OpenX Blog

The private marketplace deal creation process is broken… And here’s how to fix it

By: Jenny Hagan, Sr. BD Manager, Platform Demand, OpenX

Advertising always begins with the media buyer… Who is their audience? What are their campaign KPIs? Yet private marketplaces in programmatic begin with the publisher… Who is their audience? What inventory do they have? This process is fundamentally flawed and is the reason that PMPs have not become the golden child that everyone hoped.

In a typical media planning process, the first step is to identify the target audience for a particular advertising campaign. Once defined, the creative team then develops tailored content and messaging which is distributed by media buyers through a variety of supply channels. In programmatic advertising, this process flow is upheld within the open exchange. Brands and agencies utilize DSPs to manage their digital campaigns, implementing the necessary targeting parameters (geographic filters, whitelists, demographic insights, etc.), or even uploading specific audience lists from their DMP, in order to reach their intended end user.

With private marketplaces the system flips. Publishers automatically create deals that they hope advertisers will find both appropriate and effective for their campaigns. On the supply side, the result is a surplus of deals across publishers and exchanges with minimal demand and challenges achieving scale. For buyers and demand partners, the result is frustration and countless hours spent scouring deal discovery tools for suitable opportunities. On both sides, limited resources are wasted negotiating from publisher-curated “out of the box” packages to customized demand-ready deals.

Advertising budgets are shifting towards programmatic media buying due to its inherent efficiency and real-time insights. In order to bring the high impact, direct-sold budgets into the programmatic sphere, however, we need to revamp the PMP progression.

An improved system would be advertiser-centric, with a process flow resembling that of a traditional RFP (“Request for Proposal”). An RFP, issued by an advertiser or media buyer to potential supply pools, usually begins with an overview of their upcoming campaign, including, flight dates, proposed budget, intended audience, preferred methodologies (ad sizes, device types, etc.), and desired KPIs. The document would then follow with a set of highly detailed questions about available supply or simply offer an open-ended template for supply partners to populate deal opportunities that correspond with the parameters laid out in the campaign overview.

The bottom line is… Advertisers know who they want to target and how, and publishers know the type of inventory they have and the audience they are able to reach, so this process makes sense! However, the RFP is also turning into a bit of a dinosaur. Fairly manual in nature, RFPs can take massive amounts of time to assemble, submit and review, depending on the level of detail. Additionally, the arm’s-length process feels overly formal and leaves little room for innovation.

In order to improve upon this, there are key features of the RFP that can be adapted to PMP discoverability. Instead of a UI or PMP menu listing publisher offerings (as many exchanges offer today, including OpenX), a “reverse” PMP portal would feature the advertisers, allowing media planners to post mini “RFPs” (for lack of a better name) to which publishers can respond. Advertisers can then easily peruse the available inventory and packages which have been customized for them, selecting those they deem most suitable and appropriate for their campaign. Upon selection, a deal ID would automatically generate in order for both parties to begin transacting against the deal in real-time.

While we are still some time off from ultimately realizing this reversed discoverability process, this model will be immensely helpful in alleviating many of the scale headaches currently seen with PMPs and will ultimately enable direct-sold budgets to fully shift into programmatic, a win-win scenario for everyone.

 

The Importance of Quality & Scale for Political Buyers

As the days count down to Election Day, the effectiveness of political ads can greatly influence the outcome of the presidential race. During a Beet TV summit on politics and advertising, OpenX VP of business development, Julie Van Ullen, discussed the elements required for successful political advertising campaigns.

Julie was joined on the panel by Erik Requidan, VP of programmatic at Intermarkets, and Carol Davidsen, VP of political technology at comScore.

Key Takeaway: Political buyers need scale to reach their target audiences, and header bidding is an effective technology for maximizing reach and access to high quality inventory, while also providing added benefits to publishers.

Scale

Political buyers target very niche audiences, and reaching a substantial portion of those audiences has traditionally been difficult. Header bidding solves this by providing buyers with access to all of a publisher’s available inventory, increasing their ability to reach those audiences.

At the same time, publishers get new, and valuable, insight about the value of every single impression on their site, enabling them to monetize their content more accurately.

Quality

Julie also underscored the importance of ensuring placements alongside quality content in addition to achieving scale.

With header bidding, buyers and publishers move away from demographics-based guessing to a more reliable impression-by-impression model without compromising on the quality of those placements. “Ad effectiveness on quality content is key,” she emphasized.

To watch the full panel discussion, click here.

