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Talking Programmatic: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Mobile Marketing

In his continuing regular series, programmatic expert Paul Gubbins looks at how the fight back against the walled gardens is leading to unprecendented cooperation and teamwork amongst publishers and adtech vendors.


Okay, we all know the facts: walled gardens are eating the lunches of publishers and tech vendors. Whether or not that is actually the case, that is certainly the feeling by many and as a result, this sentiment is driving a movement of collaboration never seen before in the advertising industry.

Not only do walled gardens provide a cross-screen deterministic view of their users, but they also provide a rich set of first party data to target them against. This, you could argue, is the exact reason they are doing so well, because they drive traffic for publishers and ROI for advertisers. So why is there negativity around their growth from many in the market? Is it envy, is it fear, or is it for other justified reasons…

If you are not glued to the adtech trade press, it might help to have a quick overview of why walled gardens are perceived to be precarious partners for publishers, brands and Adtech vendors at the moment:

  • Publishers They face slowly being disintermediated from their readers, as more and more of their content is being consumed outside of their owned and operated controls.
  • Adtech vendors They will slowly lose the ability to manage holistic reach, frequency and attribution across their automated buys when each walled garden removes their support for the cookie or device ID, and migrates to their own proprietary cross-screen ID.
  • CMO’s  They will struggle to extract post-impression intelligence from each vendor into their DMP’s. This restriction around data portability will hinder their ability to build informed and unified global programmatic buying strategies.

Okay, so how is the industry working together to ensure they are not completely disintermediated from their audiences or advertising budgets of yesteryear?

Publisher Alliances via Third Party Tech
A relatively common practice now for big publishers to form cooperatives. Many have formed these partnerships to bundle inventory and data within controlled environments that enable them to compete with walled gardens directly rather than in a fragmented way and amongst themselves for a smaller share of the budget.

Some of big ones that spring to mind include the following:

  • The Pangaea Alliance Collaborating publishers inc The Guardian, Reuters, FT, CNN, The Week and others. Historically made available to programmatic buyers through market leading supply-side platform The Rubicon Project.
  • Symmachia Publishers included at launch were Telegraph Media Group, Future, Dennis, ESI, Auto Trader and others. AppNexus were originally selected to power this alliance.
  • LaPlace Media One of the first in Europe to form and had at one point close to 250 publishers included and a 70 per cent reach of the French online population. This gives you some sense as to why publishers working collectively helps to pull budgets away from the walled gardens who leverage their scale and reach. LaPlace was originally powered by The Rubicon Project.
  • J-PAD Launched in 2016 with six of Japan’s premium publishers - AFPBB News, Forbes JAPAN, JBpress, Mediagene, Perform Group and Toyo Keizai. This alliance is powered by PubMatic.
  • DELTA Publisher Alliance Launched in 2016 with three of Japan’s leading publishers, Soccor King, J-CAST News and AUTO SPORT, who combined have a monthly reach of over 16m unique users. This is another alliance powered by The Rubicon Project.

There are many more formed and forming globally to harness their collectively reach.

Publisher Alliances via First Party Tech
In 2016, digital trade body Digital Content Next launched an ad marketplace called TrustX, in a bid to bring more transparency to buyers and sellers.

The ad exchange will allow bidders to buy ads on properties owned by 25 media companies, including ABC, Condé Nast, Hearst, NBCUniversal, the Washington Post, Meredith, ESPN, Vox Media and News Corp which owns The Wall Street Journal. It is yet to be seen if this will threaten legacy SSPs that have been servicing the participating publishers thus far, however, it is a welcomed move by many who have been claiming SSPs have been opaque in their fee structures for far too long.

According to the PR, TrustX participants are prepaying fees for the initial development and deployment costs of the exchange, with renowned adtech development shop IPONWEB selected to build the actual marketplace.

Digital ID Management Collaborations
This area is made up of two major players: DigiTrust and the AppNexus-led people-based ID consortium, which doesn't currently have a name.

To solve the multiple identifier challenge, DigiTrust is bringing together a cooperative of platforms and publishers to create a single ID for demand- and supply-side platforms, as well as data management platforms.

According to an interview published in September 2016 with their founder Jordan Mitchell, former vice president of product at The Rubicon Project, 10 publishers have committed to use the single ID, and another 35 will do so as long as the platforms buy in.

Post a quick glance at their site, the platforms are clearly buying in with visible support from many of the big adtech players, including Index Exchange, Infectious Media, SpotX, Rubicon, TURN, DataXu, and PubMatic.

Elsewhere, AppNexus, LiveRamp, MediaMath, Index Exchange, LiveIntent and Rocket Fuel have all agreed to create a standard framework that will enable people-based media buying for those looking to execute through programmatic pipes.

Many in the industry have said the founding partners are ideally placed to bring a single cross screen ID to market. Included there are sell side vendors, bidders, deterministic data owners and data on-boarders; what you could call The A Team of any ID management project required to meet such a challenge!

During the initial launch, Andrew Casale, president and chief executive of Index Exchange, said to The Drum that move would bring greater transparency to the industry.

“Creating an open, people-based identifier across industry leaders is a major opportunity this changes the programmatic landscape for the better, as it exposes unified methods of people-based buying to the open web.”

To summarise, this has hopefully illustrated that despite the doom and gloom surrounding publishers and adtech in the press at the moment, innovation is rife and competitors are collaborating like never before in order to provide advertisers with open transparent alternatives and publishers, the ability to take back control of their audiences and yields.

 In the words of Maximus from one of my favourite movies Gladiator, “Whatever comes out of these gates, we've got a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? If we stay together, we survive”