OpenX Blog

Agency Insider Series: Lesson Two

“The Publisher Story” – Why is programmatic marketing important to publishers?

By: Nicole Scaglione, Director of Buyer Development, OpenX

To understand how to better take advantage of programmatic marketing, it’s important to understand the publisher story. That is, how do publishers think about programmatic today and how can that insight benefit buyers?

I often get questions from buyers about why publishers utilize programmatic channels at all – “don’t they make more money with direct sales?” The simple answer: It depends on the publisher and their business model. But, to answer this question fully, I’ve enlisted two of our supply-side experts, Brian Chisholm and Julie Van Ullen, who lead our publisher relationship efforts in the U.S.

Brian and Julie weighed in on three specific topics to clarify programmatic buying from a publisher point of view:

  • Why does programmatic matter to publishers?
  • Why do publishers work with different tech partners to manage their programmatic inventory?
  • What do publishers expect from programmatic buyers?

Why does programmatic matter to publishers?

Essentially it comes down to efficiency and scale. Efficiency in workflow – for example, simplification of cumbersome tag management – allows for more “automated monetization,” freeing up resources for more strategic thinking and unique, interesting endeavors. Sales people can put their efforts toward new, creative executions.

This helps publishers grow their offering in a smarter way through programmatic pipes and “people-selling.” Beyond that, perhaps at the heart of why programmatic matters so much to publishers is, as Brian and Julie both put it simply and succinctly, “because it matters to buyers.” And that emphasis on the importance of the buyer also sits at the core of our next two questions.

Why do publishers work with different partners?

Similar refrain here – multiple channels bringing in unique demand. That means better monetization and more competition at the impression level. This is why the majority of publishers today are using header tags – they create additional competition starting at the highest level of the “waterfall,” creating access to the most coveted inventory that had not been easily available to all buyers. Buyers are then able to take advantage of header inventory, getting a better, “earlier” look at impressions; demand for that higher quality impression only grows.

While publishers work with multiple partners, there is a hierarchy to positioning based on monetization strength, quality of demand and ease of programmatic direct activation. In terms of demand, your tech partner’s own relationships may determine the quality of the demand it brings you. For example, a tech provider who has strong relationships with agency buyers can help bring in “premium,” recognizable brands who are looking for and are willing to pay for value. Those buyers are likely to continue investing if these higher quality impressions back out to efficient KPIs (however KPIs are being defined).

Similarly, partners who make Programmatic Direct executions easy for publishers (and thus buyers) may have a better, stickier relationship with a publisher and gain better positioning in the stack.

What do publishers expect from buyers?

Simply, publishers are looking for guidance and communication from buyers. Building trust through open communication channels helps all sides to be successful. As Julie and Brian put it, everyone benefits when the deal performs well. But deals need to be set up for success – and the best way to ensure that is to set realistic expectations for realistic deals and have frank, open conversations on what everyone needs.

We have seen several examples of publishers and buyers proactively coming together before campaigns go live – and those end up being some of the most successful programmatic direct executions. Just like any relationship, being honest with one another about your needs makes the difference in how close you get and how close you stay. Publishers want to learn and understand what buyers need in order to support them and see their relationships flourish.

Feel empowered to initiate these conversations directly with publishers yourself. You can always lean on tech providers for support, but remember publishers are probably the best suited to tell you their story.

Next up: Learnings from the Platform side – how to set up your DSP relationships for success by educating yourself on their capabilities.

How OpenX Keeps Partners Safe from Attacks Like Methbot

By: John Murphy, VP of Marketplace Quality


This week, White Ops announced the discovery of Methbot, a large botnet fraud operation that has generated $3 million to $5 million per day in fraudulent digital ad revenue since October.

After conducting an analysis of our exchange we have determined that there was no material impact on our partners. To further protect our partners, we have proactively blocked all IP addresses belonging to compromised servers from accessing the OpenX Ad Exchange. Our ability to defend our exchange from one of the largest ad fraud operations is due to the vigilance of the anti-fraud systems we have in place.

OpenX has been an industry leader in fighting fraud for nearly 7 years since introducing the first generation of our Traffic Quality platform in 2012. Our platform has proven highly effective at eliminating all forms of invalid traffic by combining rigorous human review with automated real-time filtering of all traffic. We supplement these internal capabilities with post-impression verification data from Integral Ad Science, Moat, and WhiteOps.

