PubAcademy NL: Programmatic Unlocked

This post authored by Jonas Olsen, Regional Director of Northern Europe at PubMatic

This post authored by Jonas Olsen, Regional Director of Northern Europe at PubMatic

Recently we held a special edition of our global educational forum, PubAcademy, in the Netherlands. The event was special for two reasons: first, because it was our inaugural PubAcademy in the Netherlands, and second because it was the first PubAcademy we’ve held in a country where we don’t have a physical presence. I’m very happy to report that the event was a huge success and left us with three key takeaways that we’d like to share with you:

The Dutch Market is Very Unified

Publishers, and to some extent buyers, are very unified in their approach to monetisation of their digital assets, and there is a refreshing degree of trust and sharing among publishers that we don’t necessarily see across many other markets. Frequently, a leading Dutch publisher will decide to take a particular approach to an issue, and then the majority of other leading publishers follow suit in adopting the same approach. One particular example of this behavior that was shared during our session was when publishers don’t dictate floor prices, instead letting the market decide the value of their inventory.

Additionally, there is a level of collaboration between publishers and buyers that’s fuelled by their collective desire to develop a more open, transparent and fair marketplace. A key driver behind this desire is recognition of the threat posed by the Google/Facebook duopoly and the fact that the only way to be successful in this environment is by working together.

As a consequence, whilst the market in terms of size is smaller than many other markets in Europe, this approach has made it easier for it to mature and punch above its weight in terms of programmatic development and adoption.

Publishers Prefer Using Unified Tech Solutions

Using a plethora of tech partners—one for ad serving, one for SSP, one for mobile, one for analytics, for example—is not the approach that leading publishers in the Netherlands have adopted when it comes to implementing and managing their programmatic tech solutions.

Our audience articulated an overwhelming belief in finding a technology partner who can deliver a full stack solution–such as our comprehensive monetization platform, SEVEN. This was clearly the preferred route for most, if not all, of the publishers in attendance.

The Market is Still Very OpenRTB Focused

When questioned about the slow adoption of programmatic direct solutions in the Netherlands, it became very clear that this is a market that’s still heavily skewed towards open market RTB. When we dug deeper into the reasoning behind the perceived reluctance to adopt programmatic guaranteed solutions, one response we received was, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

The buyers in the room felt that the transparency provided by publishers and their approach of having a level playing field – i.e. the ability for everyone to access the same inventory through fair auction pricing – coupled with publishers’ willingness to try and evaluate different buying strategies and tactics meant that they are able to access the best inventory without having to use private marketplaces (PMPs) or programmatic direct solutions.

That said, there was a definite understanding in the room that in order to gain access to large branding budgets and high-demand formats such as video moving forward, buyers will need to be open to adopting programmatic direct solutions and publishers will have to alter their ad decisioning strategies to accommodate these shifts.

Our PubAcademy Netherlands event made it clear that although this is a complex and sometimes contradictory programmatic market—open, transparent and progressive on the one hand, but happy with the status quo on the other—they are open to change and will continue to exceed growth expectations for some time to come.

 

pubacademylogouniversal-01About PubAcademy

PubAcademy is a global industry education initiative PubMatic launched to help ensure our customers and partners are in the best position to achieve their individual business goals and address the unique set of challenges that they face in this ever-changing world of programmatic.

For more information about our platform, SEVEN, visit PubMatic’s website here or email info@pubmatic.com. To find out more about PubMatic’s PubAcademy events, including when the next one will be held in your region, or to suggest a topic or speaker for a PubAcademy session, email PubAcademy@PubMatic.com.

PubAcademy UK: Publishers’ Choice

This article is authored by Paul Gubbins, UK Country Manager at PubMatic.

This article authored by Paul Gubbins, UK Country Manager at PubMatic.

Our penultimate PubAcademy of the year took place on November 9th here in London, bringing publishers and buyers together to discuss the choices publishers are forced to make in order to successfully navigate the sometimes choppy waters of programmatic. We also took this opportunity to discuss how sellers and buyers can work better together to ensure all parties involved realise the value on offer.

Through the discussions that took place, we were able to identify the four key themes that seemed to resonate well with attendees:

Publishers Want to Take Back Control of Ad Decisioning

It would seem that the majority of our industry is familiar with the concept that today’s legacy ad serving infrastructure is ill equipped to help publishers manage and capture holistic yield. It is clear that many publishers are still trying to figure out how they can explore and implement alternative, open ad serving set-ups whilst minimizing the disruption to their businesses.

Working with a holistic monetization platform such as PubMatic SEVEN, with its modular approach, allows publishers to choose which products or solution sets they want to integrate and when. Only by having this choice will publishers truly be able to realise the full potential of their digital assets.

Publishers Want Partners, Not Tech Vendors

While the continued evolution of the market, its increasing complexity, and the plethora of tech vendor choices available all play a role in driving programmatic spend, they have just as much potential to inhibit growth as well.

In that light, our key panelists highlighted the importance of establishing two-way partnerships between publishers and their tech vendors. When publishers are evaluating technology partners, the primary concern is finding ones that are open, transparent and willing to integrate with each other for the good of the publisher and the overall digital media market.