Buyer Spotlight: Erica Schmidt, Managing Director, North America at Cadreon

ericaschmidt_headshotWe chatted with Erica Schmidt, Managing Director, North America at Cadreon to discuss Cadreon’s approach to programmatic, hot industry topics, and what’s in store for the future.

How is programmatic growing at Cadreon?

Our core business beliefs start with the viability and potential of programmatic. Ultimately we believe that “programmatic” will be an interchangeable term with “advertising.” Growth in recent years has been exponential, with more and more brands devoting an ever increasing percentage of their ad spend to programmatic implementation. We’ve see fantastic, explosive programmatic growth in the categories that have traditionally been outliers, such as television. Programmatic has dramatically grown up from a singular line item on a plan to a fully comprehensive strategy for a client underpinned by a solid data strategy.

But the more important item to highlight is that technology and data-driven marketing is growing at an exciting rate. The role of, and trust in, data is propelling businesses across the board. This is great for marketing/communications in general and certainly for the Cadreon business given our role in driving data and tech-driven value for our clients.

What does Cadreon do better than other trading organizations as programmatic leaders?

There are three key differences which we believe set our business apart. First, we don’t practice arbitrage. Second, our data and technology philosophy is that of integration while using an agnostic approach. Third, our technology capability and understanding of marketing enables us to build solutions that no one else in the ecosystem is focused on.

Behind all this, we believe in and prioritize the talent of our team, which we think is unique in the industry. By assembling a first-class team of knowledgeable professionals and innovative developers from various backgrounds and specialties within the communications industry, we’ve looked to build a foundation that can address any shifts that can occur, that in fact will occur, in our industry. Clients will face challenges within their businesses and the overall media landscape, and Cadreon’s ability to adapt to their particular needs, arranging our suite of products and services to address those needs, is our primary concern.

We’re proud of our flexible position, in not being tied to a piece of data or technology. Our product management team in San Francisco provides an informed, objective opinion on the cutting edge data and ad tech developments happening in the heart of Silicon Valley, which most agencies do not have. Our ability to connect insights to outcome-driven activation in a more meaningful, results-oriented manner for our clients, is where we achieve separation from competitors.     

How important is the partnership with your exchange vendors?

We have demonstrated time and again in public fashion and through partnership with our marketplace team that we tremendously value the right partnerships with our exchange vendors. We’ve always believed in the importance of driving quality and value in the inventory, and the best exchange vendors share that sentiment.

How do traders at Cadreon educate themselves about inventory, quality, fraud, viewability and on the “next big thing”?

Keeping education current on all essential industry topics is an important focus for our business. We have many methodologies in place to ensure our traders and the entire Cadreon organization is educated and fluent in the important aspects of being a successful ad tech specialist business. First, we have our product team, which is tasked with meeting with and vetting partners across the space, as well as our marketplace team, both of whom provide a holistic point of view on key industry topics. Second, our teams meet with partners and vendors during weekly office hours to keep a pulse on what is going on, while also ensuring that our specific client briefs can be addressed by the right partners.

What do clients expect from programmatic?

In a word – results. Clients want to dive in to learn how our experience complements their business and how it can drive their communication goals forward. They want to understand the rigor and due diligence we provide when servicing their business and to be given our POV on how programmatic works, including the mechanics of it. Ultimately they want a partner who can provide superior, forward-thinking tools with an innovative approach that can find creative, data-fueled ways to meet and surpass their goals. We have placed strong emphasis on managing the reality of today’s situation, what the tools can offer and where programmatic is today. There is no long term value to over-inflating capabilities, and so the best approach is an open and honest one with clients. We’ll tell them the current advantages and limitations, and position them to take advantage of improvements and new capabilities that are on the horizon. At the end of the day, all sides want to see results, because that’s good business across the board.

What does a great vendor partnership look like?

It begins with aligning on goals and approach towards attaining those goals. Clear communication with vendors involves clarity of need and transparency with implementation. We look to set ourselves apart with our partnership approach, because we do best when we partner with those who have a like-minded philosophy and roadmap to the industry. A successful partnership is one where both sides act in unison, with the knowledge that we can continue to succeed while raising our expectations for results and industry-altering projects together.

Do you feel that your relationships have the right level of transparency and honesty across the industry (publishers, DSPs, exchanges)?

The simple answer is yes – we operate under the belief that long term success requires transparency and open communication. To be frank, the industry has overly focused on the agency/trading desk in their assessment of transparency and honesty. We’ve seen little focus beyond the agency role in terms of transparency and think that a fair assessment includes all players. We aim to provide an example of this type of open relationship with our partners and clients.