Earlier this month, OpenX was one of just 16 companies awarded the “Certified Against Fraud” Seal from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an advertising industry initiative created to fight criminal activity in the digital advertising supply chain. We’ve also consistently ranked first in overall quality for mobile, desktop and international inventory on Pixalate’s Global Seller Trust Index, solidifying our position as the top source of high-quality inventory across all formats and regions.

Methbot is not the first case of widespread ad fraud and it won’t be the last.

The exposure of this botnet shows how attacks on the integrity of digital advertising are growing increasingly sophisticated and costly. That is why we are fully committed to the health and merit of our exchange and are constantly implementing advanced traffic fraud measures to combat this type of threat.

As a result, our partners can rest assured knowing that their inventory is protected and that their ads are reaching their targeted audience.

Digital Advertising in the Year Ahead: Augmented Reality, Chatbots and More

If 2016 brought changes to the existing ad landscape, 2017 may prove to be one of the most transformative years for ad tech. The trends that have surfaced in recent years are now converging to make 2017 a seminal year for new ad formats and alternative platforms.


VR has been an exciting buzzword for the past couple of years but Pokémon Go showed us that augmented reality is where the real opportunity lies for advertising. We should not be surprised to see a proliferation of AR gaming and entertainment experiences that look to advertising as a monetization model.


As video advertising gains more traction, there will be more user-friendly video ad formats made with the mobile experience in mind. Short form ads will be a combination of new video and audio ad units. Some good examples are 6-second video ads and vertical ad units pioneered by Snapchat.


With messaging bots already in play within iMessage and Facebook Messenger, the chatbot market is poised for a growth spurt in 2017. Through the use of bots, brands can engage with users directly and make ad experiences more personalized.


And finally, machine learning will improve speed and user targeting while increasing ad effectiveness and consumer connection through personalization. In the year ahead, more and more publishers and ad tech providers will effectively utilize their first- and third-party data to further optimize consumer experience and connection.

There are a lot of exciting ad tech developments on the horizon to look forward to. You can read more of our thoughts and predictions for 2017 in The Drum. What advertising innovations are you most excited for this upcoming year?

A Look Back at the Digital Advertising Trends of 2016

The rapid speed at which digital advertising evolves means that new solutions and trends are always emerging. Here are a few highlights from the top trends of 2016:


Video overtook mobile as the most promising medium for digital ad growth as eyeballs continue to move from traditional TV to new video sources. Programmatic advertising is poised to benefit from this viewing shift, as new video platforms are more suited to using the latest technology.


Earlier this year, we predicted consolidation in adtech – and 2016 did not disappoint. Major acquisitions included Adobe-TubeMogul ($540M), Salesforce-Krux ($700M) and AT&T-Time Warner ($85B). Companies with the scale and financial resources to initiate M&As will continue to do.


Facebook shifted gears by shutting down both of its acquired ad platforms, LiveRail and Atlas, and transforming into a true Internet portal. Did you also notice all the new business lines they launched this year? Marketplace, Food Delivery, Gameroom, and Workplace are just a handful of the new endeavors the company is pursuing.

To delve deeper into what shaped digital marketing in 2016, check out our full article in The Drum. Also, stay tuned for our next blog post on industry predictions for 2017!

Combating Fraud – Part 3: The Right Approach

Drastically reducing ad fraud must happen for marketers to have the confidence in the audiences they are reaching, where and when, opening the pipeline for increased investment in new digital advertising techniques. This is an entirely achievable endeavor but will require participation from all sides of the industry.

In the third and final part of our series on improving ad quality, our marketplace quality experts join executives from WhiteOps, Integral Ad Science, and Dstillery to share their visions of a fraud-free marketplace. We explore how to encourage collaboration between vendors, agencies and brands to promote a more fair and transparent exchange for a brighter digital advertising future.

Key Takeaways:

  • Technology is at the heart of rooting out digital ad fraud
  • Cross functional teams from data scientists to engineers to in-house experts need to work together to rapidly adjust to emerging threats
  • Winning the fight against fraud is not about what tools you bring to it today, but what tools you can develop for future problems

Combating Fraud – Part 2: The Fraud Ecosystem

To stop ad fraud, which jeopardizes the development and adoption of new ad tech solutions, we must understand why it happens and where it occurs. Simply put, the root cause of ad fraud comes down to the ability to profit from bad ads. To stem the flow of dollars to fraudulent ads, the opportunity must be taken away from bad actors.

By thoroughly examining traffic quality data, companies can identify which impressions are trustworthy and which are not. Right now video ad fraud is a topic of particular concern. Considering U.S. digital video ad spending is predicted to more than triple from now until 2020, topping $28 billion by 2020, that is no surprise.

