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AOP The Co-operative Digital Advertising

AOP’s ‘programmatic alliance’ will be named as Symmachia, but disagreement over the model remains


By Ronan Shields | Digital Editor

September 29, 2015 | 5 min read

The AOP revealed that its ‘publisher alliance’ is on course to be named Symmachia, as the constituent publisher members start putting pen to paper and signing up to the co-operative, which will be led by the trade.

Symmachia – the Ancient Greek word for alliance – was first announced in March this year, and will consist of seven of the UK’s premium publishers including: Auto Trader, Dennis Publishing, Telegraph Media Group, plus Time Inc. according to earlier reports, with a number of them now contractually committed to the service (see image for the eaarlier named members), The Drum understands.

The brand name was unveiled earlier this week at the AOP Autumn Conference, with individual publishers only just starting to sign up to Symmachia after prolonged legal precautions were undertaken due to concerns about how such as body would be viewed under competition laws, according to sources.

It remains unclear when Symmachia, which will effectively see members pool their advertising inventory and then sell it to media buyers via a marketplace, will formally begin trading, but programmatic media-buying was a hot topic of conversation earlier this week, with one panel session focusing on how publishers can use programmatic technologies to improve profitability.


The publisher co-operative, which claims to have a monthly audience of over 54 million unique visitors, will be powered by ad tech outfit AppNexus, and the announcement of the Symmachia quickly follows the announcement by rival publisher alliance, Pangaea of a series of senior hires, who will report to Guardian revenue director Tim Gentry.

Pangaea, essentially a global alliance between The Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, and Reuters plus CNN Internationa, is powered by rival ad tech outlet Rubicon Project, has been in beta since April.

The individual members of each alliance are understood to have based their decision over which party to join based on their preferences of the respective technology vendors, as well as differences of opinion on which business proposition to pursue.

Are co-ops the best way for publishers to combat globally scaled competition?

However, while their technologiese may diiffer, but both AppNexus and Rubicon Project are united as vocal advocates of how the publisher co-operative model is the best way for premium publishers to rival global advertising behemoths, such as Facebook and Google, when it comes to competing for media budgets.

Both outfits are keen to highlight how the publisher co-operative model offers advertisers the scale offered by Google, etc. (within a single market, such as the UK), while providing advertisers assurances of the quality of the content their ads will appear beside.

While the model is relatively new to the UK, it is more firmly entrenched elsewhere in Europe with France-based La Place Media, a publisher co-operative powered by Rubicon Project, and Audience Square, a rival outlet powered by AppNexus have been in operation since 2013.

Doubts expressed over the publisher co-op model

However, recently published French trade press reports have indicated that the publisher co-operative model was increasingly being abandoned by individual publishers in favour of selling their inventory via their own private marketplace (PMP).

This a model where publishers invite their preferred media buyers to have first option on its most valuable inventory, with the trend being dubbed as ‘reinternalisation’ by the French media. Indeed, in the UK, the most recent AOP census data revealed that half of all its members wanted to roll out such technology.

However, Arthur Millet, the newly appointed La Place Media chief following the recent exit of its founding managing director Fabien Magalon to Faceboook-owned LiveRail, recently came out and rebutted such claims.

In the interview Millet explained that publisher co-operatives continue to remain relevant as the role of such an outfit is to help individual members to generate incremental revenue where they cannot do so individually given a lack of expertise, or time, etc.

However, the collective model itself brings with it operational difficulties, as it essentially invovles competitors doing business with one another. Speaking previously about such difficulties with research firm ExchangeWire,Millet's predecessor said: “Delegating externally the responsibilities around programmatic sales can be regarded as a loss of control in terms of strategy.”

However, a source with a close knowledge of how the model is being rolled out in the UK publishing sector told The Drum that it makes sense for publishers to have a variety of ways to sell their inventory.

“It makes sense to have both the ‘aggregated walled garden approach’ of a PMP, as well as a co-operative model [to selling advertising inventory], even open auctions [performed either internally or via third parties] have their place,” according to the source.

AOP The Co-operative Digital Advertising

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