In France, a highly fragmented publisher market, means alliances like programmatic ad marketplace La Place continue to prosper, despite the downward pressure on display advertising — and the Facebook-Google duopoly. But La Place needs to get bigger, fast.

The collective has set some ambitious growth plans. The goal: Build La Place into a marketplace with 17 million daily unique users and grow its combined logged-in user data to give premium publishers the scale and data offering necessary to compete with the duopoly. Today, La Place, whose shareholders are TF1, Le Figaro, France Télévisions, Lagardère and Team Media, consists of 40 publishers, offering a combined 10 million unique users. Last year, the exchange made €19 million ($21 million) in revenue, which isn’t bad, considering it’s only a portion of remnant inventory that each publisher supplies. But that’s not enough for La Place to remain competitive in the face of the duopoly.

“We have no other choice but to work with the other publishers to have sufficient weight together and be viewable and visible in the market against the competition of Facebook and Google,” said Pierre-Louis Schmitt, sales director of Slate.fr, one of the latest publishers to join La Place. “The reality is, it’s harder and harder to grab budgets working on our own. That’s why this kind of cooperative is strong and will help develop our revenue,” he added.

Here’s a look at La Place’s battle plan.

Tap into combined might
To gain the scale and data needed to compete better, La Place wants to merge with its biggest direct competitor Audience Square. This fellow premium programmatic marketplace’s publisher shareholders are Le Monde, Groupe Express, Le Point, Les Echos, M6 Web, Libération, Regieobs, Prisma Media, IP France, NextInteractive and CCM Benchmark. That’s basically every publisher that isn’t already signed on with La Place.

The shareholders of both groups are in talks about a possible merger, which would give them a combined reach of 17 million unique users (closer to the 24 million unique users Facebook has in France).

La Place publishers have already agreed that should a merger take place, they will pool audience log-in and other data to provide a single pot of social demographic, deterministic data. That pot will make it easier for buyers to activate programmatic campaigns across all publishers. La Place already has strong probabilistic data, but it needs deterministic data. For that, it needs the might of Audience Square, according to Arthur Millet, managing director of La Place.

“French publishers are too fragmented and too small to fight against Google’s ad exchange and Facebook,” he said. “They need to cooperate if they want to survive. If they are not all together, I can’t see a way out.”

Push for transparency
Programmatic trading ballooned off the market’s hunger to buy massive volumes of cheap remnant display advertising. In the U.K., a good deal of programmatic buys are no longer just tied to remnant display ads, which are whatever a publisher can’t sell. For La Place’s real-time bidding exchange, however, remnant inventory is still the bread and butter. Average CPMs are just €1 ($1.11) La Place wants to make more transactions Deal ID-based because they bump up the average CPM to €3 ($3.34). Thirty percent of all inventory is currently from Deal ID-based campaigns.

Deal IDs are also a more transparent way for publishers to sell their URLs programmatically, which is why Millet is confident they’ll grow. “We must fight for a more transparent world. A lot of services provided to publishers, like Google and Facebook, aren’t transparent so you don’t know where ads are going,” he said. “They’re taking a huge amount of money and control. We want to do more to push for transparency and get publishers back in control of their own data.”

Promote header bidding
It’s early for header bidding in France. Eight of the publishers using La Place will have header bidding enabled on the exchange by the end of the summer. The plan is to get that number to 15 by the end of the year. Those that have already used header bidding on La Place campaigns have seen an average 15 percent increase on their programmatic ad revenues, according to Millet. But encouraging more publisher partners to adopt it is another priority, which will help French publishers gain more control of their programmatic campaigns.

Keeping up with mobile
To keep pace with changes in mobile, La Place has partnered with mobile ad tech firm Widespace to help publisher members boost mobile web programmatic revenue. Widespace is expecting to generate €2 million ($2.2 million) in mobile web-only revenue for publishers collectively, via its services by the end of the year, according to Jean-Philippe Caste commercial director for Widespace France. Publishers will also gain access to custom mobile ad formats supplied by Widespace.

Increase video inventory
Like in the U.K., France has a shortage of supply in quality video, meaning publishers are still selling their video inventory via direct sales. That makes it harder for exchanges like La Place, whose technology can already cater for video, to convince publishers to part with their inventory. Little video inventory currently runs via La Place. But with many publishers prioritizing video output for 2017 and beyond, it hopes to change that.

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