engage:BDR Announces New Partnership, Questions Whether Premium RTB Is “Real”

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ADOTAS – Digital advertising and marketing agency engage:BDR has announced a partnership with social opinions/polling/commenting site SodaHead, bringing the widely popular online forum into its First Impression RTB-for-premium-inventory platform, which launched quietly last month. This partnership is the latest addition to an invite-only platform (though marketers can register for an invitation) that includes publishers like Warner Brothers, Hearst, LiveNation, FOX and CBS Interactive, and engage:BDR hopes it’ll give the platform a stronger foothold in the age 18-24 demographic.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about RTB for premium inventory, which engage:BDR president Ted Dhanik is willing to call “fake RTB.” In a recent phone conversation, he explained what he meant by that: “The kind of RTB that’s happening [in premium] now — it’s not really RTB. It’s mostly on the demand side. It’s not on the supply side. We understand that.” (It’s important to note he told ADOTAS this before Casale Media launched an SSP that the company says is equipped for RTB.) “We’re actually leveraging that concept for premium — actually tier one through three — that the publisher reserves for direct sales.” The publisher makes some of that inventory available to be bought programmatically. The degree to which that inventory is integrated into the supply side platform varies on which tier the publisher places it in. “We have a vision to make everything real RTB for the supply side,” Dhanik said. But for the time being, there are challenges met by solutions that are possibly meant to be temporary.

“If there was an easy way to do it, there would be one ad server,” Dhanik said. “There would be no client calls. Everything would be done in the back-end API. That can’t happen today, because of lack of participation. We’re tackling that separately.” At the moment, he said, “when everyone’s buying RTB, it’s RTB on the demand side. Is it real? Well, half of it’s real. They’re adjusting the volume on the supply side. It’s a reactive thing. It’s not happening in real time.” But it’s still happening very fast.

Publishers are often wary of making their premium inventory available programmatically, because the bulk of their revenues often comes from that inventory. Dhanik acknowledged that wariness. “What they’re afraid of is losing their CPMs for premium,” he said. But he predicted there’ll be a “long-tail” effect if more publishers make more of their inventory available for RTB, or something like it: “It’s going to grow the market overall,” with advertisers buying up increasing amounts of inventory, with a net effect of increasing revenues cumulatively.

As demand for RTB in premium increases, the discussion of what those terms really mean continues to evolve.

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