The Trade Desk's OpenPath Gains Traction -- Here's Why It Matters

In the opaque world of programmatic advertising, when a new initiative that says it seeks to enhance transparency appears to be gaining some traction, you pay attention. So when The Trade Desk, reportedly the largest independent demand-side ad-tech platform in the world, announced last week that some major new media companies have signed on to its OpenPath product, it’s worth taking a look.

The Trade Desk rolled out OpenPath in February, saying at the time that the product  connects advertisers directly to publishers’ ad inventory -- and, in doing so, avoids Google’s Open Bidding and other supply-side advertising platforms. The company competes with Google’s DoubleClick and Facebook’s Ads, among others. The Trade Desk reports that it managed $6.2 billion of the world’s ad programmatic spend in 2021, and produced nearly $1.2 billion in revenue.

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) serve the advertiser side of the ad tech business, enabling digital automation. Supply-side platforms (SSPs) work on the publisher side. So in effect, the OpenPath solution disintermediates supply-side ad-tech platforms, and seeks to deliver publishers directly to advertisers. “Advertisers have been getting increasingly concerned that Google is not playing on a level playing field when transacting through Google OB,” a Trade Desk spokeswoman said when the initiative was announced in February. “So we’re offering an alternative.”

When OpenPath launched, it had partnerships with around a dozen media companies, including Reuters, the Washington Post, Gannett/USA Today Network, Conde Nast, McClatchy, Hearst Magazines, Hearst Newspapers, Advance Local, MediaNews Group, Tribune Publishing, Nexstar Digital and CafeMedia.

Last week it announced more marquee publishing partners, including BuzzFeed, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Mediavine and Red Ventures, whose brands include Healthline Media and CNET.

In addition, the company said in a press release, more than 100 premium publishers globally have registered interest in the product as they look to maximize revenue from advertising impressions.

The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green said journalistic media have proven to be enthusiastic supporters of OpenPath because they understand the importance of a competitive and transparent market in preserving their advertising yield.

“As the industry adapts to a new, opt-in identity landscape, these publishers also recognize the power of OpenPath to help them activate their first-party subscriber data in a way that provides relevance to advertisers and more privacy control for consumers,” he said.

Still, the company said in its press release, it remains committed to serving only advertisers. The Trade Desk, the statement emphasized,  is not entering the supply side of digital advertising and will not provide supply side services, such as yield management. It only provides publishers the ability to have direct access to advertiser demand and continue to leverage their existing yield management tools and partners.

Some newly signed-on publishers offered testimonials.

“We’re always looking for progressive solutions that benefit our advertising ecosystem and the brands that activate across it, so being a part of OpenPath couldn't be a better alignment for what's next in programmatic for the new BuzzFeed Inc.,” BuzzFeed Head of Programmatic Operations Alex Mason said.

Added Anna Magzanyan, chief strategy and revenue officer for the Los Angeles Times, "OpenPath will help us improve transparency and performance for our advertisers, and provide our engaged readership with the marketing messages that are most relevant to them.”

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