DSPs are cracking down on bid duplication

Exchanges that peddle multiple bid requests for the same ad impression on behalf of publishers were already in the crosshairs of those programmatic buyers trying to get smarter about how they buy impressions, but the economic downturn has, somewhat inadvertently, quickened their demise. 

Traffic spikes have caused increased costs in processing bid requests, giving already under pressure demand-side platforms extra economic incentive to squash bid duplication. MediaMath is building a new supply chain that doesn’t include SSPs that sell duplicated impressions, for example. Last month, The Trade Desk gave all the SSPs it buys impressions from two weeks to stop sending it duplicated requests to take part in the same auction. The deadline has been extended in the weeks since but the DSP expects SSPs to fall into line eventually.

“By tackling the bid duplication problem we’re hopeful that it will give publishers visibility into an egalitarian measurement of their own SSP partnerships as adding another isn’t necessarily going to drive additional revenue for them in a big way,” said Joel Livesey is director of partnerships EMEA at The Trade Desk. 

This could cause problems for some SSPs. As Tremor International’s chief product officer Karim Rayes explained: “The clampdown does affect our SSP — as it does every other SSP out there — as we cannot send the full breadth of our supply to our buyers using these DSPs.”

Since the advent of header bidding four years ago publishers have been rewarded by DSPs like The Trade Desk for auction duplication. More bid requests for the same impression meant greater odds of securing a high price from a DSP. The Trade Desk’s crackdown doesn’t completely remove this incentive, but it does reduce the degree to which publishers are rewarded for using the same exchange multiple times.

“I understand the economic rationale for why The Trade Desk is trying to flush out bid duplication but they’re doing so in a crude manner,” said Ratko Vidakovic, founder of ad tech consultancy AdProfs. “The Trade Desk is asking publishers and SSPs to chop off branches to their supply in a way that treats them all equally when they’re not. One SSP might sell specific inventory, for example, so it’s just not about these partnerships being used to serve multiple bids requests for the same impression.”

It’s part of the reason why MediaMath has taken a different approach to suppress bid duplication across the SSPs it works with. The DSP is funneling media dollars into open auctions through a preferred set of exchanges, all of which do not sell multiple impressions from the same publisher.

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“We’re more focused on precision when it comes to bid duplication,” said Jeremy Steinberg, global head of ecosystem at MediaMath. “The aim is to work with SSPs and publishers on a partner basis to understand how we can leverage performance data alongside tools like sellers.json and SupplyChain Object to understand what’s the best impression for our clients.”

Nevertheless, the general response to The Trade Desk’s crackdown has been positive among SSPs. In fact, some like Michael Zacharski, CEO of Engine Group’s SSP EMX Global, see it as an opportunity to send more new, non-duplicative inventory.

“We believe that one impression should be sold one time from an individual exchange, but I don’t think we are yet in a world where publishers sell inventory through just one exchange or source,” said Zacharski. “Cost reductions up the funnel on the buy-side will shift dollars towards stronger alliances between buyers and sellers creating a need for more custom and flexible marketplaces on top of a simplified supply chain.”

Bid duplication via multiple wrapper integrations took things too far and unfairly manipulated programmatic auctions.  Such practices will receive more scrutiny and get reined in going forward, but the core principle of heading bidding — letting publishers conduct simultaneous auctions for the same impression — isn’t going away. 

“What’s clear is that The Trade Desk is using its market power to change incentives for publishers and ad exchanges,” said Chris Kane, founder of programmatic consultancy Jounce Media. “Sellers will do what buyers reward, and we are beginning to see buyers reward more efficient supply paths.”

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