Header Bidding is Still a Hot Topic, But The Conversation is Evolving

During our discussion we challenged the hypothesis that header bidding is little more than “waterfall” 2.0. Many publishers are still allocating priorities as they continue to build out strategies around their direct sold books of business and where the sweet spot can exist between the IO and programmatic direct. Regardless, all of our publisher panelists were in agreement that header bidding has had a positive effect on yield and that it’s here to stay. The conversation is evolving, as is the need. Having to manage multiple header tags and the impact they have on page performance and user experience remains a concern.

Hence the exploration of the pros and cons of solutions that address these potential issues, such as wrapper tags and server side integrations, are going to be vital over the coming months. Looking forward, there remains a lot of uncertainty around whether open source or proprietary is the route to take. The jury’s still out, but expect a verdict soon.

Publishers and Buyers Still Have Work to Do to Make the Marriage A Happy One

Our panel of publishers and buyers shared some of their key asks of each other to help everyone realise the potential that programmatic offers. In no particular order:

  • Make PMP deals more discoverable and design them to meet buyers’ needs. Building PMP deals around curated audiences, for example, or being sure to support the buying models of agencies;
  • Design PMPs to be ‘always on’ and proactively troubleshoot when they are underperforming;
  • Design offers that support the buying models that agencies will be adopting in 2017—the combination of programmatic AND automated guaranteed, for example;
  • Provide access to more targetable and segmented second-party data to drive increased bid density;
  • Finally, communicate more frequently and be more transparent.

pa_logofinaluk112216About PubAcademy

PubAcademy is a global industry education initiative PubMatic launched to help ensure our customers and partners are in the best position to achieve their individual business goals and address the unique set of challenges that they face in this ever changing world of programmatic.

For more information about our platform, SEVEN, visit PubMatic’s website here or email info@pubmatic.com. To find out more about PubMatic’s PubAcademy events, including when the next one will be held in your region, or to suggest a topic or speaker for a PubAcademy session, email PubAcademy@PubMatic.com.

10 Years Later: Thoughts From PubMatic’s Founders, Part 1

A conversation with Rajeev Goel, Co-Founder & CEO; Amar Goel, Founder & Chairman; Anand Das, Co-Founder & CTO; Mukul Kumar, Co-Founder & Senior Vice President of Engineering

10th-anniversary-logoAs many of you already know, PubMatic was founded in 2006 by Rajeev Goel, Amar Goel, Anand Das and Mukul Kumar. What began as an ambitious four-person startup has become a global company with more than 350 employees across 11 offices worldwide.

This quarter the team here at PubMatic is celebrating the company’s tenth anniversary—ten years of innovating for the digital media ecosystem—and we thought it would be interesting to ask our founders to share their thoughts on PubMatic’s early years and how the company, and the team, has grown and evolved since then.

We hope you enjoy this inside look at our company’s origins. Be sure to check back as we continue to share more insights from our founders over the coming weeks!

Q: What’s your favorite memory from the first year of PubMatic?

Amar Goel: To this day, my favorite memory remains the first time I printed out the wireframes for version 0.1 of PubMatic (remember, this was ten years ago!). I remember having a big smile on my face because this was one of the first physical manifestations of our product coming to life and becoming “real.”

Obviously, it wasn’t really real until we started serving impressions and helping publishers, but seeing those mockups made the fact that we were doing this truly tangible for the first time!

Mukul and Anand

Mukul and Anand

Mukul Kumar: Although I have many favorite memories from the first year, one of the top ones is when we wrote our first ad server in Java. It wouldn’t perform as well as we wanted it to, so I sat up all night debugging the ad server only to completely rewrite the entire thing just a few days later.

My second favorite story is when Amar called me one day to say that it “would be nice to see how many impressions we served” (of course, we didn’t have any reporting tools at the time). I asked him, “why would anyone want to see that?” But after about an hour of coding I had written the first reporting interface for PubMatic.

Another good one was when we started hiring and a candidate from Bangalore wanted to fly to Pune for the interview. He asked me, “Who will handle my travel arrangements?” I told him, “Let me transfer you to the Travel Department,” and I transferred the call to Andy, who became the Travel Department for that call.

My last favorite memory from the first year are the times when Andy and I would watch the impressions served in front of us and feel great about the software—this was right after we developed the alpha.

Anand Das: There are definitely many favorite memories from the first year. As Mukul said, one of them is when we implemented the ad server in Java and our first customer—an online dating website—started using our service. The ad server used to go down a couple times per day and wasn’t performing to the level we wanted. Mukul and I used to be coding and monitoring the ad server and managing both sometimes continuously for 24 hours, although eighteen-hour days were the norm.

At that time I had a collarbone fracture with a rod in my shoulder that needed to be removed, but Mukul and I had agreed that we couldn’t continue with the Java ad server based on its performance. Two days prior to my surgery I started rewriting the code in C, completed testing and launched the new server in a day, monitored it for the next day and then checked myself into the hospital for the surgery.

Once I was out of surgery I remember the doctor asking me what an “ad server” was because I’d been talking about it after they administered the anesthetic. The first call I made after I regained consciousness was to Mukul to check on the ad server up time and I was thrilled that it was up and performing well. I remember I also interviewed the second engineer we hired from the hospital.

My second favorite memory from the first year was when Google refused to give us access to their Ad Sense reporting API, even after seeing a complete demo of our system. They gave us that news on February 26th, 2007 and we had our alpha launch with our first client scheduled for March 14th. That was the day that Amar, Mukul and I were very discouraged because our whole idea depended on getting data from the ad networks and using it for optimization. We only had two networks integrated at that time, one of which was Google Ad Sense, and without reporting API access we couldn’t do any reporting.