We recently spoke with a number of executives from companies leading the fight against fraud, including WhiteOps, Integral Ad Science, and Dstillery, to discuss their own approaches to identifying and eradicating fraud.

Watch the second part of our series to learn more about the connection between video, viewability, viewer experience and fraud.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ad fraud is not just a viewability problem – it’s a security problem
  • The rate of growth in digital video spending is growing rapidly, far outstripping the supply
  • Focusing too much on viewability and video completion rates distracts from the true goal: changing people’s behavior

The Agency Guide to Programmatic: Lesson One

Inventory sources are not commodities, and they are not all created equal

By: Nicole Scaglione, Director of Buyer Development, OpenX

If you’re not buying inventory directly from a publisher via an IO, it’s important to know how that inventory can vary dramatically through programmatic pipes. Publishers often work with multiple SSPs and exchanges in order to monetize as much of their “non-direct sold” inventory as possible. But there is a difference in how those partners operate which often will determine the inventory a publisher gives to the partner.

At first glance inventory may seem as though it’s all the same, but, after digging into the reporting (a la your favorite third party quality monitors), it’s clear that “the same” inventory from publishers found in multiple exchanges can vary dramatically — fraud score, viewability, sourced traffic and human traffic can all differ.

Further, inventory coming in from an SSP versus an exchange tag versus an ad server can also vary for the same publisher. It behooves you to know the source in order to ensure you’re getting the access or priority level you want.

Here’s how to educate yourself: Ask questions (and read this blog) and meet with partners who may not seem directly relevant, but may control a massive amount of the inventory on which you are betting an entire campaign’s performance. And then ask more questions.

Start with publishers and pub-side technology partners (exchanges, SSPs, etc). Ask your partners to be transparent about the inventory they are sending and, in the case of publishers, find out more about their technology partners. These queries are not meant to take issue with margins or economic models. They are designed to help you, the buyer, get a better sense of the inventory you’re getting from each source so that you can understand it and make the best planning decisions on behalf of your client.

For example: If inventory from a publisher or group of publishers is set at a higher priority for one tech partner versus another, it may make sense to isolate that inventory from that SSP or exchange. You may find that higher-priority inventory converts at a more efficient rate than “the same” inventory coming from multiple sources. While higher priority inventory may often be priced higher, it may also inspire more user action and therefore a lower eCPA. This is certainly something to consider as you’re laying down 3rd party data across a thoughtfully curated site list.

Then, re-connect with your DSP. For various reasons, not every DSP is integrated with every inventory source out there. Usually, engineering resources restrict integrations. It’s important to make sure that if you’re working with a DSP, they will be able to access the various types of inventory you need based on your specific campaign needs.

For example: Your DSP may have access to a lot of open exchange inventory but lack access to inventory available in private marketplaces, or a material amount of mobile app inventory. In that case, you may need to bring on additional partners or utilize a managed service – all of which is an additional cost to you. The benefit may outweigh the cost, so it’s important to do that exercise before you learn you can’t access header tag-only PMPs to support your client’s brand awareness efforts through programmatic channels.

All of these tech providers work in concert with each other. Invite them in. Ask questions. And on behalf of your client, build the best, smartest campaign you can.

Here are a few questions to start with:

  • DSP:

What inventory sources are you integrated with and do you see all or a portion of each of those sources?

How much private inventory do you have access to and from which sources?

How much mobile app inventory to you have access to and from which sources?

  • Publisher:

Which pub-side tech partners do you work with?

Do you have private marketplace inventory through all?

Do you have header-tag inventory? How can I access that?

  • SSP/Exchange/Header Tag inventory provider:

Do you offer both open and private inventory?

How do I access your private inventory – which DSPs are you integrated with?

Combating Fraud: A View from the Front Lines

Part 1: The Impact of Fraud

Ad fraud is expected to cost the advertising industry more than $7 billion this year alone and the issue stands to undermine the growth of programmatic if it continues unchecked. In order to eliminate ad fraud, exchanges, demand-side platforms, publishers, brands and agencies need to work together to create a high-quality advertising ecosystem from end to end.

Companies across the industry, OpenX included, have been tackling fraud head on for the last couple of years, but industry bad actors evolve quickly due to the high rewards at stake. When industry leaders from all sides unite, we are better positioned to minimize the negative impact of fraud.

In the first part of this three part series on quality, our VP of marketplace quality John Murphy and director of traffic quality operations, Christopher Hallenback discuss the implications of ad fraud with Michael Tiffany, CEO and Founder at WhiteOps and David Hahn, EVP of Product and Strategy at Integral Ad Science.

