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Publishers must “take control” of first-party data in programmatic trading to safeguard yields, says Google’s head of publishers

Publishers must protect against buyers “dictating” the value of their audiences and prices to protect their yields in the programmatic space, says Google’s head of publishers, UK Partner Business Solutions David McMurtrie.

Speaking at the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) event in London today, McMurtrie said audience is the currency underpinning the programmatic space and that publishers must find new ways to unlock the value of their audiences by creating unique packages to trade, rather than allow their inventory to continue to be commoditised in the programmatic market.

“The power and control is currently with the buyer – they choose the audience and price – they are dictating to you as publishers what the value of your content and inventory is. You need to fight that,” he said.

Publishers can do so by creating unique audience data packages, which they can sell as custom sponsorships, while setting their own floor prices.

“Programmatic encompasses everything that is automated and publishers should not be afraid of it, but embrace it. In the next few years we will see different ways to trade coming into programmatic space. We are just at the beginning,” he said.

McMurtrie said programmatic trading needs to move away from being regarded as a vehicle for remnant inventory, and instead publishers should start trading more brand inventory in this way.

“The digital industry has been very bad at attracting brand spend into online. That brand space is worth about $200bn – even a fraction of that would make a huge difference for publishers.”

Meanwhile McMurtrie also said publishers must not separate mobile and desktop but adopt a “multiscreen ethos” to ensure they stay ahead of the curve.

“Brand is highly important, but brand elasticity can only stretch so far – if you don’t optimise for devices and ensure the content is suited to each device that brand elasticity will snap. You need to deliver content that complements the user experience rather than replicates it,” he said.

"We are currently rolling out viewable impressions and next year will be active GRPs – our method to track reach across different platfroms means tv buyers – used to trading on selling by reach, can look at video in a totally different way, with the accountability and transparency of the web."

Google is in the midst of rolling out viewable impressions, and is working on its cross-media planning tool which will aims to unite TV and online measurement.