That night Mukul and I had a frank conversation about Google’s decision and then we went home, but I couldn’t sleep. I started working on the idea of automating the browser to act like a human by logging into the website to access reporting data and I actually got a prototype working.

Mukul and I called Amar the next evening and told him, “We don’t need API access, we have a way out.” We ended up with a web-wrapping-based reporting solution on our end and launched the alpha without any glitches. It certainly boosted morale, and I remember Mukul and I telling each other that no power can stop us; if we want to do something, we will!

Rajeev Goel: Completing the specification for the first version of the PubMatic system, which I called the “Web Ad Optimizer”. It took a lot of work marrying vision with reality, but it was great to put down on paper what we could do so that Mukul, Anand, and Amar could turn it into code.

Another memory is when we were talking to an initial round of 15-20 venture capitalists to see if they were interested in what we were doing. They all said no; they didn’t believe anyone could make money charging publishers. While on the one hand that was discouraging, but on the other I knew that we were onto something unique and visionary. Given that most (certainly not all) VCs tend to move in herds, the feedback made sense.

Q: What did you envision for PubMatic when you started the company? Did you ever think it would be as large, global and successful as it is ten years later?

Amar Goel: When we launched PubMatic it was all about how to help publishers and give them new tools. We were the first SSP to launch—it was a very new industry at the time, considering we were the ones starting it. We were the first to bring RTB to the supply side. But even we didn’t realize how big RTB would be when we founded the company.

It’s truly exciting to see how digital advertising is evolving, and to be on the forefront of that. Programmatic is an uber trend, and we are so focused on making it real for publishers. It has been very rewarding to build a global company with people, cultures and practices from all over the world!

Mukul Kumar: I didn’t think it would be so big. We started a “startup,” then we began growing. I was very possessive of the software I wrote at first and was reluctant to give up coding after we started hiring engineers, but since then each year has been more amazing than the last.komliday36photo1

Anand Das: I didn’t think it would be so big and at this scale. As Mukul said, we started a “startup” and hoped that our customers would utilize what we were providing. Then we started growing and generating revenue, hiring people, opening up offices in various countries.

Even today I find it difficult not to code, even with all the engineers around—you need to keep the skillset sharp! But since then every year has been even more amazing.

Rajeev Goel: I could have never dreamed that programmatic and RTB would become a $50B+ industry, or that it would become the predominant technology for monetization of premium direct inventory as well as unsold inventory. So no, we did not envision that the opportunity would be so big or that we could build such a big company. We knew that the problem area we were attacking was generally a good space to go after, though.

I also did not think I would have the opportunity, along with Amar, Mukul, and Anand, to manage through so many phases of a company – vision, product-market fit, revenue scaling, profitability, cash generation. These are all very different chapters in the life of a company, and it’s rare that Silicon Valley startups move through all phases successfully.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since founding the company?

Amar Goel: Rapid change always creates challenges. When you’re growing super fast it creates challenges around scaling processes and people and being able to think broadly enough. I would say 2013 and 2014 were about super growth at PubMatic. Then 2015 was the opposite side of that as we faced some very tough decisions.

I am so proud of the team for working together and pushing so hard to get through these issues to return us to a position of strength today.

In 2007 when we launched externally we had thousands of publishers and shortly thereafter hundreds of millions of impressions flowing through PubMatic, the industry was so new it was unclear whether publishers would pay. We were confident they would since we were delivering revenue, but many investors thought that the publishers would never pay us Thank god those investors were wrong!

Mukul Kumar: Scaling the product to the next level, hiring the best talent and thinking about what’s next!

Anand Das: Definitely scaling the product to the next level before hitting the wall, as well as hiring the best talent and envisioning what’s next and then making bets in terms of technology investment.

Rajeev Goel: The product cycles in the industry are very short (RTB, PMP, audience data, header bidding, mobile, video, reporting, etc.) and there are a lot of innovation opportunities. It’s always a challenge to figure out what to do and what NOT to do. Of course, if you make the wrong call it can literally end the company – many companies that were around 10 years ago are no longer here because they missed the shift to mobile or they missed the shift to programmatic.

Finding the right team members and helping them scale as the company has scaled is also a significant challenge but incredibly important to get right. As discussed earlier, we have been through many phases of the company in the past 10 years, and success requires very talented, passionate, and flexible people at all areas in the organization. We have honed our focus on supporting our team members and helping them both to be successful and to grow themselves professionally, which is very rewarding.


Stay tuned for more insights from PubMatic’s founders when we release the rest of our discussion, touching upon the changes they’ve seen in the industry over the last ten years, what they expect to see in the next five years, and some of the biggest surprises they’ve encountered during their PubMatic journey.

 

 

 

 

Insights from PubMatic’s Q3 2016 Quarterly Mobile Index

This article is authored by Matthew Stewart, Director of Research at PubMatic.

After analyzing the data behind the billions of impressions that flow through PubMatic’s SEVEN platform on a daily basis, we’ve seen four key trends emerge that demonstrate the power of programmatic for mobile advertising. PubMatic’s Q3 2016 Quarterly Mobile Index (QMI), released today, shows that publishers are seeing tremendous results in mobile performance and efficiency.

The two most significant findings from our Q3 2016 QMI boil down simply to ‘private marketplace’ and ‘header bidding.’ Basically, we’re seeing mobile rapidly adopt strategies and tactics for programmatic buying and selling at a faster pace than display has executed on.

