All Things RTB and 2012’s Digital Marketplace with Jay Stevens, the Rubicon Project

We sat down with Jay Stevens, Vice-President and General Manager International at the Rubicon Project to talk all things RTB.

Jay was one of our fantastic speakers at OPS Markets in London and will also be discussing all things RTB at AdMonsters Sydney.

Read the full Q&A below. 

RTB really took off in 2011, what do you see happening in a more mature market place for RTB in 2012?

Are there any areas in which you feel it’s fallen short/not been exploited? RTB has indeed seen explosive growth in 2011, moving from single digit percentages to now representing the majority of indirect sales revenue for many publishers on the REVV platform. In terms of where we see RTB going in 2012, it will clearly be “moving up the stack” as private marketplaces blur the line between what has traditionally been designated premium or remnant. Granular advertiser-level pricing and access controls, combined with the inherent transparency associated with RTB, opens the door for publishers and agencies alike to take advantage safely of increased automation in digital media trading. I don’t really feel it has fallen short, it simply takes time for markets to change trading behaviours and for the infrastructure and processes on both the buy and sell side to mature, and arguably, it’s happening faster here than I would have expected.

Do you see RTB as a long term killer to direct sales teams or do you see them working alongside one another?

Not at all, RTB opens the door for publishers to take budget from category-adjacent and non-endemic advertisers who would may not have historically ever put a publisher on plan, while at the same time enabling the publisher to establish pricing floors for endemic advertisers, protecting yield from their most important clients. RTB and private marketplaces afford the opportunity for the direct sales team to be more efficient and to refine their focus on larger, high-value, creative, and premium sales opportunities with programmatic trading being used collaboratively. It also opens the door for new roles inside the sales organisation: yield managers who can read the bid landscape data to make the most of a publishers inventory. Homepage takeovers, sponsorships, microsites and the like are all the kinds of publisher product offerings that can never be traded programmatically, but the trading of standard IAB ad units, in the manner the industry has historically done, is incredibly inefficient and leaves a tremendous amount of demand pent up on the sidelines. Anyone who has ever written an IO and overseen the process from RFP to collection of payment from the agency can testify to this. If display as a channel is to grow, and publishers are to take advantage of this growth, we have to become more efficient as an industry. Display must be “democratised” as search has been. RTB and real time trading is the mechanic for this change.


Why do you think private marketplaces are so important to publishers in 2012?


Private marketplaces are important for publishers as they open the opportunity to tap budgets that are being allocated to RTB-based sources of demand and initiate the migration to programmatic trading, at the same time protecting their rate card and mitigating any channel conflict.


What can you tell us about The Rubicon Project’s ‘Brand Protection Suite’?


The brand protection suite is a collection of features that help publishers better protect their brand and better manage the quality of advertising on their site. It starts with the harvesting of advertiser creative across the tens of thousands of ad tags live on the REVV platform and constantly cross-referencing advertisers found either on rotational tags or via the advertiser name in bid stream across the block lists of the publishers on the platform. This is done across more than 30 geographical proxies with more than 2,000 new pieces of creative being catalogued and double verified by human eyes each day. In addition to this foundational ad quality database and continual monitoring, Rubicon is able to offer a number of additional capabilities including malware protection, RTB creative pre-approval, and data leakage reporting.  


Quality control in advertising is always an issue – what is Rubicon’s approach to ensuring Publishers are serving to the best of their ability?


This starts in the set-up process with our publishers to fully understand what the ad quality thresholds and block lists are before going live and introducing new demand sources. Then, through the features of the brand protection suite, our technology is able to better the monitor the influx of new campaigns on their behalf. It’s a constant threat that has to be continually monitored and addressed by both technology and human intervention. While no system is perfect, the developments we’ve made to more efficiently manage ad quality are unique to the industry.


What are your predictions for 2012’s digital marketplace? Anyone we should be aware of?


Namely, we expect to see RTB sources of demand claim a larger share of publishers’ indirect sales revenue, north of 75% by the end of the year. I also expect to see more demand coming into the marketplace from the rise of publisher trading desks (PTD), maximising the value of their audience by executing reach extension campaigns, targeting their users off their own sites. Associated Northcliffe and Der Telegraaf are already reaping the benefits of their PTDs and I’d expect some of the publisher with high value audiences and low impression volumes following their lead. Lastly, and perhaps the single biggest movement, will be Facebook as they look to become a network in their own right, enabling the advertisers on their platform to extend the reach of their campaigns outside the Facebook environment.