The Guardian to sue Rubicon Project - ad tech firm to 'vigorously' contest

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 29 March 2017

The Guardian is set to file a lawsuit against Rubicon Project for failing to disclose fees it levied on advertisers looking to buy the newspaper’s online ad inventory.

The globally renowned publisher is due to file its legal papers at the UK High Court’s Chancery Division, according to Business Insider. It is not yet clear how this will impact the Guardian and Rubicon’s relationship in the Australian market.

“We can confirm that we have commenced proceedings against Rubicon Project for the recovery of non-disclosed buyer fees in relation to Guardian inventory," a Guardian global spokesperson says.

Despite the lawsuit, Rubicon Project insists it had disclosed its buyer fees in a contract signed with The Guardian more than a year ago and intends to “vigorously contest” the publisher's lawsuit in court.

It says the company charges buyer fees for certain services and has disclosed the fact publicly, including in SEC filings, client contracts and in its contract with The Guardian.

See here for: Industry Profile: Rubicon Project country manager, Simone Krakowiak

“Our marketplace fees on transactions support the considerable and compounding costs of performing an open auction – including our extensive brand protection and inventory quality screening, and malware protection,” a Rubicon spokesperson says.

“As we add new buyers and sellers onto the platform, the resulting impact is compounding infrastructure costs. Without buyer fees we would need to charge sellers more, and we think our approach is fair.”

The spokesperson added that the fees charged are in line with industry practice.

 "The Guardian’s claims amount to a contract dispute, which we will vigorously contest in court,” the spokesperson added.

AdNews understands The Guardian is looking to recuperate costs from the supply-side platform (SSP) that spread back over a number of years. It' thought to be in the single-digit millions. SSP is a type of automated technology that enables publishers to sell their online ads - it's intended to be more efficient. The news follows increasing concern over the use of programmatic and automated functions in advertising, as worries over brand safety swell.

The Pangaea Alliance no more?

Two years ago The Guardian, in partnership with CNN International, the Financial Times, The Economist and Reuters, launched a global programmatic private marketplace, named the Pangaea Alliance, which allowed advertisers to buy to the publishers' premium advertising inventory programmatically.

At the time it said the alliance would be working with the publishers via the Rubicon Project technology platform and would offer display solutions both as a standalone product, alongside existing publisher initiatives including native advertising programmes and publisher trading desks.

Late last year Rubicon appointed Rick Mulia as managing director for the JPAC region. The news followed its country manager of Australia and New Zealand, Adele Hanzlicek, stepping down to launch her own consulting practice. Simone Krakowiak replaced Hanzlicek. Rubicon Project’s, general manager international, Jay Stevens, also departed.

The Guardian recently became one of the many brands and publishers to cuts online ad ties with Google.

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