Through our analysis we found that mobile private marketplace inventory is valued nearly 200 percent more than the mobile average. Given the benefits of mobile private marketplaces—specifically, the ability to serve ads in environments that provide transparency, help limit fraud and promote accountability—this growth demonstrates the continued shift of brand dollars to programmatic as brands become more comfortable with this channel. Going a step further and looking at the IAB publisher categories that saw the most growth in mobile web eCPM (Entertainment & Leisure, Real Estate, Sports & Automotive, etc.), it’s clear that publishers in the Lifestyle category should make premium mobile inventory available to buyers via PMP.

Our report also demonstrates that publishers around the globe are adopting header bidding strategies for their mobile web inventory as the result of the significant lift generated when all sales channels are able to compete at the impression level. While mobile web header bidding impressions were just emerging one year ago, PubMatic found that mobile web accounted for nearly one-in-five impressions transacted via header bidding in Q3 2016.

Header bidding impressions create more opportunities for advertisers to win an auction for the highly-coveted mobile consumer. Not only does this tactic generate higher eCPMs due to demand, but valuable cookie information gets passed that will allow buyers to make better decisions as well. Now that header bidding is table stakes for desktop and mobile web, the next frontier will include bringing header bidding beyond the header and into mobile apps. This will ultimately provide increased opportunities for growth.

Furthermore, during the Q3 Back-to-School season, retail publishers saw more than 230 percent increase in mobile web eCPM value. Shoppers are spending more of their time researching products and making purchased on their mobile devices, providing further opportunities for effective and engaging mobile advertising. This is particularly important heading into the retail-obsessed holiday season, during which publishers in the retail category should ensure that they are making their higher-quality mobile inventory accessible to advertisers targeting mobile consumers.

Although mobile app inventory share increased worldwide, mobile web monetization continued to provide the largest opportunity for premium publishers. PubMatic data shows that mobile web eCPMs grew twice as fast as mobile app eCPMs between Q3 2015 and Q3 2016, with a growth rate of 32 percent versus 16 percent for mobile apps. Advertisers and publishers need to balance mobile strategy to leverage the growing popularity of apps and monetization opportunity with mobile web. Partnering with programmatic experts can help achieve this goal.

We’ve summarized the key findings from our latest Quarterly Mobile Index in the infographic below, and you can download the full report by clicking here. Be sure to check back in a few months for our Q4 2016 Quarterly Mobile Index as well.

infographic_Q3_QMI_v4b

The Rise of Ad Quality

This article is authored by Nishant Khatri, Senior Director of Product Management at PubMatic

This article is authored by Nishant Khatri, Senior Director of Product Management at PubMatic

While the jury is still out with regard to what led to the rapid rise of ad blockers, everyone agrees that low quality ads and the resulting impact on user experience played some role. As a result, many publishers keep ad quality top of mind, and increasingly are looking for tools to enforce the rules that they think are most suited for their readers/users in an effective and efficient manner.

After looking at these macro trends in publisher ad tech, we at PubMatic decided to invest significantly in developing the ad quality platform of the future. Although that was almost a year ago, we’re now seeing the results of our investment in ad quality coming to fruition. But before we discuss the results, let’s take a few minutes to deconstruct the topic of ad quality as a whole.

What is Ad Quality?

It’s important to understand what “ad quality” really means. Many publishers focus on certain aspects of ad quality, such as how many ads to show on a given page. As a monetization partner for publishers, we have a consultative role in helping publishers make these kinds of determinations, but we also see PubMatic playing a bigger role in helping publishers to enforce rules that determine what kind of ads should be delivered in publishers’ various ad slots.

Within that scope, ad quality is largely defined as inclusive of three specific areas (although for a small subset of publishers there are other areas that are also important, for now we’ll just address the following three). Publishers define ad quality in terms of:

  1. The ability to control which advertisers are allowed/not allowed to run on their sites and apps, including specific advertiser names or categories such as gambling or alcohol;
  2. The ability to control which creative types are able/unable to run on their sites and apps. Auto-play video ads are an example of a commonly blocked category based on how it frequently interferes with user experience;
  3. The ability to prevent malware on their sites and apps.

In addition to these three areas, we’re beginning to see other trends emerge as well. Some publishers, for example, want to block certain file types such as Flash ads. Since we are focused on continually updating and improving all of our publisher products, including those for ad quality, all of our product updates and new publisher tools are informed by this type of feedback and knowledge.

Ad Quality Product Principles

Providing publishers with future-proof tools is just as important to us at PubMatic as providing them with tools that help solve the challenges they face today. That’s why we invested in building a next-generation ad quality platform that could deliver on each of the following:

  • The ability to detect problems quickly and efficiently is incredibly important in the real-time environment of programmatic buying and selling. In order to meet this requirement, our platform needed to be fast—almost real-time—a feature that presents numerous challenges from both a cost and a technology perspective;
  • Our next-generation solution also needed to be comprehensive; in other words, we needed to be able to help publishers ensure the quality of every ad—another feature not without its own challenges;
  • In order to be the best possible solution, the platform also needed to incorporate both in-house technology and leverage tech and specialty features only available from third-party experts, which meant that we needed to determine which part of the platform would be in-house and what portion or portions should be left to third parties;
    Last, but certainly not least, we needed to incorporate automation—an extremely important aspect of the platform when it comes to scale and effectiveness.

