DSPs have increased their commitment to video, but so far there has been very little insight into an impression beyond an audience profile and a general content category. This lack of insight presents a challenge to both buyers and publishers, lending momentum to the rise of private, transparent content-focused exchanges, where publishers can control access and create clear, standardized business rules.
While private exchanges are hardly “traditional,” the model is now evolving one step further, as content-specific exchanges enter the market to address some of the areas where RTB is lacking. As niche networks once helped advertisers align their message with specific content at scale, these current exchanges are enabling advertisers to take advantage of RTB while adding site-level transparency that’s been absent elsewhere.
Ad networks have taken criticism for years and the bad actors that still exist in the landscape continue to buy up remnant, unsold inventory (mislabeled by them as “premium”) and repackage it for sale at a markup. They go so far as to highlight some of the best sites in their portfolios, when most of the inventory is delivered on less than desirable URLs. These are well-established concerns from the buyer perspective, and there are plenty of conscientious objectors from the seller side who sit out to protect their brand names as well.
RTB solves these concerns by giving publishers access to audience data. Private exchanges go one step further by pairing programmatic buying with a publisher brand, with the benefit of scale, which is a major necessity when buying video. Specialized content exchanges effectively fill this void, particularly if they enable transparency.
Take a TV buy, for example, where the networks sell packages that include their high-rated shows, but also include a mix of ad placements during other programs. The option to pay more to align with one single program will always exist, but not every advertiser can afford it. Under normal circumstances, the advertiser makes a buy and aligns their message with the network’s programming. Online advertisers, however, can make a direct run-of-site buy on a single site, which aligns with programming but cuts out scale. Video RTB flips the scales, with data to follow audiences and get scale, but lacking insight into content.
Specialized exchanges – those aligned around specific topics and publisher groups – find some sort of balance in the middle. It’s a worthwhile tactic for advertisers who know they can reach their audience through one specific kind of content, whether that’s sports, celebrity/entertainment content, news, music, or whatever else indexes high with their audience.
This isn’t necessarily meant as a replacement for tested buying tactics. Rather, it’s supplemental, allowing advertisers to work with publishers directly and across multiple sites simultaneously, employing current tools and data sets to ensure the best possible outcomes. A direct-response advertiser like an insurance company with limited video budget could use a content exchange to deliver finely targeted video campaigns. This advertiser could theoretically look at how its display campaigns perform against certain content types and audience profiles, and use that data to determine the type of audience it targets in video RTB. Even though this hypothetical advertiser typically doesn’t buy branding inventory, it can still get maximum return by integrating and leveraging all of its data assets.
Video’s biggest challenge will always be one of scale. As more sites add video with the goal of monetizing inventory, it will be easier for advertisers to reach granular audiences. The days of spray and pray are over; it’s strategic partnerships like content-specific exchanges that will help advertisers find audiences in the mid- and long-tail platforms. These are sites that still produce great content, but are very hard to reach in direct buys. By building greater opportunities, the digital landscape will begin to earn dollars once earmarked only for TV.