Future Publishing creates private global programmatic ad exchange with Rubicon Project

Future Publishing, owner of titles including Total Film, T3, and Tech Radar, has partnered with real-time trading platform Rubicon Project to launch its first global, private programmatic marketplace.

The move will see the publisher’s inventory from all its brands, which boast a combined 50 million monthly online and mobile viewers globally, made available to all 100,000 of its advertisers through a single, standardised platform via real-time bidding (RTB).

Display, including rich-media formats and mobile inventory will be opened up first, though with Future’s videos having generated more than 143 million views last year it is likely video will follow suit further down the line.

Future’s director of programmatic and third-party revenues, Gerson Barnett, said private or premium, marketplaces are “integral” to its overall media strategy, letting it grow its ad revenues and online yields regardless of audience location.

The move will form part of the publisher’s ongoing programmatic strategy, which centres on growing display inventory revenues incrementally with “analytical inventory management” to increase eCPMs on ad impressions before they enter its open exchange, according to Barnett.

“Although the main focus will be aimed at private marketplaces (premium programmatic), as part of the strategy we will also devote time analysing insights gained from bidding on the open exchange, to ascertain new trading initiatives that can drive positive floor prices, better yields and higher fill rates across our global territories,” he said.

Rubicon Project general manager, International, Jay Stevens told The Drum private marketplaces remain critical for brand ad safety, given they can ringfence what environments in which advertisers appear, guaranteeing that ads will not appear on fraudulent sites, as can occur with open exchanges.

“One of the biggest challenges you have when you open up inventory to an open auction environment to tens of thousands of advertisers is managing brands safely...Buyers also want to be ensured that the inventory they are buying is safe and secure, not fraudulent and is coming from real publishers, with real impressions being delivered. There is no question about it – fraudulent and bot-generated traffic are still apparent within the industry. We ensure we provide a well-lit marketplace for both buyers and sellers, which is a key pillar on our offering,” he said.

Stevens conceded that issues around transparency of pricing within the programmatic advertising value chain remain rife in the industry.

“The questions around transparency of pricing certainly still exist. As increasingly larger percentages of advertisers’ media budgets are going towards programmatic, they want to see where that [technology] tax is and who is making what percentage.

“When it was only DR [direct response] and all was based around a CPA [cost-per-acquisition] target, as long as the advertiser was seeing a CPA that was less than what they were seeing before - ie through ad network buys – they were happy. But eventually, as a greater percentage of brand spend moves toward automation advertisers becoming increasingly concerned about what were once pennies left in the cushions on the sofa, but are now turning into pounds.

“We’re talking about media budgets measured in tens or hundreds of millions of pounds – it’s pretty important to see what percentage is disappearing,” he added.

Future’s partnerships with Rubicon Project marks the latest in a string of premium publisher tie-ups for the platform, having already helped launch private marketplaces for News Corp and Turner.

Stevens said premium publishers were facing fierce competition from the likes of Google and Facebook for ad revenue, lending more urgency to their push into private marketplaces.

“People aren’t stopping consuming the content – they are consuming it in increasingly greater numbers and page views, and impressions keep growing on mobile and desktop, and we all know news stand circulations are falling – so the onus for most publishers is how do they achieve the same efficiencies that Google has brought on the search side, and Facebook on the social side, with how they sell their inventory.

"It is efficiency, data and scale that allows money to pour into those two platforms and this is the big reason why automation for publishers’ inventory is becoming a very hot topic - because in order to successfully compete against Facebook and Google, premium publishers know they need to be able to offer those same things – the scale, valuable data or at least an audience rather than data such as search intent [offered by Google] or profile data [offered by Facebook]has – based on a proxy of the content being that audience. The last key leg of that stool is automation – allowing the buyer to access that inventory in a very efficient manner,” he added.

News Corp launched its first global ad exchange last summer, letting advertisers buy across its online and mobile portfolios for brands including The Sun, The Times, and New York Post.

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