As you can imagine, these product requirements translated into a whole lot of software to write!

Real-Time Ad Scanning

After seven months of development, we launched our Real-Time Ad Scanning platform earlier this year. Currently we have almost 200 publishers using our Real-Time Ad Scanning globally. The platform has the capability to capture every ad in the bid stream, make automated judgments on thousands of creatives every day (including creative from more than 100 demand sources representing thousands of advertisers), and to annotate each result with a confidence level. The automated process is then supplemented by the efforts of our ad quality operations team, which uses an in-house tool to review the creative where appropriate and confirm or adjust confidence levels.

As with any technology, we measure the success of our Real-Time Ad Scanning by examining the results it produces for our customers. That’s why we were particularly pleased to see an increase in the volume of violations caught proactively as well as an increase in publisher satisfaction overall. Now, after nearly a year of additional investment and fine-tuning, we continue to see even better results for our publishers and continue to expand the various areas of ad quality that our solution addresses based on new trends in publisher concerns.

What’s Next?

After working with about 200 publishers and fine-tuning the product over the last year, we’ll now be rolling the platform out to the rest of our publishers globally, continuing to make changes and updates as additional feedback and results come in. In addition, we are releasing several products and features to reduce response times and give publishers additional automated controls to remove ads that they don’t like—both proactively and reactively.

Publishers invest significantly in acquiring new and maintaining their existing audiences, and as such PubMatic will continue to do our part to help them keep those audiences happy with the best consumer experience possible.

 

To learn more about PubMatic’s Real-Time Ad Scanning and other Ad Quality tools, or PubMatic’s comprehensive revenue management platform, SEVEN, contact your account manager, email info@pubmatic.com or follow @PubMatic on Twitter.

Header Bidding – Can It Be Contained?

This article is authored by Jeff Hirsch, CMO at PubMatic.

This article is authored by Jeff Hirsch, CMO at PubMatic.

I got you.

In truth, header bidding is already out of the box and there is no stopping it. Ad tech companies that built their business on controlling inventory access will need a different model as control moves back into the hands of the publisher. Many companies are scrambling to make sense of the new market dynamics and catch up, and the industry has taken some Wild West style responsive measures.

What does the proliferation of header bidding really mean for the ecosystem? For buyers, header tags democratize inventory (I’m intentionally staying away from the “commoditization” moniker), allowing them to gain access via the right tech to help ensure accurate auction dynamics. That’s good for buyers and is sure to bode well for digital spend, be it desktop, mobile or any other screen. For sellers, header bidding creates the opportunity for significant yield lift, with the caveat that the issue of tag management moves front and center, becoming critical to publishers’ success.

The next piece of the puzzle is wrapper/container technology. Basically, a portion of publisher-side ad serving has moved into the header of a page (even Google missed this trend), creating the new model for a programmatic world. If you follow the continuum along its natural path, the next wave will result in purposeful programmatic technology built to unify ad serving against all demand.

You think some tech providers are behind on header bidding? When you consider the need for a wrapper to do this right, that is likely a huge understatement.

To be truly valuable, wrapper technology needs to not only provide a container for all header tags, but also must provide easy-to-use and easily accessible management tools for publishers to be able to make sense of all their header demand. It should create a transparent environment based on the principles of access and fairness. Inventory controls should be back in the hands of the inventory owner. Supply-side tech companies should facilitate all of this, not limit it, and should therefore be completely open to integrating all demand in order to serve the best interests of the publisher.

For the record, PubMatic implemented our first header tag tech in 2012 and released our enterprise-level wrapper solution last year. We listened to the market and addressed the need early on, taking into account our customers’ needs above all else. Publishers are back in control and players (including Google) who have built businesses on their backs are officially being de-leveraged. Oh, did I mention that our wrapper features open-source tags AND publishers don’t have to pay a dime for it?

We are ahead of the game and putting our money where our mouth is. Ready to talk?

To find out more about PubMatic’s header bidding and Wrapper Solution, email info@pubmatic.com and stay up to date on all of the latest news by following @PubMatic on Twitter.

Why You Hate Ad Tech

This piece authored by Evan Simeone, Vice President of Product Management at PubMatic.

This piece authored by Evan Simeone, Vice President of Product Management at PubMatic.

As a longtime software developer and product manager, I value innovation. Unfortunately, innovation and easy, seamless operation aren’t related. Or if they are, it’s often an inverse relationship. After all, what distinguishes an early adopter is a willingness to put up with an incomplete, unevenly polished product simply because it’s new. Ad tech provides unsettlingly consistent examples. The whole industry didn’t exist two decades ago, but in that short time it has evolved and innovated constantly – criticism of ad technology never faults it for its slow pace. So in effect, whether we like it or not, in this industry we are all early adopters at all times; by the time one piece of tech stabilizes and is adopted widely, it’s no longer sufficient and the next new thing comes along. But these are integrated business applications we’re talking about, not the latest consumer gadget. Adopting new solutions is not so simple when you need everything to be connected and interoperable, when you’re trying to run a business at scale, for example. So for all its innovation and rapid change, ad tech quality and effectiveness often seems to be going backwards, at least from the perspective of actual users trying to run actual digital media businesses. That’s why so many people hate ad tech.