What’s next for Cadreon in the programmatic world?

By optimizing our tools and taking an agile approach to our business, we’re able to position ourselves to capitalize on a future which will feature data-driven, holistic marketing strategies that will focus on reaching audiences no matter where they’re consuming content. Programmatic will not be siloed to digital media. TV, OOH, radio, cinema, etc. will all be included in media strategies that are thinking about audience targeting at a much higher level. Right now, we are bullish on bringing digital and programmatic principles to TV, OOH and other traditional media. However, they won’t be siloed executions – they will be cross-screen executions.

Our unified view of the customer means reaching these customers across all touch points, regardless of screen, device, medium, location. Then you factor in emotional context and creative application to the content which is speaking to the customers, and we’ll be positioning advertising as a whole to offer better, more meaningful value to businesses and brands, and also, importantly,  to consumers.

Three Questions for John Murphy

johnmurphy1. Who is John Murphy, what do you do at OpenX, and how do you make us great?

I’m John Murphy, VP of Marketplace Quality at OpenX. I’ve been in the industry almost 17 years going back to goto.com, which became Overture (acquired by Yahoo). I’ve spent my entire career in ad quality and traffic quality related roles.

My job at OpenX is to manage ad quality and traffic quality teams to make sure we provide a fair, transparent marketplace where buyers and sellers can transact with confidence.

OpenX is unique because we have a dedicated quality team. For most companies our size, quality is someone’s second or third job. For us, it’s first and foremost. We made a decision to establish a dedicated market quality team very early on – we do quality and nothing but quality.

What are you doing when you’re not policing the OpenX Marketplace? I used to have a social life, but now I have an eight-month-old at home. So I focus on trying to find time to sleep. In addition to the baby, I have three dogs. So it’s a full house with four small creatures that need constant attention.

2. Can you share your views on Sourced Traffic?

Sourced Traffic is an industry term for traffic that a publisher has paid for. A typical publisher will get traffic from various sources like organic search, links, and social media like Facebook. But it’s not uncommon for publishers to supplement this with paid sources, such as content discovery networks, where the publisher pays a cost per click. When it comes to more established players such as Taboola and Outbrain, the traffic quality tends to be good. But there are a lot of companies out there selling low-quality traffic.

A big part of our vetting process is to make sure that our publishers get the vast majority of their traffic from organic sources. If a publisher gets a substantial part of of their traffic from sourced traffic, we don’t accept them into the exchange.

We check for organic traffic when the site is first evaluated, and we monitor on a regular basis to make sure the traffic breakdown they initially showed remains the same.

In general, we advise publishers to look at sourced traffic carefully and only as a supplement to their organic traffic.

If a publisher has a lot of sourced traffic, they may be prone to quality and malware issues, as well as volatile traffic. Sourced traffic can be good or bad, but there is plenty of bad that won’t perform for the buyer.

For example, if a buyer is evaluating two different sites with a very similar type of audience and one is 70% sourced and one is 70% organic, that will influence a buyer’s habits. We hope to make the market more transparent for buyers, to help them in their buying decisions.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) recently introduced their certified against fraud guidelines, which require that direct sellers have to disclose the percentage of sourced traffic on a quarterly basis. OpenX participates in all relevant TAG programs and goes through certified against Fraud and Malware and Piracy programs. We just became co-chairs of the anti-malware working group.

3. What’s next for Marketplace Quality?

We continue to invest heavily in our proprietary Traffic Quality Platform that filters out suspicious traffic (a 4th generation system). This year we’re focusing on a few things:

One, we want to make sure we do as accurate a job as possible of filtering out data center traffic (which is usually non-residential and likely artificially generated traffic) in line with TAG requirements.

And two, we’re continuing to tailor our filtration systems for mobile app and video.

In terms of filtering for traffic quality, we get very few complaints from the DSPs about our traffic, which is a testament to all of the resources we’ve put into this. When we do, we bring in engineering and data scientists to determine if it was non-human or suspicious traffic. In cases where we do find suspicious inventory, we move aggressively to terminate publishers or sites permanently.

The big challenge in filtering for mobile app and video is that the requests don’t come through a traditional browser. With mobile app and video, you’re often getting a server-to-server call from a video player or app, so you’re more reliant on the player and app to give you critical information, which introduces some new risks. In addition to managing those risks, you need to be very good at post-impression analysis to make sure that the traffic was what the publisher said it would be.

