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Inside SCMP’s decision to leave the open programmatic marketplace

It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow SCMP

The South China Morning Post will leave the open programmatic marketplace and stop biddable media in Asia Pacific from January 2021. Its vice-president of digital explains to The Drum why buyers will no longer be able to access the publisher’s inventory.

Hong Kong-based publisher South China Morning Post (SCMP) believes that leaving the open programmatic marketplace (OMP) will be a positive move for the industry, with it keen to demonstrate that combining the efficiencies of programmatic with the service layer, first-party data and persistent IDs of a quality publisher means significant value for all.

“Deals are the best way for an advertiser to access SCMP’s audience,“ says Ian Hocking, vice-president of digital at SCMP. “They allow greater transparency and significantly reduce potential ad fraud, while it’s easy to manage brand safety, get the full reach of our audience at a higher position in the ad stack, access our first-party data and overall deliver a better return of investment for our clients.

“We are also aware that building a relationship with your audience is about to become a lot harder with the deprecation of the third-party cookie and mobile IDs. Soon, it will be impossible to specifically target a user and then retarget them with a known frequency while moving them down the branding funnel. So working with a partner that can offer a persistent ID is crucial.”

He continues: “SCMP has developed a publisher data platform – SCMP Lighthouse – and developed a first-party relationship with our audience that will allow clients to target specific users and build a relationship with them.”

The publisher previously claimed that SCMP Lighthouse is able to offer clients, brands and agencies a unified persistent ID for more than 80% of its users and more than 2,000 targetable attributes that may be combined into scaled audiences.

Going forward, SCMP will continue to support programmatic buying through deals. The publisher will offer preferred deals from all of its supported SSPs at a fixed rate, says Hocking.

This will come with the option to add any of SCMP’s 30+ off-the-shelf data segments and programmatic guaranteed deals via Google AdX – again at a fixed rate, but this time with full access to its data solutions.

“We want to work with the buyer’s preferred activation channel to ensure they are able to optimise to their preferred partner and ensure they are able to take advantage of any supply path optimization preferences.”

To help its clients make the switch to programmatic deals, SCMP is hiring a brand new team of programmatic experts in Singapore and Hong Kong that will be focused on ensuring the publisher is able to help clients maintain access to SCMP as well as help to troubleshoot any issues.

“We have also recently released a self-service deal dashboard that will ensure all buyers can see their deals performance with no delay – it allows buyers to easily see delivery, quality metrics and performance.”

It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow SCMP’s move when the third-party cookie is deprecated and access to Apple’s IDFA restricted in 2021, which means significant reduction in OMP efficiencies for buyers .

As the ID not only helps to identify a user across domains but is also the main way for buyers to apply data sets, build retargeting pools and apply frequency caps, losing this ID fundamentally changes the effectiveness of the OMP.

That means brands have to start going directly to publishers now as relationship persistence will be key to long term success. Brands that know who their users are and where they are in the marketing funnel will be able to accurately assess performance and drive ROI.

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