‘We’re trying to figure out the unknown’: GiveMeSport runs exchange audit with advertising partners

Sports publisher GiveMeSport is working with agency partners and direct advertising clients to track how much of their marketing budget is flowing through to the publisher.

The publisher is working with three unnamed agencies and two clients on the tests, which will examine things like what take rates (a term that essentially means margins) ad tech vendors charge, and when techniques like bid stacking — when an exchange enables multiple bids on one piece of inventory —  are occurring, said Ryan Skeggs, gm of GiveMeSport. Bidding multiple times on one piece of inventory is a big no-no, as it magnifies a vendor’s match rates to look better than they are, and the more the vendor wins, the more they make, charging the publisher a revenue share in the process.

Speaking at Digiday’s Publishing Summit Europe in Barcelona this week, Skeggs said the publisher isn’t on a vendor witch hunt but that it’s trying to gain more visibility into what’s happening across the buy and sell sides of its digital ad supply chain and the ability to share that information with advertisers.

“We’re trying to find out the unknown, and our advertiser partners want the same,” said Skeggs. “We don’t want vendors, especially not those we value as partners, to be jittery about it. We will speak with them directly after it, and tell them what we’ve found.”

Publishers have been taking back more control of their digital ad supply chains, a movement that accelerated after the Guardian discovered it was gaining as little as 30 percent from each pound a marketer spent on its inventory in 2016, with the rest being siphoned off by data merchants. GiveMeSport shed 13 ad tech partners in 2017 in an effort to take control of its digital ad supply chain in preparation for the General Data Protection Regulation. Some advertisers have been closely scrutinizing their own digital ad supply chains, too.

GiveMeSport and its ad partners found two ad tech vendors willing to give log-file data on the buy and sell side for free to view the auction dynamics around their inventory, but the publisher has found it difficult to wrestle log-level data from vendors. “That’s two out of a plethora of vendors,” said Skeggs. “The others are an embarrassment with regards to coming forward with the kind of information we want.”

Skeggs said results will be shared privately with the vendors in question, in part out of a belief that the scrutiny that the digital ad industry has come under — everything from the FBI’s investigation into U.S. media buying practices to the recent scandal around bid caching, where a lost bid from one auction is used to fill a subsequent auction without the knowledge of the buyer — reflects badly on the whole industry.

Skeggs added that the public hostility shown among independent vendors and rivals of Index Exchange around the use of bid caching was counterproductive and plays into the hands of the tech giants. “I thought it was dealt with terribly by the industry,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good when everyone is at war with each other.”


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