The Agency Guide to Programmatic: Lesson One

By Nicole Scaglione, Director of Buyer Development, OpenX in Brands & Agencies, Publishers|November 30, 2016

Inventory sources are not commodities, and they are not all created equal.
The Agency Guide to Programmatic

If you’re not buying inventory directly from a publisher via an IO, it’s important to know how that inventory can vary dramatically through programmatic pipes. Publishers often work with multiple SSPs and exchanges in order to monetize as much of their “non-direct sold” inventory as possible. But there is a difference in how those partners operate which often will determine the inventory a publisher gives to the partner.

At first glance inventory may seem as though it’s all the same, but, after digging into the reporting (a la your favorite third party quality monitors), it’s clear that “the same” inventory from publishers found in multiple exchanges can vary dramatically — fraud score, viewability, sourced traffic and human traffic can all differ.

Further, inventory coming in from an SSP versus an exchange tag versus an ad server can also vary for the same publisher. It behooves you to know the source in order to ensure you’re getting the access or priority level you want.

Here’s how to educate yourself: Ask questions (and read this blog) and meet with partners who may not seem directly relevant, but may control a massive amount of the inventory on which you are betting an entire campaign’s performance. And then ask more questions.

Start with publishers and pub-side technology partners (exchanges, SSPs, etc). Ask your partners to be transparent about the inventory they are sending and, in the case of publishers, find out more about their technology partners. These queries are not meant to take issue with margins or economic models. They are designed to help you, the buyer, get a better sense of the inventory you’re getting from each source so that you can understand it and make the best planning decisions on behalf of your client.

For example: If inventory from a publisher or group of publishers is set at a higher priority for one tech partner versus another, it may make sense to isolate that inventory from that SSP or exchange. You may find that higher-priority inventory converts at a more efficient rate than “the same” inventory coming from multiple sources. While higher priority inventory may often be priced higher, it may also inspire more user action and therefore a lower eCPA. This is certainly something to consider as you’re laying down 3rd party data across a thoughtfully curated site list.

Then, re-connect with your DSP. For various reasons, not every DSP is integrated with every inventory source out there. Usually, engineering resources restrict integrations. It’s important to make sure that if you’re working with a DSP, they will be able to access the various types of inventory you need based on your specific campaign needs.

For example: Your DSP may have access to a lot of open exchange inventory but lack access to inventory available in private marketplaces, or a material amount of mobile app inventory. In that case, you may need to bring on additional partners or utilize a managed service – all of which is an additional cost to you. The benefit may outweigh the cost, so it’s important to do that exercise before you learn you can’t access header tag-only PMPs to support your client’s brand awareness efforts through programmatic channels.

All of these tech providers work in concert with each other. Invite them in. Ask questions. And on behalf of your client, build the best, smartest campaign you can.

Here are a few questions to start with:

  • DSP:

What inventory sources are you integrated with and do you see all or a portion of each of those sources?

How much private inventory do you have access to and from which sources?

How much mobile app inventory to you have access to and from which sources?

  • Publisher:

Which pub-side tech partners do you work with?

Do you have private marketplace inventory through all?

Do you have header-tag inventory? How can I access that?

  • SSP/Exchange/Header Tag inventory provider:

Do you offer both open and private inventory?

How do I access your private inventory – which DSPs are you integrated with?