Thought Leadership

5 tips to succeed with Private Marketplaces

March 12, 2018
By Ashley Wheeler

It has always been the case that Private Marketplace (PMP) offerings were meaningfully differentiated from what is available within the open auction. However, the continued evolution of our industry technologies – along with buyer assertions that open market inventory must adhere to minimum levels of quality and transparency – has made it increasingly more difficult for publishers to provide value above and beyond what buyers are able to obtain through a less intricate, and often less expensive, open market campaign.

With the advent of solutions like Ads.txt, the PMP is no longer a required conduit for ensuring fraud-free inventory. This, coupled with the more egalitarian access to supply that header bidding enables across exchange partners, means that sellers and buyers alike must redefine the value of the PMP, and the inventory offered through it. Still, there are large budgets that are earmarked exclusively for programmatic, many of which will be spent within the PMP. If publishers are to access those budgets, they must think critically about the inventory they offer through both open and private marketplaces and better delineate the unique value that their PMPs bring to buyers.

Granularity is key

The first step in developing a differentiated PMP strategy is to think through what is and is not readily targetable in an open auction bid request. While a fully transparent request generally gives the buyer access to full domain URLs, many DSPs are not configured to target against anything more granular than the base domain. Therefore, publishers can offer contextual relevance and granularity to buyers by breaking out specific content and sections within their PMP packages. While this may be of little consequence to down-funnel, performance-based campaigns, it will add value to buyer campaigns that are mid- to upper-funnel and have more of a branding focus. Additionally, granularity in position targeting can also add value to buyer campaigns, particularly when your offering takes into consideration the unique behaviors of users on your particular site. For instance, if you know that a given ad placement sits next to specific content and drives certain engagement rates, that could be another discrete value proposition to set your PMP inventory apart from what is available within the open auction.

PMP inventory tip: Ensure that your set up enables targeting at both the content level and the position level to give you flexibility in creating more granular PMP packages.

Differentiate with unique formats

From a format perspective, your PMP offering should include all of the platforms that you offer programmatically, but with an eye toward differentiation. Equally important to what is available in the PMP is what is not available in the open auction. High impact, custom sizes, in particular, provide a compelling PMP-only offering due to their limited inventory supply and lower open auction demand. What’s more, since custom sizes may require the need to develop custom creative, offering these units via PMPs helps establish the one-to-one buyer relationship that is needed to develop and execute against these placements. For more common formats, flooring your most valuable inventory (higher engagement, performance, or impact) at higher rates in the open auction is another strategy for ensuring that the value of these placements is not eroded from your PMP offering.

PMP inventory tip: Break out PMP-only formats where it makes sense. For a PMP-first strategy, you should floor your valuable formats and positions at higher rates in the open auction.

Showcase first-party data

Another singular differentiator within the Private Marketplace is publisher first-party data. It’s important to note that within the context of the PMP, not all publisher first-party data is created equal. Audience extender data, while nice to have, is rarely enough of a differentiator from the targeting that a DSP is able to achieve outside of the PMP. However, if you are a publisher with unique subscription or purchase-intender data, and you are willing and able to offer that within your private auctions, it can go a long way in increasing the value of your overall PMP offering. What’s even more interesting as it relates to publisher first-party data is how technologies are evolving to find new uses for publisher data. As the programmatic industry develops new first-party solutions around cross-device, universal ID, and consent, publishers will have ever-increasing opportunities to leverage data and augment PMP spend.

PMP inventory tip: Expose as much of your first-party data to the PMP as you feel comfortable with. Think creatively about how your first-party data might help solve buyer pain points.

Focus on viewability

Just as inventory quality has become an expectation of buyers in the open market, so too will viewability eventually become a de facto component of programmatic buys within both open and Private Marketplaces, alike. Still, the mechanisms that buyers use to determine viewability in the open auction are broad and can often cause them to overlook highly viewable placements that may be situated on pages with lower overall viewability. Publishers can bring unique value to their PMP inventory by breaking out specific placements with known viewability scores and providing buyers with accepted thresholds for the viewability they might expect. In this way, publishers can use PMPs to highlight unique inventory that buyers may have otherwise missed out on in the open auction. If you, like many other publishers, struggle with viewability on your sites, then a longer-term strategy may be to work with your site teams to implement one or two highly viewable placements that can be broken out for the PMP and direct buys and, similar to PMP strategies for unique formats, be floored higher in the open auction.

PMP inventory tip: Our Rubicon Project Accounts team is on hand to help re-work your viewability strategy and identify which high viewable placements make the most sense to sell via a Private Marketplace campaign.

Set priority and guarantees

One of the greatest shifts we’ve seen as a result of header bidding has been the leveling of prioritization among competing exchange partners, and that impact can be felt as much in the Private Marketplace as in the open market. While equal access to supply has leveled the playing field among partners and allowed better competition for each impression, it has also diminished the sense of priority that buyers used to enjoy in the PMP. In this new world, priority now takes the form of privileged access to supply, or put another way, a buyer’s ability to obtain inventory at higher win rates than they see in the open auction. There are a number of strategies and techniques that publishers can leverage to achieve this. If you are open to the opportunity for prioritized PMPs within your overall ad stack, you can designate buckets of competing deal tiers with inflated value CPMs where negotiated PMPs can be targeted and compete at rates higher than the open market. You can also create a first look tier that competes in the ad server as a low priority 100% SOV sponsorship. This would allow any valid, targeted bids to render as long as they don’t compete with higher priority sponsorships, leading to higher win rates for deals targeted in this way. Publishers can also offer prioritization in the form of Guaranteed PMPs in which this higher level or prioritization is offered in exchange for guaranteed budgets and fixed CPMS.

PMP inventory tip: Consider creating packages around priority and first look to give buyers the option of privileged access. The first look opportunity, in particular, affords the same advantages of Google First Look, with the added benefit that you are actually able to sell against the prioritization that you are giving to buyers.

We’ve seen the Private Marketplace undergo a staggering metamorphosis, but it remains as important a tool as ever for bringing quality and transparency to our industry. And, while the merits that define the PMP have shifted substantially, the underlying foundation remains the same: if publishers are able to differentiate their PMP inventory in some meaningful way – either through targeting, formats, or performance – then they’ll be able to provide buyers with a compelling reason to execute PMP buys and shift spend into these more premium channels for programmatic business.

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