March 14, 2017

Real-Time Guaranteed: Giving Publishers and Buyers More Power to Innovate

Ben Johnson
Product Lead at OpenX

Steven Johnson’s book, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World, tells the story of how the discovery of glass triggered many other major innovations, including spectacles, the printing press, the microscope, modern vaccines and antibiotics, the television, fiberglass, and eventually fiber optics, which powers the backbone of the global internet.

We have a big vision for Real-time Guaranteed (RTG), and believe that it will lead to innovation within the online advertising industry, and perhaps even others.

RTG: You Get Exactly What You Want

Before RTG, matching buyers and publishers was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Buyers were trying to find the closest targeted inventory based on what publishers could provide (whether it was targeted programmatically but on some undesirable domains or non-scalable, or direct but not audience-targeted). Publishers could sell direct but not necessarily meet advertiser performance criteria, or programmatically without a revenue guarantee.

RTG enables buyers and publishers to get exactly what they want.

We accomplish this in a few ways:

  1. It’s guaranteed on both sides: Buyers get a certain amount of inventory that the publisher has promised, and publishers have revenue certainty. We’ve achieved guarantees close to 100% (around 90-95%) and have multiple ways to leverage the guarantee.
  2. It’s the right inventory for the right audience: Because RTG matches the buyer’s audience with publisher inventory, it’s bringing unique value to an impression that would be sold otherwise as undifferentiated supply.
  3. Truly premium access: RTG brings programmatic to sponsorship-level inventory and exposes the true value of publisher impressions. The same impression that was sold a year ago can be sold at a much higher price now while still meeting buyer ROI needs.

In short, RTG closes the gap between what a publisher can try to provide versus what the buyer really wants.

RTG Empowers Innovation

Buyers and publishers are now coming up with new ways to leverage this technology.

Changing the programmatic model
Traditionally, it was very difficult to get creative with an ad server. Now, publishers are evolving to the point where transactions are largely programmatic. If an RTG deal can do more than a traditional direct-sold IO can do, then it makes sense to move to a programmatic model that covers the whole stack, from top (traditionally high-value direct) to bottom (remnant).

Creating new uses for the product
RTG is so flexible in terms of deal terms and execution that it can be leveraged beyond what just the software product offers.

Buyers and sellers are finding new ways to do business. For example, buyers are committing to a budget guarantee, they get a set amount of ad requests, and the publisher gets guaranteed revenue.

RTG changes sales models not by removing the salespeople, but by giving them more ways to sell. If they have more products to offer the buyer, it’s more likely that the buyer will get the ROI they want. This creates additional revenue opportunities for sales teams to explore, compared to automated guarantees which are limiting. Because RTG is completely flexible, the publisher sales team can offer an infinite number of guaranteed products such as: flexible guarantee, full guarantee, budget guarantee, audience guarantee and more that have yet to be discovered.

Continual evolution
RTG is also imperfect – there are things that need to evolve and require additional investment. Forecasting is one of them. Forecasting, if it’s not accurate, creates a rift between buyer and seller, especially when buyers are committing large budgets. Our industry as a whole should invest more in growing forecasting to become a strength rather than a bottleneck. Today, most forecasting tools can only provide volume based on the last 30 days of activity. This model isn’t representative of seasonal changes, and not all campaigns run exactly 30 days. This forces the publisher to take extra steps to determine if they have availability, which may not be the most efficient or accurate method.

OpenX is building a solution that not only can provide flexibility in the forecast, but can also provide data beyond expected volume. Examples include: projected revenue impact and breakouts on the different users that are available on a publisher’s site.

Another growing focus is building interfaces that make deals easier to transact. Our belief is that to truly achieve programmatic efficiency, it’s not just about the technology working in the background, but also about the user experience. Currently, RTG deals still involve a some manual work, but a strong deal transaction UI will resolve this and act as a springboard for scaling the technology. Users will not only save time getting deals up and running, but will also be able to focus on what is most important: more yield, less setup.

As easy as shopping on Amazon
The future needs to be scalable for guarantees – and we’re getting closer to that goal. We want it to be as easy for publishers as placing a tag.

And for buyers, we want RTG to be as easy as a buyer punching in what they want. Ultimately, we want to give buyers the ability to have end-to-end access to premium inventory.

OpenX will continue to evolve RTG, creating marketplaces for sellers to list their inventory and buyers to negotiate and transact.