Commentary

Is RTB One Of The Media Industry's Best-Kept Secrets?

I was struck by a paradox while attending OMMA RTB today: That media companies are some of the biggest advertisers using RTB, but they’re reluctant to sell their own inventory through it. The insight came from several different discussions and presentations, including YieldMetrics’ Gabe Gotlieb. Gotlieb showed data indicating that “media” is the top ad category utilizing RTB, with about 16% of all online impressions coming from the real-time marketplace.

But if you think about it in a broader context, another category of media companies -- online ad networks -- are also embracing RTB to buy additional inventory from publishers to expand their reach. Gotlieb calls this a “hybrid” RTB/ad network marketplace, but the point is that media companies, whether they are straight-forward media brands, or ad networks, understand the value of buying media via RTB. The irony comes from the fact that they are loath to sell their own inventory -- especially their “premium” inventory -- via RTB.

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This was especially apparent during the “Tuning in to RTB” panel, which discussed the prospects of TV inventory being traded that way. The consensus was that TV buys will likely become more automated, and even programmatically traded, but not necessarily in real-time.

“There’s automation, there’s programmatic, and then there’s real-time,” noted Michael Brunick, senior vice president-programmatic at Interpublic’s Cadreon unit. “RTB is not there in TV today, not at scale, or in any truly viable way.”

Okay, I get the fact that media companies -- especially traditional media outlets like TV networks and stations -- don’t want to lose control of their inventory by putting it into an open marketplace, but the problem isn’t just supply, it’s also demand. If more advertisers were participating in the RTB marketplace, it would put more upward pressure on pricing that would encourage more suppliers to place more of their inventory there. I mean, all they need to see is the upside from participating in the marketplace, and so far, no one has proven that to them. Not Google, not Microsoft, not Spotrunner, or any of the litany of players that have tried to create an online trading structure for television -- so far.

But the real problem is that none of those platforms have demonstrated enough demand to make it worthwhile to put their inventory there. It’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg paradox for sure, but if general brand marketers want to understand the upside of using RTB, just look at what their media partners are doing there. And ask yourself, “Is RTB their best kept secret?”
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