The actual share of advertising online that is using RTB has been estimated in many different ways in recent years. So it was refreshing to hear talk of more solid metrics with which to benchmark the field at last week's OMMA RTB. Gabe Gottlieb, cofounder and CEO of YieldMetrics (recently changed to Adomic), contends that 23% of the advertising run online by the top 1,000 advertisers is using RTB. His technology actually crawls sites and hits them thousands of times a day to collect detailed information about who is loading what ads onto pages. He focused on RTB for us to look at how much of the inventory out there was using real-time bidding and how much inventory major media was already devoting to these systems.
The impact of RTB on the direct ad sales model is undeniable. YieldMetrics found that only 44% of ads it found from the major advertisers were direct, while 33% is coming from networks. The rate of growth for RTB is remarkable, up from only 17% last September to 23% now. On a month-by-month basis, however, there has been some leveling of growth this year. Only 30% of advertisers have no RTB on their plan according to these metrics, and only 6% of advertisers now are doing direct-only deals.
Gottlieb used Adobe as an example of a typical advertiser, who is allocating 26% of the plant RTB, 33% to ad networks, and 41% to direct buys. It is using networks like Tribal Fusion and Advertising.com, while on the RTB side it uses Chango, Appnexus and RocketFuel. An advertiser like BMW, however, has over 30% of its ad units running through RTB. 1-800-Flowers advertising is over 70% RTB now, according to YieldMetrics’ measurements.
Despite the many arguments over the years that RTB platforms would bring in the branding dollars, both the categories and the advertising creative that dominate these systems are overwhelmingly skewed to direct-marketing efforts. In this analysis of the top 1,000 advertisers online, the strongest buyers of RTB inventory were the gifts and occasions segment, with 42% of its by going here, and the advertising and marketing segment, with 40% of its spend aimed at RTB. Retail, travel, telecom and nonprofits are also focusing around a third of their advertising on RTB. Over 50% of JC Penney ads are also on RTB and usually involve specific discount offers.
The major media themselves are actually among the segments least enthusiastic about RTB, with only 16% of these ads using it, and even less activity from sports (14%), gaming (13%), family and parenting (13%), entertainment (11%), and real estate (5%). Gottlieb used the recent campaign for the movie "White House Down" as an example of an advertiser still going 100% direct on a campaign and leveraging major media hubs like AOL, Yahoo and Fandango.
It has always been an open question how much of their inventory major publishers are putting into the RTB markets. Gottlieb found that most publishers, large and small, are engaging in these exchanges now, typically devoting 20% of their inventory to RTB whether they are the premium brands or longer tail publishers. He analyzed NBCSports, for instance, to show a rough divide of 23% for RTB, 43% coming from ad networks, and 33% from direct sales. The inventory clearly is coming online and getting more diverse.