Real-Time Bidding’s Biggest Buyers

AT&T leads the programmatic pack

EMarketer expects spending on real-time bidding to nearly double this year. In fact, the share of brands that buy their display ads via a programmatic pipeline of ad tech firms versus direct relationships with publishers will make up 13 percent of U.S. display spending in 2013, the research firm projected. Supply-side platform Rubicon Project has an idea on who’s driving the shift.

Every day, the ad tech firm—which programmatically brokers display buys between brands and publishers—sees more than 6 billion ad impressions and 350 billion bids placed among comScore’s top 500 publishers, and in October, AT&T was the top U.S. spender on real-time bidded display ads. While that wireless carrier actually dropped its spending by 30 percent from the previous month, Verizon increased its RTB budget by 13 percent to come in at No. 2. “Just like with any other industry, when one of the category leaders move, others move quickly to catch up,” said Rubicon Project CEO and founder Frank Addante.

Trailing the two wireless brands were Southwest Airlines, Chrysler, Unilever, American Express, Toyota, General Mills, TracFone Wireless and General Motors. GM made the largest jump of the top 10 spenders, juicing its spending by 156 percent.

Not surprisingly, Addante is bullish on RTB. “We’re seeing that when media is bought via RTB that it’s being bought on average around eight times the price we see otherwise [through] more manual auctions or manually transacted deals,” he said. Rubicon Project only sees bids that are placed on a cost-per-thousand-impressions basis (as opposed to cost-per-click).

Also contributing to Addante’s optimism is what’s going on overseas. “U.K. advertisers are embracing [RTB] far faster than the U.S.,” he said. The Brits are “leading on the use of technology and leading in thought leaderships, and advertisers in the U.S. are following.” However, the foreign vanguard isn’t necessarily foreign-only. AT&T also leads the global list of top RTB spenders, and seven other brands from the U.S. top 10 list appear on the global version: American Express, Verizon, Chrysler, Southwest Airlines, Toyota, Unilever and GM.

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