With more flavors than a Baskin Robbins store, it is easy to understand why marketers and publishers are becoming a little confused with the variations of programmatic buying & selling models available to them.

It used to be straightforward for buyers to access a publishers inventory, they negotiated price & volume of impressions to be served directly with the publisher & ordinarily cemented this commitment via a signed insertion order (IO).

Fast forward to iteration one of programmatic and publishers were sending their unsold inventory to SSP’s & Exchanges to increase sell-through rates beyond that of their direct sales teams capabilities to secure bookings. They were capturing this incremental demand by exposing their traffic to DSP’s (Who at this stage were just cookie hunters, context had little to no value to many).


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This growing practice from publishers to adopt sell side technology to expose their inventory to DSP’s encouraged SSP’s to build out a new model for selling referred to as the ‘Private Marketplace‘. They did so due to buyers voicing their frustrations that although programmatic was a fantastic new vehicle for them to scale performance buys, it was difficult to pull branding £ away from legacy IO bookings and push into programmatic execution due to the fact premium inventory & data was often being held back for publishers direct sales efforts and rarely being made available to clients who wanted to buy via DSP’s.

Fast forward to the dawn of the PMP & we found this new buying model getting more air time in the press & on the trading floors of agencies than any other development in digital advertising of yesteryear, however, it was not without its challenges.

PMP’s enabled buyers to broker deals with publishers directly, a practice they were familiar with due to their experiences trading via the IO. They then used SSP’s as the pipes in which to deliver their campaigns in a data-driven & programmatic way via their licensed DSP’s.

Ok, so why then if a buyer could negotiate directly with a publisher, secure tier one supply & data was the transition from IO to programmatic not happening quicker? Some of the main blockers industry advocates cited include:

  1. There are no commitments from publishers to send a certain amount of traffic to any given PMP (Identified by buyers via a unique token referred to as the Deal iD) This frustrated buyers as many campaigns would struggle to deliver in full & they never had delivery issues when booking via the IO…
  2. Many buyers still felt that inventory being sent to private market place was a lower priority in a publishers Ad Server (typically DFP) than that allocated to a publishers direct sales team (And rightly so, publishers were looking to mitigate against channel conflict and maintain yields, they were not about to open a backdoor to DSP demand for their premium supply & data, certainly not without big commitments upfront anyway!).
  3. Publishers often felt short changed due to an under-delivery from the buy side. Although buyers often brokered deals directly with publishers & promised a certain level of demand, this often fell short as DSP’s were designed to buy audience, not context. This resulted in many bidders pointing at deal iD’s but passing up on incoming bid requests due to the lack of an audience match. Again, something that did not happen when the deal was previously transacted via the IO.

Ok, this sounds soooo confusing, so how at a time when agencies are making public declarations around their intent to become 100% automated & programmatic do we (AdTech industry) support their journey & transition?

Step forward Automated Guaranteed, hailed as the next evolution of the private marketplace. If we cast our minds back 24 months, and before the noise of Ai, header bidding & GDPR, everybody was releasing public relations around automatic guaranteed.

Automatic guaranteed was a new way of automating publishers direct sales processes & empowered those on the buy side with a more efficient way to book media rather than their normal lengthy phone calls & manual RFP, ad tag & reporting emails going back and fourth (a practice that was not efficient & often prone to human error).

For tech vendors launching AG, their eyes were on the prize of direct budgets that were yet to be automated or transacted in a programmatic way… AG was a way for them to ramp revenues & quickly (There was & still is a lot of IO money out there that is looking for an easy route to transition).

However, one of the main reasons I don’t think automated guaranteed has got the traction or adoption its spruikers once suggested it would, is due to one simple point, it is not programmatic. It is a great initiative that enables buyers to reserve inventory on a planned site & in an automated way. Some AG vendors also talk to neutrality as a USP as they are purely facilitation and have no vested interest in either buy or sell sides, unlike SSP’s & DSP’s.

Ok, so what is AG? It is work flow automation. Prior to automated guaranteed the AdTech industry had spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing programmatic buy & sell side technology that enabled buyers to use a multitude of data singles inc behavioral, 1st, 2nd & 3rd party to make informed impression level decisioning & in real time. For me, programmatic means transacted via the OpenRTB protocol & an ability to harness/filter data at the impression level, not the process of something being automated (Opinions differ on this btw).

So what is challenging AG for adoption & share of budgets moving forward? Step forward Programmatic Guaranteed.

Programmatic guaranteed is a relatively new model (Some call it PMP’G’ or the biddable IO) that enables programmatic buyers to device iD or cookie match an audience with a publisher prior to flight dates and pre-agree to buy at a fixed price so long as the publisher sends the correct iD on their bid request via SSP/exchange to buyers DSP. Another variation could see the buyer agreeing to buy 100% of bid requests publishers send to a deal (identified via Deal iD) regardless of an audience match being made or not by the advertisers DSP.

So why the excitement around PG?

  • Enables buyers to deal with publishers directly like the traditional PMP.
  • It gives publishers confidence around demand commitment unlike the traditional PMP and more like their favored IO of yesteryear.
  • It can enable a buyer to get the same priority in a publishers Ad Server as direct sold & any automated guaranteed offering.
  • Most importantly, the buy can be transacted in a data-driven & programmatic way via the OpenRTB protocol (In English, via their DSP’s)

To summarize, publishers know that programmatic demand will drive their revenues of tomorrow, but there is no way they are going to let a buying mechanic erode their yield. Buyers know that to access tier 1 publishers supply & data they are going to have to pay the rates they have always paid directly and programmatic execution does not somehow equate to cheaper CPM’s.

It is too early to say if programmatic guaranteed will supersede automated guaranteed.  There is most likely be a place for both in today’s market. However, the window of opportunity for automated guaranteed is limited and when programmatic skills are dispersed from ATD’s into the wider OpCos, my prediction is that PG will become the default buying model for the majority of brand £ in digital display advertising. Automated Guaranteed will move on to conquer digital out of home and other areas that are born out of the explosive growth in IoT / OTT & don’t necessarily require the same depth of impression level granularity that programmatic brings to display programmatic guaranteed.

One thing is for sure though, programmatic, guaranteed.

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