We work with several 3rd party vendors including Integral Ad Science, White Ops, and Moat.  But it’s important to note that our core platform is based on proprietary, in-house technology.
When I joined OpenX, our team was just was just myself and two analysts, and now we are up to 15 people in marketplace quality operations and growing. Currently, we’re scanning ten billion requests a day. We’re continuing to build on the technology and processes as we scale.

Advertising Week New York Day 4: The Quality Conversation Continues

Advertising Week New York has come to a close and with OpenX’ers involved in over 5 events, with the launch of the first U.S.-based School of Programmatic and a client cruise around the Hudson, it was a busy and memorable week!

The final day started off withimage1 a panel session titled “Zero Tolerance for Poor Quality: A Consumer Led Revolution” moderated by Brendan Riordan-Butterworth, the Director of Technical Standards from the IAB. OpenX’s John Murphy, VP of Marketplace Quality was joined on stage by Alex Calic, Chief Revenue Officer of The Media Trust, and Chris Cummings, CEO of Curiosity Media/PubNation to discuss strategies for digital advertising’s battle against the bad actors who engage in click fraud, distribute malware and commit countless other bad behaviors that disrupt the industry. 

Brendan led a lively discussion that ranged from fraud and quality concerns to ad blocking and the need for publisher controls and increased third-party validation. As expected, the rise in user adoption of ad blocking technologies was one of the central topics at the start of the panel, but as the conversation developed, panelists explained that the industry faces many other challenges relating to ad quality, traffic image3quality and transparency that publishers, advertisers and tech companies should focus on solving as well. Notably, John Murphy pointed out that while malware is an existential threat of the industry, to date it has been overshadowed by TQ, fraud and non-human traffic. His point to publishers and advertisers is that AQ issues are equally as bad for the industry and consumers, and they must make combatting bad ads a priority. The fight continues! 

Watch the full session here for more on how players in the industry can do better to clean up online advertising. 

Thank you to all of you from Pasadena who travelled across the country, as well as a special thanks to Suzanne Hogan and Rebecca Davidson for their help with Ad Week and their brilliant work in organizing the School of Programmatic and the OpenX Cruise featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff – we are still humming along to the theme from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air!“ 

See you next year!

Advertising Week New York Day 3: School is Back in Session

Advertising Week Day 3: School is Back in Session

The School of Programmaticawny_day3_2_small officially launched in the US on Day 3 of Advertising Week and started with an in-depth session on the basics of header bidding. A classroom full of publishers and buyers eager to learn about the game changing technology listened intently as Qasim Saifee, SVP of Monetization, delivered a comprehensive lesson: Header Bidding 101 on his trusty white board.

The breakfast session introduced newcomers to the complex world of header bidding and explored a series of topics for the more seasoned publishers and advertisers, such as how to optimize buys and extending audience reach. Attendees learned about the advertiser benefits of header bidding and how to obtain incremental value from accessing header bidding impressions. awny_day3_5_small

Qasim was then joined on stage by Joe Catanzaro, VP, Ad Operations & Strategy, Warner Bros. Digital Media Sales and Stephanie Snow Vice President, Ad Operations, Intermarkets to talk about real-life header bidding strategies. In an open forum, the group discussed how they’re implementing and optimizing header bidding today and the challenges they’re looking to overcome in the near future. 

awny_day3_8smallOnce school let out, it was off to Pier 40 off the West Side Highway, where more than 300 clients, employees and friends of OpenX jumped aboard a yacht and set sail on the Hudson for a night of live music (from The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff!!!), good food, and gambling (play money only!). Along with stunning views of NYC and its landmarks, the crowd danced the night away to 90s hip-hop hits and tagged #OpenXYachtLife (click here for more pictures!) to document the festivities and re-live the best memories of the night!

 

Advertising Week New York Day 2: Header Bidding, Header Bidding, Header Bidding

The second day of Advertising Week NY was all about header bidding (and pizza bagels at the OpenX School of Programmatic Snack Bar in the Times Center!). Pioneers and first adopters of the technology spoke to the value proposition of maximum competition enabling maximum monetization. The panel of experts, including executives from OpenX, Hearst, CafeMedia and MediaMath and moderated by AdExchanger’s Sarah Sluis, engaged in discussions on the issues of speed, transparency, consumer experience and what’s next in header bidding’s application across formats.

