OpenX Enterprise – What does this new platform mean for Ad Ops?

Today OpenX announced the release of a new platform, OpenX Enterprise, which is a Software as a Service hosted ad management solution with new capabilities for managing different channels of inventory and product in one tool. Read the release. According to OpenX, this is a departure for the company and for the industry at large; the purpose being to give publishers the tools they need to compete in an ecosystem that has over past year been largely dominated by solutions for the buy-side.

AdMonsters spoke with Jason Fairchild, Chief Revenue Officer, and Matt Plummer, Head of Product Management, at OpenX for more information on what this product release means for ad operations.

Q: Can you please give a brief description of the new features in this release, particularly the capability of managing revenue across different channels, and how they will help level the playing field between the buy-side and sell-side?

OpenX: The vision we have started to realize has been two-fold. First, we wanted to solve some of the more fundamental problems that ad operations teams face on a day-to-day basis. Second, we wanted to make sure that publishers were able to realize the maximum value of each impression, in real-time.


To solve the fundamental ad ops problems, we applied our decades of collective experience and real customer feedback to redesign legacy concepts and workflows. We started with a new and very unique approach to account management, allowing our integration team to design a network setup that matches each customer’s distinct business operations. This is followed up by very intuitive and powerful features around inventory classification and packaging, allowing ad ops to not only spend less time thinking about how things have been tagged, but also remove the need to translate from sales to trafficking. The first set of customers on the new platform have been very encouraged by the real-time nature of the system, which means real-time campaign flighting, real-time prioritization to ensure on-schedule delivery of guaranteed campaigns, and real-time reporting for immediate insights.


To solve the revenue side of the equation, we knew that having the real-time auction of indirect sales channels like RTB and trading desks take place right in the ad server along with directly sold campaigns was going to be a huge win. Impressions are lost any time you bounce from an ad server to a network or yield optimizer, and the problem only gets worse as the chain gets longer. With the new OpenX Enterprise, each impression can be made visible to the appropriate direct-sold campaigns as well as, if opted in, real-time buyers in the OpenX Market. This all happens at once, ensuring maximum yield without disrupting guaranteed sales. And to top it off, the reporting is entirely integrated. Yield management is now just a feature instead of an entirely different system or vendor.


Publishers now have the transparency and control of both their inventory and user data, as well as all their sales channels. This gives them some of the leverage buyers have enjoyed over the last few years with advanced insight from DSPs and trading desk technologies.

Q: In the release you mention significant benefits for ad operations. Can you go into more detail about these benefits?

OpenX: We really tried to get to the source of the headaches that ad ops teams suffer, while understanding that we cannot fundamentally change the habits of a media sales organization. One trend that was evident across almost all premium publishers was the use of spreadsheets to facilitate translation of concepts through the sales pipeline. Traffickers use a spreadsheet to translate sales packages into bundles of targeting, another spreadsheet to explain the ad server priorities to use based on how something was sold, and yet another to manage the complex zone naming conventions used to classify inventory. That’s why the new OpenX Enterprise has built-in product packaging, amazingly intuitive prioritization controls, and powerful inventory classification abilities. In one case, we saw a customer reduce the unique number of legacy ad server tags on their sites from 30,000 to below 3,000 with OpenX Enterprise!


Another area of pain we observed over and over again was the excruciatingly long campaign optimization cycles. With legacy ad servers, campaigns were started with questionable forecasting, then changes to the campaigns took hours to go live, and the performance metrics from those changes took hours/days more to come back for analysis. That’s exactly why OpenX Enterprise was built from the start to be real-time. Traffickers can start with great availability insight, make mid-flight changes that go live in mere minutes, get performance insights back in a fraction of the time they used to, and rest assured that their campaigns will deliver on schedule. No more multi-day optimization cycles that lead to both internal and client frustration.


When you put these all together, we hope to make a significant reduction in the amount of Advil required by ad ops teams!

Q: Another highlight of the release is the advanced data capabilities. Can you elaborate on how this technology will allow publishers to own their data?

OpenX: Most publishers simply do not take advantage of their first-party data today. When they do, it’s often by managing a complex integration with an external vendor. OpenX Enterprise now allows them to build audience segments directly in their ad server, which means that the targeting, forecasting, reporting, and audience-based yield optimization are all built in as well. This audience data is owned exclusively by the publisher and not aggregated or used by OpenX beyond typical platform operations.


Additionally, publishers can bring in third-party data, and even combine it with first-party data. This allows very interesting segment management, utilizing the rich set of on-network user activity and the expertise of third-party data aggregators. For example, you could define a segment like “frequent forum posters” utilizing first-party data, then purchase demographic data from a vendor, and build a combined segment identifying “frequent forum posters with 2 children in the household.”


And of course, this all happens in the publisher’s own domain. OpenX Enterprise is designed to operate in a sub-domain of each customer’s primary domain, which allows the ad server to look just like a first-party system. This is becoming more important as browsers offer controls to block third-party cookies.

Q: Will publishers still be able to leverage the API capabilities with this new functionality?

OpenX: Absolutely. In fact, the new OpenX Enterprise is completely API-based. Every operation you can perform in the UI can be automated via the API, including account management, inventory setup, order trafficking, forecasting, reporting, audience segmentation, etc. Most of our initial customers have already implemented some form of API integration to automate some common tasks.

Q: This functionality is included on the OpenX Enterprise edition, but what about the other products, OpenX Source and OpenX OnRamp?

OpenX: The new OpenX Enterprise is a completely redesigned platform, and is currently only available to Enterprise customers. All of the exciting features we’ve talked about are only available on the Enterprise platform, which is hosted by OpenX and comes with world-class support. The type of technology required to provide enterprise-grade functionality at enterprise-class scale is something we do not feel comfortable packaging up for a one-button install on to someone’s personal hosting account.


That said, we do believe in offering a free product for smaller publishers, and by the end of the year we plan to migrate our existing free-hosted offering (OpenX OnRamp) to the new platform. The OpenX Source product will not be upgraded to the new platform, but will remain freely available and open source, as it has been for many years.