Autotrader Head of Display Advertising Naomi Hahn on RTB & Private Marketplace Strategies

Trader Media today announced a new CEO in Trevor Mather, following the news in September that more than 90% of its profits now come from digital channels.

As one of the most progressive adopters of automated trading in the UK, we caught up with Autotrader’s Head of Display Advertising Naomi Hahn to talk about private marketplace strategies and RTB:

Can you give me an overview of Autotrader’s involvement in real time bidding so far?

We’re different to many other companies in that prior to the advent of programmatic trading, we had an established ad network strategy and we had already embraced the value of our unsold inventory. Online is a key focus for us as a business but as we’re a very niche site it was fairly straight forward for us to protect our core segment whilst opening up unsold to other advertising categories.

Since 2007 we’ve worked with multiple networks, across different tiers of inventory, monetising every impression – we weren’t scared of the networks, and they were seen as a successful area of business. We brought in Sylvie Walker to manage our networks in early 2009 and she has been dedicated to maximizing our unsold inventory ever since, so a combination of willingness to work in this area plus dedicated resource has meant we’ve been able to drive this part of our business forward.

Our real time bidding journey began in late 2010 when we started looking into SSPs. We started working with Rubicon Project in mid-2011 and through a working partnership we’ve been able to see revenues increase from this relationship. This was at a stage when the landscape was changing so we’ve seen our relationships with networks change as well as growth in revenue from RTB. It’s really in the last 6 months that we’ve started to see significant growth in the RTB area and its knock on effect on yield.

Can you talk about first party data and the role it plays in your private marketplace strategy?

We are starting to use first party data to build targeted audience segments for our advertisers – and we see this forming a core part of our private marketplace strategy in the next year.

For example, we are creating an insurance intender category, based on people who have visited relevant pages, or are close to purchasing a car. We’re also building a family car segment, which is based on the types of cars our consumers are searching for and in part on Acorn data we have integrated within the site.

Our data strategy is very much based on what the market is asking for. The insurance segment came about as a direct result of attending the two day Rubicon Project Private Marketplace Summit at Ashdown Park. The Trading Desks told us they had a number of insurance clients who would be prepared to pay premium for a first look at this type of group. Sylvie spends a lot of her time working with Trading Desks and understanding their requirement s- it’s really no different to product development for non-automated agency sales – if there is a demand from our customers we will try to accommodate it.

Geotargeting is another area we’re looking at, our site is quite unique and we have a huge amount of local data, since inputting your postcode is a requirement for every search on our site. It’s the type of data that is in demand from large retail advertisers.

We are also moving towards diversifying our segmentation– to include above the fold/below the fold, premium and high frequency positions – essentially offering advertisers multiple options instead of just the standard three formats.

What were the main reasons for partnering with Rubicon Project on your Private Marketplace strategy?

We tested with a number of SSPs, and still have relationships with all of them, but we found that Rubicon Project were better able to suit our requirements at the time and fortunately since then we’ve been able to generate some great results.

What sets them apart is their level of service – what I’ve seen over the years is a very collaborative relationship, where they give us great insight into our inventory, and the marketplace as a whole, but are also prepared to be challenged by and adapt to what is happening in our world.

Last but not least, we no longer have the legacy issue of low quality ads being served on the site.

What role do you see Connect playing in automating these deals?

We see Connect playing a central role – our intention is that all the segments I’ve described will sit within it – for both our existing contacts, and also to attract new buyers to our private marketplaces.

How do you see this market developing in future?

The jury’s still out on whether everything will be traded programmatically, though there’s no doubt it will become more widespread.

I believe we will still see standard direct sales teams in future, but with a better understanding of the automated space. One school of thought is that direct sales teams will sell private marketplaces as well as direct, but I don’t see that happening myself; it feels like a very different skill-set is required.

We would like to see RTB going down the following route: where we are working with an agency which has exhausted all direct inventory, we move their extra demand into a private marketplace – we make premium yield, and the advertiser gets to pick and choose on a DR basis within RTB.

This is where I see direct and automated sales coming together – on a trading basis rather than a sales one. It’s more of a strategic collaboration – ‘as a relevant advertiser, I want to access RTB – I can create a private marketplace to enable that’, but the buyer needs to be scratching our back too – buying premium on an agency direct basis in the first instance.