AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo unite to standardise and streamline programmatic trading

By Jessica Davies | News Editor

September 24, 2013 | 3 min read

AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo have come together to provide a standardised way of selling programmatic inventory to accelerate its adoption among advertisers.

The three internet giants have agreed to use a common set of APIs for programmatic direct digital ad sales, with the view to making it simpler and easier for agencies and marketers to buy via real-time bidding (RTB).

They will make the API specifications available in the coming months, and are inviting other publishers and ad technology vendors to adopt or follow the same specifications, to help drive growth.

Microsoft Advertising’s corporate vice president, Rik van der Kooi, said: “Microsoft, together with AOL and Yahoo, is committed to the growth of programmatic premium. We see this approach as being both ‘advertiser friendly’ and ‘publisher friendly’ – something that will address the challenges and inefficiencies that make it hard to scale big-brand buys on the internet.

"Ultimately, we believe this will serve as a catalyst to unlock pent-up demand for premium publisher offerings and help speed the migration of offline media spend to online.”

The move means the buying and selling of premium ad offerings will no longer be constrained by manual sales processes, with the converged APIs helping remove barriers for advertisers and publishers.

Seth Demsey, senior vice president, global advertising products and strategy at AOL Networks, said: “We’re working to programmatically enable the more than 50 per cent of inventory that is currently sold via manual processes.

“This is digital’s next salvo in the efficiency war, bringing more premium inventory online. Agencies and brands have spoken. Automation of manual processes is a key priority. This is our collective response and the beginning of the journey to simplify the ecosystem and shift more TV budgets online.”

Dennis Buchheim, vice president, product management for display advertising at Yahoo, said: “Aligning our APIs helps create a thriving digital ad environment where advertisers can feel confident that their programmatic efforts help maximize potential for high-quality premium ad placements and a higher return on their ad dollars.”

During the first phase of the agreement the companies will focus on streamlining order and post-sale workflow, including the selection of ads, creation of insertion orders and management of campaigns and creatives. It will later look to incorporated media planning processes into the mix.

In the first quarter of 2014 Microsoft will invite a select group of agency and technology partners to take part in its first pilot, due to launch in the first quarter of 2014.

The pilot will roll out with a subset of its premium reserved display ad offerings, and in time will broaden to include both browser-based and app-based formats across multiple devices. MediaMath and isocket are the first to join the pilot.

isocket founder and CEO John Ramey said: “Bringing more technology into the overly analog direct sales process was not only inevitable, it was sorely needed. RTB and private exchanges were a great step forward, but new and different technology was needed for the other 70 per cent of the market - the directly sold, guaranteed, high quality inventory that has been the mainstay of super-premium publishers like Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL."

"Publishers can now embrace the automation without worrying about historical problems like price erosion, channel conflict, and lack of control."

The companies revealed the news at Ad Week in New York today.

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