Denise Colella is the CRO of Maxifier. Here she discusses the Maxifier solution in detail, equipping publishers with powerful optimisation tools in order to compete with buy-side, the value of the premnant layer, and the move to automation.
Will your focus remain on the publisher side, or will your optimisation solution look to help advertisers and marketers?
We are very much focused on premium publishers, but have been developing our offering to also encompass functionality more associated with networks. This includes features such as white/black lists, pricing floors, CPA optimisation and revenue optimisation. We are seeing publishers beginning to act like networks as they add options to their portfolio, such as inventory extension. Our new developments help them optimise external inventory buys.
Given where your product sits in the ecosystem, is there a possibility that this competency will ultimately be delivered by the ad server?
Arguably yes, but given the history of ad server development, I can’t see them evolving to offer something as comprehensive any time soon. As we integrate directly with the ad server, and do not require tags to be placed on the sites, implementation is relatively quick and easy.
We have also established a partner programme, enabling our clients to work with partners who can both enhance our offering, and provide publishers with tools that can benefit their business. For example, we are working with Moat to deliver and optimise based on brand engagement metrics. For premium publishers, this is more attractive than relying solely on traditional performance metrics as the currency of campaign success.
You’ve mentioned a disparity between the focus on buy side versus sell side; can you elaborate on what this imbalance in the online ad space means to the industry?
In the Financial Times recently, Lee Baker of the AOP commented: “…publishers are lagging a bit in the technology arms race with the media agencies”. I think everyone would agree there’s been a “tool vacuum” on the sell side, as the majority of investment and focus has been on developing technologies that support the buying of online advertising. Also, any investment that has gone into the sell side has been primarily in remnant programmatic buying, which you can argue is not always the best solution for a premium publisher.
For any market to work effectively you need to have a balance between buyers and sellers. Currently, this has swung too far in favour of the agencies and advertisers. This needs to be addressed, as continued negative impact on publishers will be detrimental to the ecosystem.
You mentioned “premnant” as an inventory type – what exactly does this mean? There continues to be great debate on remnant vs premium inventory. Should there be classifications around all types of inventory?
Premnant, or premium remnant, is unsold inventory enhanced by data to justify a higher CPM. For a publisher, offering this means a higher yield or additional revenue, but it’s not a total solution and has to be managed carefully.
In one respect, everyone thinks they know the difference between remnant and premium, but what I find is the classification depends on to whom you are talking. If a premium publisher puts their inventory into a programmatic environment, they still consider it premium. Buyers on the other hand, would call that remnant, dictating a lower value. The inventory has not changed, but what has changed is the route to market. More importantly, the pricing has changed, and usually the difference is in orders of magnitude. So while sell-through may increase, in many cases overall yield drops dramatically. Publishers need to be evaluating the overall yield, not just the checks they are receiving from their SSPs on a monthly basis.
The ecosystem to date has dictated a technology and organisational structure that is segregated by inventory type, making it difficult to get the total yield picture. This gap is what drove us to develop an intelligent yield-decisioning engine, enabling publishers to traffic their unsold inventory to the demand channel source that will deliver the highest CPM at that moment in time. Traditionally resource and logistics constraints have restricted the number of demand partners for publishers. However, ADMAX can now allow them to centralise all their demand channels, utilise them in a way that maximises yield and provides full visibility into the economics across premium and remnant.
You’ve compared publishers’ dependence on exchange revenue to a “bad drug habit” – can you explain? Is trading through exchanges ultimately damaging to the value perception of the publisher and its ability to attract brand spend? Is there a point at which a publisher should stop selling ad impressions to protect pricing?
Exchanges have an important role to play in the technological landscape, providing an efficient and valuable solution for monetising huge volumes of impressions that would be impossible to sell by any other means.
They have been instrumental in growing the market, but just as there’s been too much focus on buy-side technology, there’s also been too much emphasis on trading low-value inventory rather than focusing on premium.
In the past, it seemed as if there were a “dash for cash” approach by many publishers – with yield maximisation by monetising 100% of their inventory being the objective. However, this desire, coupled with the development of technologies to enable this, has actually brought down the perceived value of premium inventory. Buyers are using the knowledge that they can purchase a publisher’s inventory at a discounted price to negotiate hard on rates when buying direct, all to the detriment of the publisher.
Today there is real value in scarcity. Publishers need to question the desire to sell everything, and examine the effect their remnant is having on their premium inventory. Ultimately, if they can understand what’s driving performance and yield across their full inventory spectrum, they can make more informed decisions, allowing them to benefit from their remnant, instead of making sub-dollar CPMs to the detriment of their cash cow: premium.
How does Maxifier’s proprietary technology differ from existing solutions in the market?
To start, Maxifier is a pure technology solution. We are not an SSP and we do not buy or sell media. From an optimisation perspective, ADMAX operates at an inventory level, rather than a campaign level. Any change you want to make to an individual campaign can be simulated prior to application, resulting in an analysis that identifies the ripple effect it will have on all other campaigns, positive or negative. This helps ensure that the campaign needs and goals are balanced with the overall business goals, helping to drive better and more effective inventory decisioning.
We also deliver actionable insights as opposed to simply business intelligence. As the platform learns, it will provide daily campaign optimisation recommendations, helping the campaign achieve its goals. We can optimise to all variables that exist in the ad server. The amount of data that goes into this level of optimisation is too much to process manually. Many of our clients have told us they were previously only optimising 10-15% of campaigns for this reason. ADMAX has helped them to optimise more campaigns, and greatly reduced the amount of time spent on optimisation, freeing them up to focus on other business-critical areas.
Finally, transparency. We do not believe in black box optimisation. Operations teams have information that no algorithm could ever learn – a client is upset, a new client must be protected at any cost, etc. We have opened up “the mysterious prediction algorithms” to give our clients vision into what is driving performance. They can view and change all variables, allowing them to do what’s right for their business. As I mentioned, you can model campaign changes before making them so you understand their impact. For premium publishers, this level of control and visibility is an absolute necessity.
As mentioned earlier, with the most recent release of ADMAX, we have now also introduced the ability to traffic unsold inventory to the demand sources that provide you with the highest yield. This means we now have a solution that helps optimisation of both premium and unsold inventory – facilitating full inventory control on a single platform.
The industry is trending towards automation. Do you feel that the majority of inventory will be sold through automated channels in the future? And if so, how will Maxifier help publishers?
The industry is moving towards greater automation. This is a positive trend. What needs to be borne in mind when people speak about automation is that it does not simply mean RTB. Automation helps drive efficiencies and makes lives easier. Everyone’s heard some version of the ”it’s easier to execute a £10million TV buy than carry out an online £10,000 test” complaint. As an industry, this is our cross to bear and we must solve for it.
Our ADMAX solution, for example, helps users rapidly create campaign and inventory reports, saving the many hours of work usually associated with trying to manipulate ad server data and reporting.
We also deliver auto-optimisation. In addition to generating recommendations for campaign performance, we can also implement them automatically within specified values, if the client wishes.
Automation will help remove business inefficiencies in online, which will then help attract more brand dollars. Automation needs to be talked about in a broader way, not just in terms of programmatic buying.
Can you give us some overview on international expansion plans for Maxifier – particularly in EMEA and APAC?
The last six months have seen the business double in size and we’re currently about to move both the U.S. and UK offices to accommodate growth. We also set up our first office in Asia at the beginning of April. Based in Tokyo, it will help grow the Japanese market, while also acting as an Asian hub for our regional expansion. We are already working on an event in July to publicly launch the business there. Details on that are coming soon!ExchangeWire