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Importantly, header bidding has allowed publishers to be more effective and thoughtful about how they let programmatic and direct compete together. Both Hearst and CafeMedia were early adopters of the technology, which has empowered them to gain a much better understanding of the value of their inventory. The data provided by header bidding provides insight into what inventory is highly desired and by which buyers, enabling publishers to conduct a better and deeper analysis of their available inventory and price it accordingly. Insight into bids also enables them to prioritize their inventory better so that they can be confident when letting programmatic compete with direct sales, knowing they’re still going to be able to deliver on their guaranteed campaigns. 

Even though the value of header bidding for desktop is clear, challenges still remain for many publishers in the mobile environment. Right now publishers have very little control in mobile, and when utilizing Google’s AMP or Facebook’s Instant Articles, they’re unable to integrate header bidding. 

 Another challenge discussed heavily in the panel is the value proposition to the buy side. MediaMath’s Tanuj Joshi noted that for them, header bidding means more bid opportunities and selection, and more inventory is always better. But, while access to inventory has reached unparalleled levels, buyers are looking for the value it ads. There’s still no standardized way to determine if a bid comes from a header bidding integration or not, and that does matter to players like MediaMath and others on the buy side. Knowing that information impacts auction mechanics, forecasting, etc., so finding a solution that gives buyers that level of insight will significantly increase value.

Key Takeaway: OpenX’s Qasim Saifee said it best, “With header bidding implementations, more is not always better. Work with partners that add differentiated value and incremental revenue, and you will be successful.”

awnewyork_snackbar

After the session, attendees had the opportunity to grab an afternoon treat at the OpenX Snack Bar in the Times Center. Bring on the pizza bagels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and carrot sticks to get everyone through the rest of the day!  

Day 3 is another jam packed day for OpenX as we are hosting the first School of Programmatic session in the US, as well as our client cruise. Stay tuned for our updates tomorrow. 

 

Advertising Week New York Day 1: Mobile and the Future of Programmatic

Day 1 of Advertising Week NY is already in the books and the week started off with some great sessions on mobile and the future of programmatic advertising.

All About Mobile

Maggie Mesa, VP Mobile Buunknownsiness Development represented OpenX on a session titled,“The Lion of the Revenue jungle: Mobile Messaging.” With representatives from TUNE, Emogi, Line and Kik, and, moderated by marketing mogul, B. Bonin Bough, the panel addressed how advertisers can advance to where they are able to have a meaningful and engaging interaction with mobile users. 

Given market expectations that messaging is going to be larger than social media, the issues of multi-platform opportunities, context, and native ads that help brands tell better stories were discussed candidly. 

Key Takeaway: Messaging apps are allowing marketers to build better direct relationships with consumers, but that the technology hasn’t yet fully developed to enable optimization at scale. 

Following that dynamic discussion, Maggie moderated an OpenX sponsored panel, “Bringing Brands In-App: Here’s what you need to know.” Joined by executives from Cheetah Mobile, MeetMe and TapAd, the conversation centered around how publishers or app-developers can evolve their mobile in-app strategy to find the right balance between monetization and user experience, given that brands are under investing in mobile right now. 

Panelists also identified some of the road blocks brands face in-app and what publishers and app-developers can do to help bridge the gap. Importantly, one of the biggest challenges for publishers and app developers is convincing brands that the data they put forward is real and valuable. 

Key Takeaway:  Accountability and creating better metrics for brands to understand the value of mobile advertising will bring brands in app. As Ian Wu noted “In-app is a more engaging environment, brands shouldn’t be afraid to try it out!”

The Evolution of Programmatic & What to Expect in the Future

awny2At a panel later in the afternoon, Tim Cadogan led a discussion with many of the pioneers in online advertising on the Times Center Main Stage. The session, “The Programmatic Evolution,” took a deep dive into the biggest challenges and opportunities of the online advertising industry and what we can expect to see in the near future. 

 

Moderated by Berry Liu from Bloomberg News, Tim, along with Greg Raifman, President, Rubicon Project, Scott Howe, President and CEO, Acxiom, Eric Franchi, Co-founder, Undertone and Mark Zagorski, CEO, eXelate, engaged in a lively conversation that touched on the successes of the first decade of programmatic and the opportunities and challenges like ad blocking that we can expect in the next decade. Core to the discussion was the concept, that Tim raised, of needing to help the principle players: the publishers, marketers and consumers reconstruct a relationship that has become a little frayed. As Greg Raifman said, “Advertising has gotten better, but it’s still not good enough for consumers – we’ve got a lot of work to do, and unless we make big changes in creativity and advertising we won’t make strides against ad blocking.” 