Key Takeaways:

  • Without visibility on high quality and low quality inventory, buyers will bid on a blended average, undercompensating good inventory and over compensating bad inventory.
  • As an industry we need to prevent adverse selection and keep an open marketplace.
  • Players in the space who already are hitting the highest levels of quality, stand to win in the end.

In the next two parts of the series, we’ll discuss the root of ad fraud, where it’s most prevalent, and how players in the industry are taking steps to make viewability a problem of the past.

The Agency Insider Series: Unlocking Programmatic’s Potential

By: Nicole Scaglione, Director of Buyer Development, OpenX


Trust me, I understand. I too worked in the agency world for many years. My client was one of the largest advertisers on the planet. On a good day, for new product launches, our budgets were in the hundreds of millions.

On a bad day, for smaller initiatives, budgets lingered around a mere 12 million (why bother, right?). When I took that planner job, a few years out of college, I was immediately flooded with requests from vendors (and yes, we called them vendors, as if they were all selling us hotdogs on the street corner) from every part of the country, for every medium, in every price range. It was overwhelming to say the least.

I went from taking every meeting I was offered, often staying at work until it was too late or too dangerous to walk alone to my car, to – shamefully – becoming that planner that every rep resents – ignoring most emails unless they were invitations to the spa, a fancy dinner, March Madness, Dave Matthews, the World Series… not that I had time to go to any of that… but, you get it.

The reason was simple: if we weren’t already working together or I could not make an immediate connection between you and my client’s initiatives, you were ignored. Not because I was a jerk, I truly was just very busy. I had been burned by overzealous and insensitive vendors in the past, ones who just wanted a piece of our budgets. So I developed a filter and probably missed out on some innovative opportunities because of being turned off. And unfortunately, my client missed out on them too.

Key Takeaway: Embrace programmatic and take the time to learn about the new and innovative methods available for media buying. It’s worth it in the end.

For programmatic planners and buyers today who don’t directly transact with exchanges but use tools through which those transactions take place, I understand why meeting with an exchange could seem irrelevant and superfluous. However, as you are managing a myriad of other highly urgent internal projects, it’s important to make time to learn about the source of your inventory – it’s probably one of the most valuable lessons you can transfer to your client.

Yes, understanding your DSP or managed service is critical. Talking to publishers and DMPs is a no brainer. But if you look at the Lumascape and only talk to partners with arrows directly connected to you, you’re missing critical events in the transaction. And so is your client.

This agency insider blog series will cover critical questions about inventory source differentiation, header bidding’s value for buyers, private marketplaces for publishers, and other topics relevant to agencies and media buyers, from the supply-side perspective.

We’ll present actionable guidelines you can take back to your teams to enhance your programmatic knowledge. With real-world examples from your colleagues and peers, you’ll learn the basic fundamentals, extract simplicity from the complexity, and demystify the challenges of programmatic.

It’ll be worth your time. Trust me, I understand. We’re busy too but we’re not too busy to help you enhance the impact of your dollars.

SDX Programmatic Workshop Overview


We were recently part of a panel discussion on programmatic hosted by the San Diego Ad Club (SDX).  Programmatic enthusiasts and inquisitors converged at Moniker, a converted warehouse located in the heart of San Diego’s East Village, where more than 60 advertising and agency professionals got to hear from SDX panelists JJ Bannasch, President and co-founder of local agency trading desk Katana, Lorenzo Moreno GM of the Southwest Region of The Trade Desk, and OpenX’s own Nicole Scaglione, Director of Buyer Development at OpenX.

The discussion focused on a high level overview of programmatic buying crafted for audiences of all knowledge levels. Panelists provided their perspective (agency trading desk, programmatic buying platform and RTB-enabled exchange) on how to become a successful programmatic practitioner.

From there, the conversation quickly evolved to advanced programmatic executions such as the benefits for both buyers and publishers of enabling and accessing header tag inventory, to custom-curated private marketplaces. This was followed by a breakout session and Q&A led by representatives from Katana, The Trade Desk and OpenX.

With programmatic often viewed as super complex, the SDX programmatic workshop helped demystify the complexities of trading for agencies just starting their programmatic trading teams and brands looking for guidance on how to take advantage of the promise of RTB.

You can check out the video recap of the SDX Programmatic Workshop here. We’re looking forward to hearing more from these digital thought leaders in San Diego! Until then, check back on our blog next week when we kick off our series on programmatic from the agency perspective!