1) Smart AdServer talks about being a ‘true tech provider,’ rather than a media player. What’s the difference?
CK: That’s an important distinction for Smart. So many companies in the ad-tech space obfuscate their true businesses with marketing spin. Smart AdServer is a pure-play technology provider. We provide publishers and ad networks with the tools they need to manage and monetize their ad inventory. We don’t bring our own inventory to the table, we don’t have any vested interest in the outcome of the transaction or auction, and we only play on one side of the transaction. There are too many companies masquerading as tech providers that make most of their money on arbitraging media within their environments. Worse, they don’t provide any transparency at the impression level, so a publisher has no idea how much money some of these platforms are making off of their inventory. They may pay a publisher $3, and take their 15% fee off of that, but they may have gotten $5 from the buyer — and the publisher has no idea. Publishers deserve transparency, and that’s what Smart AdServer provides.
2) Smart AdServer sometimes argues that header bidding isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What do you mean by that?
CK: Our industry, and Smart AdServer specifically, is focused on developing smart technology solutions to publishers’ revenue and inventory management challenges. One of those challenges is overcoming Google’s baked-in advantage within auctions when using DFP and AdX. Without getting overly technical, header bidding was developed as one method for getting around the advantages Google gives itself in a DFP/AdX environment.
I don’t begrudge Google’s efforts — it’s a public company, in the business of making money for Google and its shareholders. But publishers want and deserve a transparent, level playing field rather than technology tools that give a leg up to the provider. So they needed to find away around Google’s preferential treatment of Google.
Header bidding was the first solution to the problem. But it was a klunky implementation. It requires a lot of maintenance and manual work. And it isn’t easily scalable. So while it does address the problem the industry set out to solve, there’s plenty of room for building a better mousetrap. We’re focused on that better mousetrap, and that better mousetrap is a Server-to-Server implementation. We’re already seeing momentum from both the sell-side and buy-side on S2S.
3) You’ve argued that a lot of publishers are dissatisfied with Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers. If that’s the case, why don’t more of them leave it?
CK: Pain. Pure and simple. There is a massive amount of pain involved in ripping out your ad stack. When you look at the true cost of changing out your ad server, you have to look beyond the CPMs. There is the cost of training your team on a new system, the increase in time it takes to do nearly everything while your team gets up to speed, and so on. Going on nearly 20 years in the industry, DoubleClick’s reach is deep within organizations, and it is tied into so many back-office operations. It’s not just about actual serving of ads. So it is a massive ask for a publisher to make a wholesale change.
4) How does Smart AdServer’s Holistic Yield Management work — and what makes you so sure it does work?
CK: Holistic Yield Management is a pretty simple concept. How do you manage yield across all of your revenue sources? There are tons of yield management solutions that manage yield for individual sources — they optimize your programmatic yield, or your mobile yield, or your video yield. Our Holistic Yield Management works across all of a publisher’s revenue sources, managing yield between direct sold and programmatically sold campaigns with each other, rather than in separate silos.
Yield management has gotten increasingly complex – as has the whole ad-tech landscape – and it no longer makes sense to look at individual revenue channels on their own. So we help publishers manage the yield from all of their sources.
I’m sure it works because the proof is in the pudding. Our publishers are benefitting from HYM every single day, making more money than they were using their previous yield management implementations. But I’m not going to tell you what goes into the Secret Sauce!