DSPs Stir Up Drama


MTV Networks has yet to sell inventory via a “demand-side” platform. Neither has AOL, CBS Interactive, or Meanwhile, for now Turner and Dow Jones are officially saying no thanks to DSPs, i.e., the divisions or stand-alone businesses run by agency holding companies designed to purchase online ad inventory using technology and data—rather than directly.

DSPs, such as VivaKi (Publicis) and Cadreon (IPG), were a hot topic last week at the Interactive Advertising Bureau annual confab in Carlsbad, Calif., with publisher sentiments ranging from wariness to downright paranoia. And conversations with publishers revealed a sentiment that premium sites should opt out of selling this way. Said Brian Quinn, vp/gm, ad sales for the Wall Street Journal Digital Network: “If people want to buy from us, we want them to call us.”

On the flip side, many agency execs doubt that publishers can hold such a tough stance as online buying becomes more automated.

Publishers are mainly concerned with pricing and data. Sellers fear that advertisers may pay a decent CPM to cherry-pick a specific target on their sites but may not buy much else, resulting in smaller purchases overall.

“We love technology and would love to use more,” said Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau. “But what’s happening here [with automated selling] is absolutely the opposite of what is supposed to happen. CPMs have dropped.”

That drop is inevitable with the abundance of Web avails, whether sites fight DSPs or not argued David Moore, chairman of 24/7 Real Media. “The ability to maintain pricing for these premium properties is going to continue to decline,” he said. “They are asking for $20, $30 and $40 CPMs, which are four- and five-times higher than [what DSPs can yield]. There are no must-buys anymore.”

The other big worry is that agencies will use DSPs to execute a buy, collect a publisher’s audience data and never come back. “That would be like buying a page of a magazine and then getting rights to the magazine’s subscription list forever,” said Walker Jacobs, svp of Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital. Jacobs said that DSPs require publishers to give up far too much leverage. “They want an open window into our cookies, our data. There are so many fundamental problems with that.”

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