comScore's Inventory Packages Blend Programmatic, Direct

comScore this morning announced an initiative to bring pre-bid data to the programmatic marketplace, including RTB platforms. Real-Time Dailycovered the story at length, but the gist of it is this: Publishers will be able to package their comScore-verified inventory, which will then be made available to advertisers via programmatic ad platforms.

In truth, it’s not all that different from what the RTB marketplace already looks like, and the ability to see verified pre-bid data about a publisher’s inventory is not new, either. (Though comScore says its pre-bid data is richer than others.)

But the concept of packaging verified inventory before RTB auctions, and allowing advertisers to bid against those packets, seems to blend programatic and direct trading. It’s an amalgamation of open exchanges, private exchanges, programmatic direct and traditional sales.

Importantly, the step may help make it easier for advertisers to compare their direct and programmatic campaigns.

“Initiatives like comScore Industry Trust help give buyers and sellers the assurance that they are transacting upon quality inventory, whether those transactions are done programmatically or through a traditional buy,” stated Kate Sirkin, EVP of global research at Starcom MediaVest Group. “Having comparable metrics in both programmatic and traditional is a critical step forward in enhancing the value of digital advertising overall.”

RTB via open exchanges still dominates programmatic ad spend, but that is expected to significantly change in the next 12 to 24 months. Last year, major players such as GroupM announced they were pulling out of open exchanges due to inventory quality concerns. Could an initiative like comScore’s reel them back in?

It’s possible, but that’s not to say comScore’s foray into measuring programmatically traded inventory immediately resolves concerns about the market in general. However, if they decide to participate in comScore’s “Industry Trust” initiative, publishers will be held more accountable for the inventory they put up for auction: less spewing, more screening.

And, really, that’s what the programmatic ad industry is heading toward. Few deny the efficiencies automation brings, but many laugh at the problems: viewability rates, fraud rates, click rates, brand safety -- you name it. That’s why the industry has been drawn toward “programmatic direct” channels and private marketplaces -- therein lies more accountability, at least in theory.

It appears even the open marketplaces are headed in that direction.

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