campaign’s specific goals. It provides a platform for publishers to precisely define what’s possible and incents the development of unique ideas. As a result, publishers are collectively pushing the envelope to go above and beyond with PMPs.
Structure also inspires buy-in from agencies and advertisers. Planning efforts translate to a commitment in terms of execution. Because everyone involved in the process is invested in making PMPs work, they all support their growth. PMPs are no longer something that starts and stops with the trading desk. The full investment teams play a role, leading to more eyes on performance metrics, more focus on troubleshooting and more conversations about helping advertisers make the best use of PMPs.
Realizing the true benefits
Publishers now use PMPs to take advantage of their many benefits aside from priority or preference. In a tag-based world, preferred access was the main reason to set up PMPs, but header bidding was the great equalizer for inventory access. As many publishers have moved to a waterfall that puts programmatic on the same footing as direct, all programmatic opportunities run at a higher priority, putting the focus back on setting up PMPs to exclusively deliver on campaign KPIs.
Since the open exchange is becoming a safer place for the run-of-network buyer, agencies regularly ask what value PMPs provide over the open market. This forces publishers to put a microscope to their offering and clearly lay out where PMPs add value. The answer always comes back to the unique advantage of custom units and curation around audience, context or performance.
Agencies and advertisers are also holding publishers accountable to the results delivered via PMPs. Agencies routinely provide feedback on viewability or on-target percentages, which helps publishers optimize and improve on those metrics to achieve better performance.
Yes, we can aspire for more, but that in and of itself is a great commentary on how much the industry is getting right.