Ebay, Telegraph & Danish Publisher Network on the path to automated trading

This week we saw the great and good of the ad industry descend on London for the first ever Advertising Week Europe, and at Rubicon Project we’ve been doing our bit to preach the gospel of RTB and the benefits of automated trading.

Highlighting the great innovation we’ve seen in this space on the publisher side, I chaired a panel on Wednesday with ebay, the Telegraph and the Danish Publisher Network (DPN) giving some fascinating insight into the lessons learned so far.

For those unfamiliar with DPN, it’s the latest in a series of publisher collectives to launch, pooling premium inventory and automating the selling of online ads on a national basis, creating buying points at scale for publishers to compete more effectively with the likes of Google and Facebook.


Leading the Pack – How European Publishers Are… by advertisingweek

To kick things off, I asked each of the panellists to give a little background on their path to automation, and some of the key lessons so far.

For DPN Head Martin Jensen, it’s all about ‘maintaining control of inventory and first party data’, adding that the Yield Manager role is absolutely vital to success in this space, whether it’s a dedicated internal resource, or a shared one on a collective.

On the subject of skills and internal resource, The Telegraph’s Head of Online Trading Ryan Rummery then explained how TMG developed its programmatic team: starting with just a couple of people devoting 50% of their time, and building that out as revenues grew and other people in the business began to notice.

‘Work with what you have’ he added – TMG already had analysts working in other areas, but with transferrable skills that could help out. It has now built up to form a virtual team, with some full time, and other split resources. Though it sounds basic, it’s vital to have ‘subs’ you’re able to call on at any time in an area that’s still relatively new to the business.

On that note, all of the panellists added the importance of account management and the support and guidance of your platform: ‘Rubicon become an extension of your team, they’re on call all the time, there are so many questions we fire to them…’

Differentiating your approach to RTB

To develop the right automated trading strategy to sit alongside your direct sell, ebay’s Head of Programmatic Trading Guy Jones advocated differentiating how you use data and targeting from the rest of the market. Setting in place business rules that value your inventory are crucial, but there’s no reason these rules can’t also be aligned to serve the needs of the agencies too.

Similarly, Ryan advised publishers to ensure their direct and indirect strategies are aligned but different. At TMG for instance, channel buys aren’t available through private marketplaces, to differentiate them from direct. The trading desks requested more granularity, so TMG introduced audience segments, moving towards selling the Telegraph’s C-suite segment across the site, avoiding conflict with the directly sold business section of the site.

In a sure vindication of the power of this approach, he revealed that TMG saw a 4-500% jump in CPMs as soon as 1st party data was added to the equation.

There followed plenty more advice for other publishers trying to fine tune their RTB strategy:

  • Make sure you’re communicating clearly to all of the sales people within the business. You could wait until RTB gets more mainstream, but you’ll end up missing out. TMG hosts weekly meeting to share intelligence on what’s going on, with two daily reports that go to the direct sales team to check out any potential leads.
  • One of the benefits of RTB is the transparency around which advertisers are bidding (as well as winning) your inventory, and as a result of this process the paper has recently signed its first direct deal generated through an RTB lead
  • Get people across the business more involved and unafraid of asking more questions: the trading desks currently have around 20% of the overall agency budgets, but this could be as high as 40% by next year. In case there’s still any doubt this is a key area, get people higher up in the business involved, and help them understand how fast it’s all moving

What’s Next

Looking forward to what we might see next in 2013, Guy observed that the various agency groups are all in different states of RTB development, and more standard operating practices should soon come into place: increasing standardisation of the link between the DSPs and an SSP. He added that a standard currency such as deal ID needs to happen. He also predicted we will see a change in how programmatic is viewed internally: as we continue to leverage 1st party data, its real value as a revenue driver will come to the fore.

As for the Telegraph, Ryan explained how it will be launching fully its data management platform in H2. Once live, it will be able to drill much further down into 1st party data. That and the further development of TMG’s mobile ad offering will be front and centre, along with looking at the possibilities around partnering with various collectives internationally to monetise its significant non-UK traffic.

Martin, meanwhile predicted big revenue opportunities through SMEs in 2013, with many gaining access to RTB for the first time in the coming months, and another important area for DPN’s growth.

You can watch the session in full on Ad Week’s Dailymotion page