Rubicon Project beefs up: is guaranteed programmatic the next wave?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 24 November 2014

Are Apple iAds and 'guaranteed' programmatic about to make the next big ad tech industry waves? Rubicon Project thinks so.

Programmatic is sweeping across the ad tech industry, bringing increasing waves of consolidation and partnerships. Rubicon Project, which has been in Australia for more than five years, is making moves in both of these areas.

The company allows marketers and publishers to buy and sell advertising in real-time auctions via real-time bidding (RTB) – a space advertisers in Australia are increasingly exploring and adapting.

Proof of this was AIMIA’s next Generation of Intelligent Marketing presentation last week, where crowds of marketers, brands and ad tech execs gathered to soak up the latest programmatic teachings from Rocketfuel, News Corp, Ensighten and more. It was here that Telstra revealed it had grown its investment in programmatic by 56% and the amount of digital spend going through its programmatic client trading desk now sits at 80%.

Ahead of the event Rubicon Project acquired two of the three ‘programmatic guaranteed’ players in the market: Programmatic direct advertising platform Shiny Ads, and iSockets, a tech platform that facilitates direct online advertising by allowing programmatic buying of direct display ad inventory.

Rubicon Project’s general manager international Jay Stevens, who is charged with spearheading the company’s expansion, said this leaves just one other ‘programmatic guaranteed’ business left in this sector – ASX-listed Australia-based AdSlot.

RTB not enough

While Rubicon Project built its business in RTB, Stevens said the technology provided by iSocket and Shiny Ads helps power a different type of sale, commonly called “automated guaranteed” or “programmatic guaranteed.”
This method of buying, which is prevalent in the television market, allows sellers to set prices for guaranteed audience impressions and buyers to discover and buy those guaranteed audiences.

It enables marketers to buy ad space from publishers on an upfront basis. So just as you would buy a book for a fixed price on Amazon, an ad buyer can log on to iSocket or Shiny Ads to buy a specific number of ad impressions for a predetermined price. The idea is that software helps streamline the sales process, saving time and costs for both buyers and sellers, and allows marketers and publishers the ability to buy and sell ad space in whichever manner they choose.

“Now was the right time to acquire them because the market is starting to make moves in this direction and we wanted to accelerate our development path in this area,” Stevens said.

The 'less than $30 million' deal is largely in stock.

Industry consolidation set to continue

On the subject of ad tech industry consolidation, Stevens said: “There’s no doubt a trend of consolidation in the advertising technology space and I think we will see this trend continue, especially as point solutions are brought into more comprehensive platforms.” 

In terms of how these two new acquisitions will impact Australian operations and its local clients, such as SCA, The Guardian, News Digital and APN, Stevens said once the company can localise these offerings, it will be able to offer sellers in the market the ability to apply automation across all their inventory.

Acquisitions in the ad tech industry have been rife in 2014. In the last two months alone Publicis Groupe announced it is to acquire Sapient in a US$3.7 billion move to bolster its digital capability; Yahoo acquired BrightRoll for $640m and in other media segments Pacific Star Network Ltd bought Morrison Media and Nine confirmed Ooh Media acquisition talks.

Digital programmatic video advertising company TubeMogul also recently teamed up with Foxtel, allowing the TV service to bring its video advertising operations in-house, and last month MCN and AOL-owned Adap.TV launched the world’s first private programmatic trading market.

“There’s a saying in hockey that you don’t skate to where the puck is, but where it’s going to be. By buying two of the three players in the space, it allows us to consolidate the market and accelerate development in advance of the industry moving in this direction,” Stevens said.

“The reason why this is such a huge leap forward is that it brings much of the same efficiency gains that we are seeing in the non-guaranteed world to buyers and sellers alike in the guaranteed, or reserved, space.”

Speaking to AdNews at the last AIMIA event, regional director, Asia Pacific at data and tag management provider Ensighten, Chris Brinkworth, also stressed that consolidation was going to be a huge theme across the Australian ad and marketing scene.

“Hungry” for automation

Stevens said the rapid adoption and evolution of private marketplaces around the world is a key indicator of the ecosystem’s appetite for further efficiency, and sellers, especially those outside the US, are especially “hungry for automation”.  

“Most importantly, by adding greater efficiency, it means that more investment can pour into the digital channel as marketers realise greater spend toward media rather than heavy operational overheads,” he said.

In other ad tech tie-ups, the company has just been selected by Apple, along with several other advertising technology companies, to help power iAd’s adoption of automated advertising for Apple iAd’s 250,000+ mobile developers.

This brings Apple’s array of mobile apps to Rubicon Project’s automation platform, forming an open marketplace for the buying and selling of iAd inventory – so advertisers can buy audiences across Apple's mobile app inventory via Rubicon Project's global exchange. 

Apple’s iAd provides more than 400 targeting options to advertisers, based on hundreds of millions of validated iTunes accounts worldwide. This first party data asset makes it easy for buyers to target the specific mobile audiences of their choice.

Apple has also unveiled a partnership with retargeting company AdRoll. This introduces the ability to buy programmatically through iAd Workbench and enables AdRoll customers to serve relevant, personalised ad campaigns across iOS devices within premium in-app inventory. 

It is alleged that Apple had planned to build a self-serve mobile advertising system in house, and it bought Quattro Wireless to help. This hasn't transpired and Apple is now teaming up with ad tech companies such as AdRoll and the Rubicon Project - in order to compete with mobile ad giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

AdRoll, which runs performance advertising strategies across the four key players in the mobile industry: Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, is headed up across Australia and New Zealand by MD Ben Sharp. He said with such high usage of iOS and Apple devices in Australia, this move gives Australian advertisers another premium environment to run high performance and personalised ad campaigns targeting their customers. 

As an example, Sharp said advertisers will be able to target consumers based on the types of apps they engage with most and even the genres of music they listen to.

“It’s exciting because as an inventory agnostic platform, we’re able to give marketers the opportunity to serve high performance and personalised ad campaigns targeting their consumers in whatever digital environment they appear,” Sharp said.

AdRoll, which is one of six companies that Apple has partnered with to launch the new version of iAd Workbench, were first to launch with FBX and were one of the launch partners for Twitter's Tailored Audience product last year.

For more news:

Foxtel programmatic deal helps boost TubeMogul revenue

Australia is leading the world in mobile programmatic growth

Foxtel takes programmatic video advertising in-house

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