Selling More Inventory as Premium: Helping the Ad Sales Team Increase Sales with Less Hassles


Over the past few years, remnant inventory has become a larger and larger piece of the pie. At the same time, this inventory is sold for less and less money as real-time bidding (RTB) and other technologies drive down prices.

Today, 13% of the almost $15 billion dollar digital display market is sold via RTB, but this percentage is expected to more than double in 3 years. In some cases, industry experts have predicted this could go as high as 50% of the market.

While RTB has its advantages and make sense for small and mid-tier publishers, premium publishers are concerned that if they use RTB, then more and more of their inventory will be sold as remnant, driving prices lower for publisher’s class-1 inventory.

Not only are prices going down, but the valuable audience that premium publishers provide to brand advertisers is also being minimized as new targeting technologies focus on tracking consumers rather than context. This despite the fact that there is significant value to marketers in leveraging a package of guaranteed inventory for a specific campaign.

Just as important as placement, brand safety is crucial for many advertisers. Placements on inappropriate web pages or pages with user-generated content and multiple stacked ads can negatively impact brand. Advertisers want to ensure the surrounding page content aligns with their brand standards.

Premium publishers who have invested a lot in building their brand and audience can offer these attributes to marketers and sell that inventory as premium. Just like luxury brands control the pricing and distribution for their products — for example, Porsche wouldn’t sell their cars for an unknown price at an auction — premium publishers need to control the pricing and distribution of their inventory and not sell it on an exchange.

Today, publishers know that a direct-sales model is the best way to sell their class-1 inventory at higher prices. But premium inventory sales are a very manual process and the ad sales team needs to scale and generate more revenue without additional costs. Direct-sales teams need to embrace technologies that will help them increase sales while minimizing the hassles.

As pointed out in a recent ADOTAS article, Will 2013 Be the Year of ‘Programmatic Premium’?, “there is worth in programmatic execution that still respects the value of direct selling,” and it would seem to include a direct-sales force using a consultative sales approach with automated campaign execution.

That’s exactly what programmatic guaranteed solutions, when implemented properly, are designed to do. They are meant to help direct-sales teams sell more premium inventory while handling the more mundane tasks around insertion orders and change requests in an automated fashion.

An end-to-end programmatic guaranteed solution is about creating efficiencies in the sales process and optimizing the steps so that the publisher is not paying too much to take these orders. But it’s not about replacing the ad sales team; it’s about allowing direct sales to focus on the more complex ad sales.

Think of programmatic guaranteed solutions as the automated teller machine (ATM) of premium inventory sales. The ATM is designed to automate standard banking transactions so that the teller can focus on face-to-face interactions. That’s what needs to happen with guaranteed, class 1 inventory.

A programmatic guaranteed solution will automate the standard transactions so the direct-sales team can do what they do best: the larger, custom ad sales that involve more touch points and face time with clients. At the same time, ad ops and finance can process more transactions more efficiently.

But in order to be truly effective, the programmatic guaranteed platform should be transparent to both the ad sales team and the marketers buying the ads.  The platform must fit within, and improve, the existing workflow, not force processes to change to fit the technology. That’s why a programmatic guaranteed solution needs to be white-labeled so it is integrated with the publisher’s site and ad server.

When it’s fully integrated, the platform looks and feels like that brand while also allowing the publisher to guarantee the inventory and own the advertiser relationship and the data. Marketers also know that their ads will be safely displayed and meet their strategic goals. It’s seamless to both the sales team and marketers.

Think back to our ATM example: Even though the technology was provided by other companies, the ATM was successful because it was branded by the bank so that you trusted it and felt like you were dealing with the same organization. This aspect of programmatic guaranteed is just as crucial as the automation and something that cannot be offered by RTB methods.

So instead of using RTB technologies or private marketplaces that don’t promote their brand, publishers need to take back control of their high-quality impressions and sell them direct using a white-labeled programmatic guaranteed platform rather than adding them in with low-value remnant inventory to be auctioned off for low dollars.

A programmatic guaranteed solution gives publishers complete control over pricing, targeting and packaging. It allows them to properly monetize the valuable audience that premium publishers have built and provide to brand advertisers. It helps publishers sell more inventory as premium and it helps the ad sales team close more deals so the publisher generates more revenues.


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