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Paving the Way: How the sell-side will define the future of ads

Ashley Wheeler

May 24, 2022 | 5 min read

By: Ashley Wheeler, VP of Seller Accounts at Magnite

In a previous post, we discussed The TradeDesk’s optimization away from Open Bidding with the launch of OpenPath, the industry’s overall shift to more transparent and direct paths, and the value that SSPs bring to publishers. Here we highlight how these market shifts will give publishers the power to forge more intelligent, direct paths and better showcase their audiences to buyers.

The publisher-powered future

Recent industry shifts have placed increasingly more power in the hands of publishers. Programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace deals (PMPs) are booming, and according to eMarketer, by the end of 2022 programmatic direct (which includes guaranteed and preferred deals) will account for 74.4% of US programmatic ad spend. PMPs provide publishers with premium rates and demand for their inventory, and provide buyers with access to data and differentiated inventory, fraud protection, brand safety, and increased transparency. They are a critical component of the buyer-seller relationship and their importance will only grow as buyers become more reliant on publisher first party data to find their audiences.

In the absence of third party cookies, buyers will no longer be able to create and transmit audience segments across the open internet. In cookie-less environments, publishers hold the most valuable insights into user interests and behavior, making their first party data and models such as Seller Defined Audiences (SDAs) critical to buyers’ future audience strategies. This shift will give publisher-controlled, first party data a pivotal role in audience creation and a brand’s ability to reach addressable audiences at scale.

Closer relationships between buyers and sellers will help optimize the pipes through which media transacts and will place the onus – and power – with publishers to provide the environments, inventory and first party audiences to drive desired outcomes. SSPs will continue to help ensure that those paths include the protections and controls needed to preserve publishers’ data, their consumers’ privacy, and their ability to participate in the economics of data federation.

Seller-defined strategy based on first party data

Introduced by the IAB Tech Lab’s Project Rearc, Seller-defined audiences (SDAs) provide a way for publishers to communicate first party audience attributes in an OpenRTB bid without revealing user identities. Publishers utilizing SDAs need to curate users into standardized audience cohorts based on the IAB Tech Lab Audience Taxonomy of 1,600 demographic-, interest-, or purchase-based attributes. This standardization ensures commonality in the way that audiences are defined for both buyers and sellers alike. Publishers can also leverage custom taxonomies in SDAs, but only when approved by the IAB Tech Lab.

SDAs – like programmatic direct and PMPs – will require a thoughtfully coordinated first party data strategy so that publishers can gain a granular view of their users using content to accurately define and showcase audiences. By pinpointing the most valuable audiences, publishers are able to differentiate their inventory across open and premium marketplaces. For instance, direct sales teams can use this data to package and sell their most prized inventory to buyers via PMPs, thereby driving competition and yield whilst building direct bridges to advertiser and agency partners that benefit from improved campaign performance.

What this means for publishers

Build on your audience and content intelligence

Publishers will need to build a holistic view of audience, content, and site page performance – including contextual, behavioral and revenue insights – to spot trends and identify audience opportunities that can then be translated into better performing SDAs, programmatic direct deals and PMPs.

Make first party data interoperable

In the cookie-less future, publishers will own and share first party data on their terms to enable transactions with relevant demand opportunities. To do so, publishers will need to remain ID agnostic in their supported audience solutions, and ensure that they are attaching matched data to an ad request in a privacy-forward manner. Enabling addressability across different transaction types and media will hinge on the publishers’ ability to create, protect, and activate audiences in different forms, ranging from SDAs and data matching tech, to first party audiences for programmatic direct and PMPs.

Find partners that support and protect you across all audience solutions

Magnite is focused on building holistic audience solutions that enable buyers and sellers to transact across all possible audience solutions, preserve publisher data and yield, and provide publishers with the necessary controls to determine when and how to federate their data. Companies such as Carbon and Nth Party created best-in-class technology around these requirements, which is why Magnite acquired them. Meanwhile, products such as Deal Discovery help improve workflows between publishers and buyers in the creation of PMPs.

Getting closer to the action(able)

SSPs have a unique position in the auction that allows them to bring buyers and sellers closer together while providing the tools needed to optimize audiences, ad quality, brand safety, and yield. SSPs can also ensure publishers’ audiences are available to all demand opportunities in a privacy compliant way. As the industry continues to shift towards more direct paths, the power and opportunity is in publishers’ hands to showcase their first party audiences to buyers at varying levels of addressability across all the ways buyers might want to transact. To do so, publishers will need to carefully evaluate and leverage partners that support them in this endeavor and provide protections and controls for their data and users.

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