To say this poses a challenge for ad tech product developers is an understatement, which is why many in the ecosystem simply choose to ignore it completely. But this is exactly the problem we decided to solve at PubMatic. How can we deliver ad tech solutions to publishers that are at once innovative, high quality, flexible and adaptable to inevitable change? How can we provide a consistent, reliable, easy-to-operate platform that is also radically innovative and flexible?

Two years ago we set about answering these questions. In order to get a better handle on the problem and understand it clearly from users’ point of view, we talked to hundreds of people in the industry—day-to-day users and business stakeholders of all types. We investigated across all regions globally, both on the publisher and the demand side. While we saw a lot of variation in the feedback we received, there was a consistent pattern of frustration with ad technology that is either considered legacy and generic, or niche and difficult to integrate.

Frequently, “legacy” and “generic” were defined in terms of the traditional ad servers that were designed primarily for desktop display inventory, making them poorly suited to today’s multi-channel, multi-format, multi-device businesses. In the category of newer, niche solutions, they cited those that focus only on mobile or native, which may do one specific thing well but are difficult to integrate into a scalable enterprise solution and workflow.

We also took a hard look at our own technology and reassessed every piece of it, both individually and in the wider context of a full, integrated solution, and asked ourselves a few important questions. How completely does our tech address the full spectrum of modern demand channels, screens, and formats? How easy is it to use all together, to operate at scale and to integrate with other solutions? How adaptable is the foundation, and is it flexible enough to deal with whatever tomorrow will bring?

While we were proud of the products we’d built, we quickly realized that in order to solve the bigger problem we needed to rethink how our products work together and how other technologies can plug in. We needed to think of everything we built within the context of a complete, interoperable full-stack solution—one that was at the same time entirely modular, extensible and customizable. Pieces that weren’t compatible with this objective needed to be redesigned and rewritten, while others could be adapted and better integrated.

The main challenge was that everything needed to fit together seamlessly and yet also be decoupled and pluggable. Internally, we used the metaphor of a Lego kit. You can use all the pieces that come in the box and have a complete end-to-end publisher ad tech stack, including direct ad serving, indirect monetization, cross-channel optimization, mobile, native, video, and comprehensive advanced analytics for all of it… or you can rearrange and swap out pieces from other kits to develop endlessly varied, customized and differentiated solutions to meet your needs and easily integrate new innovation.

Developing a seamless full-stack solution that’s also completely modular is, of course, easier said than done, and it did not happen overnight. And I’m happy to say that with the recent announcement of our new unified, modular platform, PubMatic SEVEN, we released exactly that. It was worth the time it took because the investments we made in providing not just point solutions or “pipes” that work, but in refining the workflow and interoperability, the integration points and APIs, made a real difference in the experience publishers have running their businesses. And because the platform is entirely modular and extensible, we have a great foundation to innovate further and to make it easy for our publishers to integrate the innovations of others in the ecosystem.

The exciting part is that although the recent release of SEVEN is the culmination of a couple of years of work, this is really just the beginning. We see the pace of innovation and product development only accelerating in 2017. And because we have a completely modular, well-integrated full stack platform on which to build, we’re confident that future innovation will support easy operation and overall quality, rather than get in its way.

For more information on PubMatic’s comprehensive revenue management platform, SEVEN, contact your account manager, email info@pubmatic.com or follow @PubMatic on Twitter.

The Fraudulent War Rages On

Eric Mischel, Senior Director of Product Management

Eric Mischel, Senior Director of Product Management

Fraud continues to be one of the greatest concerns in the digital advertising space. Despite the progress that has been made, our industry evolves at a rapid pace, which led to the emergence of new deceptive practices. As a result, buyers still have quality concerns around due to the presence of botnets, pixel stuffing, domain spoofing, and ad stacking – let alone the complex issues of spurious content.

Over the past year, buyers, DSPs, and some exchange platforms called for the industry to start policing itself. In fact, as recently as December of 2015 a study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that advertising fraud cost advertisers $8.2 billion per year—with $4.2 billion lost to “nonhuman traffic,” $1.1 billion lost to “malvertising-related activities” and the remaining $2.4 billion lost due to “infringed content.”[1] It’s no surprise then that the buy-side of the industry was up at arms over these issues.

As tools became available from companies like Integral Ad Science (IAS), ForensIQ, White Ops, MOAT and various others, SSPs and publishers began scanning their inventory and removing the majority of suspicious and malicious impression requests.

These efforts provided industry-wide benefits. As inventory is scanned and turns out to be quality rather than fraud, buyers’ trust in the publishers in question inevitably increases. This trust in turn results in demand partners increasing their willingness to buy a publisher’s inventory, as they can be more secure in how their campaigns are targeted and delivered.

Despite initial pushback from publishers due to the increased cost and the complexity of scanning and qualifying their inventory, we are seeing more publishers begin to comply with buyers’ demands as proof that advertiser spend will shift away from questionable inventory to verified inventory continues to stack up.

Fraud and Quality: Not One-Way Streets

While the sell-side of the industry made large strides in verifying the quality of their inventory in response to requests from the demand side of the industry, these actions have been rather one-sided to date. Malware, spoofed landing pages, unidentified creative attributes and various other nefarious things continue to flow forth from the buy-side.

Malware and other fraudulent activity is a danger to all parties within digital advertising, with cascading effects. Not only can a user’s device become infected via malware, for example, they also are likely to install an ad blocker, or to avoid a publisher’s site entirely as a result of other fraudulent activities. This causes a reduction in inventory volume, which can in turn reduce not only a publisher’s revenue, but also their trust in programmatic and potentially lead them to move back towards ‘safer’ direct sales models.

