Three Questions for Paul Sternhell

By OpenX in Brands & Agencies, Publishers|January 18, 2017

1. Who is Paul Sternhell, what do you do at OpenX, and how do you make us great?

My role is General Manager, Programmatic Direct & Ad Server at OpenX. I’ve been with OpenX for almost 5 years, and throughout that time I’ve focused on our Programmatic Direct business and publisher Ad Server business. I’ve also led several teams, including our Buyer Development team, Programmatic Direct and Ad Server business team, and Business Operations and Strategy team.

My current focus is product strategy and making sure that everything about how we build the business is scalable and really easy for our customers to execute. Often, Programmatic Direct–especially PMP–tends to be manual and error prone in execution. We want to focus on scale and efficiency, making PMP easy to set up and execute.

I’m also managing the launch of Real-time Guaranteed and a new product called Targeted Exchange.

What are some things about you that people don’t know?

I’ve moved around a lot and have had more than 30 primary residences. I’m also a huge foodie. My favorite food is Buffalo Wings, and once during business school I traveled to Buffalo, NY for a weekend with a friend just to eat Buffalo Wings. In my opinion, the world’s best wings can be found at Duff’s Famous Wings in Amherst, New York, just north of Buffalo.

2. Can you share your thoughts on Real-time Guaranteed and how it’ll change the Programmatic Direct landscape?

We see RTG as the best of several buying models that have emerged over the first decade of programmatic. Initially, there were two separate buckets of inventory, one of which was manual direct, which involved premium inventory but lacked the benefits of programmatic buying. You also had indirect, non-guaranteed monetization, which first came through ad networks, and then shifted into exchange buying. People eventually realized a need for something in between. Programmatic was good at targeting but didn’t allow for direct relationships or specific quantities of inventory at specific prices, while direct was very manual and didn’t have the impression level choice benefits of programmatic.

The first attempt to bridge this gap was PMPs. They allowed publishers and buyers to negotiate specific deal terms using a Deal ID and prioritize transactions above other programmatic buying. They also allowed for curating specific inventory and adding audience and inventory insights, but lacked guaranteed volume or revenue. PMPs can be a lot of work because there may not be enough overlap between what a buyer is looking for and what a publisher has to sell, and there are no contractual guarantees.

Our approach to Real-time Guaranteed was to build on our PMP product by incorporating guaranteed impressions and revenue. We’re offering buyers the ability to push audience and other targeting ahead of the campaign, run a forecast upfront, and know how much inventory is available to do a deal. They can make a specific commitment to a publisher to say “I’ll buy this much inventory over a certain period of time.”

It’s similar to a direct deal, but executed programmatically, applying targeting through existing technology allowing buyers to access the exact audience they want. This keeps everything centralized and the workflow efficient. To a publisher, it’s a way of accepting programmatic spend at a higher price point with a revenue commitment up front. It benefits both parties: it preserves what buyers like about programmatic – buying through a DSP, buying specific audiences, some impression level choice – and it lets publishers know that specific quantities of their inventory will be bought at guaranteed prices.

Programmatic Direct is a natural conduit for non-programmatic spend to migrate to programmatic. If a lot of spend is happening in a Programmatic Direct channel, then discovery tools and troubleshooting and reporting will need to improve. If it’s the main place where buyers put premium dollars, they won’t tolerate subpar technology. The tech will catch up. Tools will become more mature and easier for clients to use.

All in all, we’re taking straightforward products and diversifying to individual flavors to meet the needs of individual buyers.

3. What’s next for the Programmatic Direct team?

We plan to expand – Programmatic Direct is becoming a larger part of OpenX and the industry. In terms of product focus, it breaks down to three things:

1. We want to build upon the first phase of RTG and mature it into something that is scalable, meets seller and buyer needs, and is easy to use.

2. We’re investing in a UI for buyers to discover inventory more easily, as well as negotiate, execute, troubleshoot, and see reporting via a streamlined experience.

3. We’re taking the programmatic buying we’re doing and innovating into new screens, formats, and buying models. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about viewability and new ways of targeting through both single publishers and multi-publisher deals. Our new product, Targeted Exchange, allows buyers to target buckets of inventory without having to negotiate the other deal terms that go into PMP.

All in all, we’re taking straightforward products and diversifying to individual flavors to meet the needs of individual buyers.