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Q&A with Jay Stevens, Rubicon Project

Rubicon Project Senior Vice-President and General Manager, International, Jay Stevens is speaking at our next event: AOP Programmatic Trading - Emerging Models Forum on 13th February.
What do you think are the most significant trends emerging in the area of automated trading?  What will this mean in terms of opportunities for publishers?

Over the past six months we have seen the widespread adoption of private marketplaces, driving CPMs up 3 to 5 times compared to standard RTB, and blurring the line between guaranteed and non-guaranteed inventory. Following on from that, one of the biggest trends in 2013 is without a doubt going to be brand budget moving over to automated channels. Another big trend will be the growth of mobile RTB - up to this point, we’ve seen lots of mobile inventory and incredible customer adoption - but the spend just hasn’t been there. This year, we’ll see a halo effect in mobile spend from the overall growth of automation in display. Riding on the back of desktop RTB, this is going to be a big wind in the sails of publishers with significant mobile traffic, and for the market as a whole. What is Programmatic Premium and why do you see this as an important area for focus? ‘Programmatic premium’ is just another way of saying automating the premium layer of publisher inventory. Essentially, programmatic premium (aka programmatic guaranteed) promises to mark the emergence of RTB as a trading mechanic for brand campaigns, moving away from its origins as a direct response trading mechanic. It’s an important area of focus because it will extend the list of possible brand buyers a publisher can reach, not to mention improving significantly on the efficiencies of the current manual sales process – a 42 step, £25k procedure to add each publisher to a media plan. That said, certain hurdles still have to be overcome, such as injecting guaranteed programmatic sold buys into the ad server, as well as proper forecasting availability, and repacing guaranteed campaigns so they always fulfil.

In terms of publisher participation in automated trading, how does the UK compare with USA, and other European markets?  What stage would you say the UK is at?

In terms of automated trading, I would say that the UK is extremely advanced. We work with at least 40% of the UK comScore 250 (the top premium publishers) all of whom are exposing inventory to RTB, and we currently have around 150 private marketplace opportunities live in the UK on REVV Connect from around 30 publishers. I would say we are even further advanced than the US, largely because it’s a smaller market - so fixed operational overheads represent a larger percentage of cost, reducing a publisher’s margin. This means the buy and sell sides simply have more to gain from improved efficiencies. Also, the proximity of all of the key players in London is a big factor - where client, publisher and trading desk can always meet up face to face – meaning deals are taking place at a faster pace. You could say the same for France, The Netherlands, Australia and many other markets that are leading the pack towards automation internationally.

How will technological developments in this area impact on publishers in the future and how should they prepare?

Automation in online trading will continue to have a significant impact on publishers, only more so in the future. It will enable them to improve their margins, and operate more efficiently for higher revenues. However, they also need to be ready for further change to the organisational design of the business. In terms of how publishers should prepare, I would say look and learn from what your peers are doing and what’s happening in the market, understand who are the most consultative tech players out there and work with them. Trading Directors really need to get out there, meet the agency trading desks and get a really clear picture of how these budgets are flowing now, all the way from client to publisher. Finally, think about the human resources you will need to succeed in this space - where the analyst and the yield manager will be some of the most important roles in the company.