​How to take control of relationships, strategy and terms of video ad sales

Posted by Christopher Blok On July 19, 2017

Publishers are embracing automated buying for video, but face constant challenges optimising their technology and revenue. With more and more money being spent programmatically, many fear losing profits to ad tech middlemen and platforms, as well as technology complexities.

In some cases, these concerns are justified, but more often than not it’s the nature of the partners being employed or an inefficient set-up that’s to blame. Publishers fall into the trap of taking on too many ad tech partners, or working with the wrong ones. Vendors that don’t provide full transparency into their practices, charge exorbitant fees or operate on arbitrage models (buying inventory at low prices, then sell them for a markup) are chipping away at publisher profit margins.

Accept the right guarantees

For publishers navigating the maze of programmatic sales it’s not uncommon to end up working with the best negotiator, even if they’re not the highest bidder. Network buys guarantee a good fill rate which, without asking questions, sounds like a good deal. But they make their money by marking up your inventory to levels you could be attaining yourself.

Instead, publishers should be guaranteeing themselves the highest return possible on each ad opportunity. An advanced ad serving partner will provide the tools to compete multiple demand sources simultaneously for each ad call, in order to return the highest paying ad each time — a workflow the industry commonly calls header bidding. Platforms with the flexibility to enable publishers to achieve maximum revenue with the control and transparency to monitor and adapt sales strategies are a must for revenue optimisation.

Control the right relationships

The only way to maximise spend is to have direct relationships with your customers. Using middlemen prevents you from forming a relationship with your buyers. As a result, buyers are often not aware of what they’re buying — they may not even know their ads are running on your properties. If the middleman can get other quality inventory from somewhere else, and the buyer isn’t aware of the benefits of advertising on your properties, you have no hold over your customers. It’s up to the publisher to control the message, and the conversation, around their inventory.

From a brand safety point of view, publishers should also control the type of brands they work with. A platform that provides the visibility to deal direct or block certain advertisers, and set the commercial terms, is a basic requirement in modern-day publishing.

Set the right sales strategy

There’s a whole family of buying styles available in the automated media sales world. From open marketplace to programmatic direct, a modern ad server will enable you to apply the best mix of sales strategies, from a single platform. By centralising your approach to demand relationships and properly educating the market on points of access, publishers can often sell their inventory for as much or more than they do today, by giving buyers right buying style for them. Publishers can even tier their inventory based on priority for business agreements without removing competition or making additional ad calls.

Premium video is in short supply, with far more variables than display. Advertisers aren’t just targeting by audience, but by placement, format, device, content type, viewability and even consumer context, like propensity to buy or involvement with a brand’s story. Controls are required around first- and third-party data in order to execute these buys, and the need to report in real time is also helping to both automate the direct sales process and introduce more sophisticated programmatic techniques.

The steps for optimising your tech stack and maximising revenue are simple: limit the number of vendors; accept nothing less than full transparency into yield optimisation across screens, video inventory types and sales techniques, and prioritise direct integrations to make it harder for middlemen force their way in. Once you’ve buttoned down those key steps, the market needs to know how to access your inventory. Clear articulation of how and through which partners buyers should access is crucial. That market education will provide clear direction to brands and expedite getting more of the money in your pockets. Avoiding the automation pitfalls that are currently attracting so much attention is not as difficult a task as it may seem.

Christopher Blok