The issues compound as SSPs and exchanges are forced to build out additional tools to throttle back DSPs in an effort to maintain quality on their platforms based on aggregated advertiser data. Unscrupulous advertisers are running campaigns that knowingly disrupt the user experience or spoof landing pages in an attempt to fool publisher-implemented block lists. In the end, quality advertisers can get caught in the slurry, losing access to high-value inventory because of the actions of other, nefarious buyers that happen to be utilizing the same platforms.

At the same time, while the OpenRTB standard the majority of buyers use allows creative attributes to be passed to SSPs, they are almost universally not being passed. The OpenRTB standard also allows for SSPs to provide creative restrictions to DSPs and buyers, but this information is passed it’s often ignored. As a result, SSPs were forced to develop their own solutions in order to protect their publishers from creative formats that are likely to interfere with the way in which publishers intend their content to be consumed (one of the greatest sins publishers can commit in the eyes of consumers, who have little to no tolerance for interruptions to their user experience).

At PubMatic, we not only developed our own solutions, but also partnered with outside companies to handle Abhorrent Advertiser Activity, and we’re not alone in doing so. We, and other platforms, employ teams of people dedicated to finding and stopping ‘bad ads’. But these are just Band-Aids that treat the symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the real causes. While we can pre-scan demand to ensure compliance, we must both identify and classify before we can perform any comparison. Until we treat the source of these issues, we will remain in a reactive state.

A Long-Term Solution is Needed—and Does Exist

Just as SSPs and publishers implemented tools and established processes to police inventory, DSPs and buyers must do the same and help to eliminate questionable advertising. While the tools to achieve this exist today, we need to ensure that our technologies, processes and policies allow us to take advantage of them. Self-serve platforms must implement a layer of creative approval. Buyers and advertisers must register their creative attributes, for all creatives, as well as the actual landing page, and the advertiser name needs to be passed in all bid responses. These three reasonable actions, all of which are supported by the existing OpenRTB protocol, are all that is required to show good faith in the eyes of the publisher community.

An open, fair and transparent market requires that both sides see exactly what is being bought and sold. Publishers and SSPs have done their part, and now we ask the same from the demand side.

We urge those companies on the buy-side of our industry to take steps towards advertiser transparency under the banner of publisher confidence. Programmatic buying, in all its forms, is at risk whenever malware or an explicitly forbidden creative is served. While no solution will be 100% effective, any effort from the demand side to address the root of the problem will have positive effects. The inclusion of creative attributes and correct, transparent, landing page URLs will both reduce brand control violations and provide additional targeting data to buyers to help their own spending decisions.

At PubMatic, we continue to improve both our internal processes as well as our products and solutions, while also partnering with the best industry solutions for identifying and counteracting malware and other fraudulent activity. We continue to strive to provide the highest quality demand while abiding by our publishers’ creative restrictions. In this ever-evolving world of digital advertising we will remain vigilant. We ask that you do the same.

To find out more about PubMatic’s Ad Inventory and Quality tools, part of the company’s revenue management platform, SEVEN, contact your PubMatic Account Manager or email info@pubmatic.com.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2016/01/06/the-8-2-billion-adtech-fraud-problem-that-everyone-is-ignoring/

OpenWrap: Open For Business

hussain

Hussain Rahim, Director of Product Marketing

This month, PubMatic is celebrating its 10th anniversary–in other words, we’re celebrating ten years of working to deliver products that are carefully aligned with the needs of our publishers. Over the past year we’ve been listening carefully to the challenges publishers face and their needs as they navigate the complicated world of header bidding and wrapper tags. We’ve seen tremendous growth and adoption not just of header bidding (in fact, we’re seeing more than 100 billion header-bidding-enabled impressions per month), but also in wrapper tag interest and adoption, growth that we’re looking to accelerate even more as we approach 2017.

While we’ve always promised full transparency with our Wrapper Solution, we’ve also known that providing the flexibility of an open source solution is important to some publishers. Since we first devised our Wrapper Solution we were committed to making it open source, and last month we followed through on that promise.

OpenWrap is an open source project hosted on GitHub under an Apache license that provides access to the technology that lies at the core of the PubMatic Wrapper Solution—specifically, our wrapper tag. This ensures fair and transparent auction dynamics, removing the ambiguity and risk associated with closed-source proprietary wrapper tags available in the market.

OpenWrap also provides the benefit of ensuring transparency for any header tag partner that a publisher wishes to use, further streamlining the wrapper tag integration process and driving interoperability across the header bidding and ad tech ecosystem.

Finally, we see OpenWrap as a great tool for power users and advanced publishers that already have a strong understanding of wrapper tags and want to take advantage of a powerful and extensible tool to customize it and/or plug-in their own analytics—capabilities that existing open-source wrapper tags do not provide. This allows publishers that want this level of control to fully take their header bidding strategy into their own hands.

During our conversations with publishers this year, we’ve heard publishers say they see existing open-source solutions currently on the market as a bait-and-switch situation, promising control and then charging for analytics and support as the integration gets complicated. We don’t think publishers should be left to complete complex integrations and without, account management, a easy-to-use UI or the enterprise-grade analytics. We see these as core elements of any wrapper tag and are excited to be able to offer these features to OpenWrap users.This makes PubMatic’s Wrapper Solution, built on our OpenWrap technology, is the industry’s first and only free, open-source header management solution that provides this level of transparency while simultaneously allowing publishers to reclaim control over their ad decisioning.