For more of the key takeaways on this session: Media Post’s Tobi Elkin wrote this article providing an excellent recap of the lively debate.

Bidding Without a Header: A Guide to Bidder for Apps

Header bidding is one of the hottest topics in ad tech and the trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. Much like on desktop, serving ads via a “header bidding” implementation on mobile apps provides publishers and app developers with the benefits of more competition and greater revenue potential.

Maggie Mesa, VP of Mobile Business Development, and Justin Re, Director of Mobile Product, recently discussed the key differences between header bidding on desktop and in-app, and how the technology is now being applied to the mobile in-app environment in a Q&A by AdMonsters. 

Read the full article on AdMonsters, Bidding Without a Header: OpenX Explains Their Take on In-App Bidding, to understand the distinct features of bidder in-app, how publishers and app developers can use the technology to gain access to demand from premium brands, and how it’s imperative to work with a partner, like OpenX, that can help you to find the best solution for maximizing your revenue.

If you have any questions about header bidding and Bidder for Apps or for anything else, please contact us and a member of our team will be happy to help you.

Quality Assurance Interns Pave the Way for OpenX’s Broker Software

By: Sandra Ning, QA Intern

Over the past two months, I have been working alongside a fellow Quality Assurance intern, Andrew, to ensure the changes OpenX engineers make to broker software are working as intended.

There are a few challenges to overcome when testing the broker’s real-time bidding auction function. If we want to test new changes to the broker, we must do it without disrupting real-time ad exchanges. That means the code needs to be tested separately from auctions happening in real-time. Furthermore, the broker relies on client data in order to run an auction. If we can’t run real-time auctions to get this data, how can the broker perform its calculations?

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We can circumvent this issue by simulating an auction instance. Old data is fed from previous clients to the broker. This simulation uses broker code to calculate the value of clearing prices and price floors. These numbers are compared against the actual figures from the historical data. If they differ significantly, then the code changes may have disrupted important broker operations like currency conversion or clearing price calculation. This helps engineers identify potential problems in the code early on, which is exactly what testing and quality assurance is all about!

OpenX engineers push changes to the broker development repository several times a day. Therefore a simulation must be run every time a change is made to catch the most errors. Manually running the package after every change is tiresome. Our goal was to develop a precise automated solution. If the system could update the broker, run an auction with old user data, check to see if the broker returned expected values or not, and do it all automatically, testing becomes frequent and easy.

Between Andrew and I, our job was to create this automatic system using GoCD, a continuous delivery server specifically designed to automate workflows like the the process needed to compile and run broker. On GoCD, related tasks that are executed in sequence are called pipelines. Our pipelines needed to begin executing whenever a change is made to the broker code, and:

  1. Build the new version of the broker
  2. Use the new broker version to compile the new simulation package
  3. Run the simulation using data with known input and output
  4. Allow the pipeline to succeed if the broker returns the expected values, or fails if it doesn’t

Without needing to build the architecture for automating these tasks, it seemed simple to build the pipeline. But like any project, various problems cropped up for every step of progress. The first problem is one any intern, or new employee, experiences: overcoming the learning curve. OpenX uses a lot of internal tools to maintain their code and data. Andrew and I ran Hive queries to grab old user data, and used Maven to build the simulation package. We branched, pulled and pushed code from Github and learned how to debug in Eclipse. All of this was in addition to figuring out how to fit the materials, dependencies, tasks and artifacts on GoCD together to make a working pipeline. The auction simulation code was already written when we started working on the project. Problem two was dusting off the code, which hadn’t been updated in months, and editing it to mesh seamlessly with the latest version of broker. Problem three was the trickiest of all—debugging the simulation.

Although the simulation code was written by OpenX’s data science team, it hadn’t been kept up-to-date with the broker’s API. Initial runs of the simulation resulted in errors that made testing impossible. Debugging the problem was tough. The simulation code depends on data files that change daily, and thus must all be from the same date and time for the broker to output correct values. Before making any attempt to comb through the code, we double and triple-checked that these data files were correct, and pulled more files from Hive if they weren’t.

Bugs cropped up from data types not being initialized correctly and from updating the code to fit the new broker API. In the end, Andrew and I were able to completely set up the pipeline to automate the simulation on GoCD. I learned a lot—not just about internal tools or how OpenX’s broker works, but also about asking for help from those around me, and tackling problems from various angles until something gives. I also created something that OpenX engineers will—hopefully—use, long after Andrew and I leave.