We look forward to contributions from publishers and ad tech professionals in the open-source community as they dive into the code behind OpenWrap. We’re sure that their contributions will help reinforce OpenWrap’s position as the most publisher-friendly and feature-complete wrapper tag on the market.

To find out more about header bidding, OpenWrap or PubMatic’s enterprise-grade Wrapper Solution, email info@pubmatic.com.

Thriving in a Fragmented Ecosystem: The Case for a Unified Ad Server

Kristen Fellows, Senior Director, Product Marketing

Kristen Fellows, Senior Director, Product Marketing

When it comes to the current state of ad serving, Gavin Dunaway, the Senior Editor of AdMonsters, said it best: “It’s time to shift our focus from workarounds to a long-term solution. And that involves reconsidering how the ad server operates.

It’s true: efforts to keep pace with more impressions, more technology, more touch points, and the level of relevancy required by consumers led to a highly fragmented technology stack that continues to fall short of publishers’ needs. As new screens, formats and channels are added the infrastructure only becomes more cumbersome. In fact, current ad serving solutions have evolved from complex (and expensive) to actually inhibiting revenue growth for publishers.

uas-image-1

In light of all of this complication and chaos, we want to address three of the biggest challenges facing publishers in the digital media ecosystem today—managing fragmented inventory, optimizing across demand channels, and overcoming difficult system integrations—and PubMatic is developing solutions to help solve for each of them.

Challenge #1: Managing fragmented inventory.

According to research from Winterberry Group, on average marketers use more than 12 different tools—and some as many as 31 or more—to manage campaigns and data[1]. We all know that publishers face this same challenge, as complexity is evident across the entire digital ecosystem.

With that in mind, take a look at the diagram above. Let’s assume that publishers have different log-ins, UIs, and workflows for IO-based, programmatic, native, mobile and video campaigns (which clearly is a reality for many companies). Now imagine you’re in Ad Ops creating campaigns, managing inventory, doing optimizations, and configuring channels… the resulting amount of time spent learning and leveraging various solutions is staggering.

Imagine the time you’d save if you could do all of this from one location.

That’s where our Unified Ad Server comes in. We built it from the ground up with the goal of simplifying the workflow associated with managing both programmatic and non-programmatic demand, various screens, and ad formats—all from a single dashboard.

uas-image-2

Challenge #2: Optimizing across demand channels.

You might be thinking ‘Great, I can see all my inventory in one place, but what good is that if I can’t optimize across those various sales channels?’ Publishers are looking to increase monetization, and with existing solutions they’ve had to do a bit of guesswork to determine how to best do that. Until recently, no easy, simple option existed for optimizing across demand channels, despite the importance of the ability to do so on publishers’ bottom line.

In a discussion on the topic at a recent PubAcademy, the head of revenue operations for a large, US-based media company described how his organization uses a combination of tech partners and tools (as many as eight or nine in some scenarios) to address this issue: “We do allow our indirect revenue sources—whether associated with private exchange deals or open exchange deals, to compete with and even trump our direct sold campaigns.”

At PubMatic, we believe not only in giving publishers as much control as possible, but also offering simple solutions for complex challenges. With our Unified Ad Server publishers can decide if and how much programmatic demand like open market RTB and private marketplaces competes with direct sold campaigns (i.e. guaranteed line items)— and to do so on an impression-by-impression basis. Publishers can determine which direct line items they want programmatic to compete with, the degree of impact on higher priority line items they’re willing to accept, and weigh that against the potential monthly revenue upside.

Feedback from Bonnier Tidskrifter, an early adopter of our Unified Ad Server, highlights the importance of addressing these major publisher pain points. “It’s great to see companies like PubMatic developing the ability for publishers like us to optimize revenue across channels,” said Bonnier Tidskrifter Head of Programmatic Stefan Carlsson, “Especially without sacrificing guarantees.”

Challenge #3: Difficult system integrations.

Given all of the challenges and complications we’ve discussed thus far, is it at all surprising that another major publisher challenge has to do with the difficulty of trying to integrate with different partners and navigate the “ins and outs” of using various systems?

Since our inception in 2006, PubMatic has been focused on publishers’ needs, and we believe that the ability to leverage the insights and expertise that publishers have built over the lifetime of their business is invaluable in differentiating themselves and succeeding in today’s marketplace. That’s one reason why we built our Unified Ad Server as part of our customizable, modular solution. We want publishers to continue to use their proprietary workflows, systems, and in-depth knowledge of their own businesses to truly establish a competitive advantage in the crowded digital media ecosystem.

As one industry expert recently commented at a PubMatic PubAcadmey, featuring header bidding-related content, “There’s a need in the market for a more progressive ad serving solution than DFP.” At PubMatic, we certainly agree, and we encourage you to take a few minutes to find out more about our Unified Ad Server and all of the other components of our revenue management platform, SEVEN.

To learn more about PubMatic’s Unified Ad Server, the company’s comprehensive revenue automation platform, SEVEN, or any of the other PubMatic products and services, visit www.pubmatic.com or contact your PubMatic Account Rep.

[1] “Too Many Tools? New Data on the Complexity of Marketing Technology,” HubSpot Blog. 15 Feb. 2015.