The Trade Desk takes aim at Google’s Open Bidding with OpenPath launch

Digiday bidding

The Trade Desk’s supply path optimization efforts have been underway for years. But with the launch of its today’s effort, premium publisher hub OpenPath, the demand-side platform is setting its sights on Google’s ad stack.

OpenPath has been described as a hub that “provides advertisers with direct access to premium digital advertising inventory” that helps minimize waste for advertisers while maximizing revenue for participating publishers.

It lets advertisers gain direct access to ad inventory from participating publishers and represents the latest move in The Trade Desk’s supply-path optimization efforts. Participating publisher partners on board at launch include CafeMedia, Condé Nast, Gannett, Hearst, McClatchy, Nexstar Digital, Reuters, Tribune Publishing, The Washington Post, among others.

Supply-path optimization, or SPO, promises to remove the inefficiencies of the programmatic supply chain for both digital advertisers and publishers alike, including “the opaque and privileges of the walled gardens” with The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green noting one key difference in this latest round. 

“OpenPath is an excellent example of industry leaders working together to advance an open market that ensures transparent price competition that maximizes value for both advertisers and publishers,” he said in a statement. “With that in mind, as OpenPath launches, The Trade Desk will turn off Google Open Bidding on its platform.” 

In addition to shutting off Google Open Bidding — Google’s efforts to head off the rise of header bidding — the DSP is also requesting that all of its supply-side programmatic also go about transitioning off Open Bidding.

A popular criticism of Open Bidding was that Google would use its end-to-end view of ad impressions to decide whether to not it wanted its DSP to bid on an impression, if it didn’t then it would then allow it to pass through to an open header bidding auction. These are charges that Google denies.

Chris Kane, CEO of Jounce Media, a consultancy service that helps advertisers assess how to improve the efficiency of their online ad spend, told Digiday, opting out of ad impressions that pass through Google’s Open Bidding makes a lot of sense for DSPs.

“If a DSP is looking to deduplicate the bidstream, cutting Open Bidding is a no brainer. It is financially inefficient and strategically unattractive,” he added. “And it is almost entirely redundant to more direct supply paths.”

Other sources approached by Digiday interpreted the latest move from The Trade Desk as a declaration of its intent to rival Google in the market by, effectively, saying it wants its DSP to have first access to premium inventory.

Bob Walczak, CEO of consultancy MadTech Advisors, said, “The way I read this is that they want preferred access [to participating publishers’ ad impressions] and they don’t want to be in a header bidding auction.

“As far as stepping out of Open Bidding, that is absolutely The Trade Desk taking on Google, and saying, ‘Google favors itself [in Open Bidding]’ … in this scenario The Trade Desk is saying, ‘We want the advantage, as we’re bringing the demand.'”

He further stated that by committing to direct deals with publisher partners The Trade Desk is effectively stating that it won’t participate in such auctions.

Other sell-side sources, who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of trade negotiations, noted how direct deals between a DSP and a publisher were in contrast to the trading agreements struck between holding groups and SSPs.

One such source noted how OpenPath would be “something that agencies are not happy with.”

The source went on to add, “Agencies have built their own unique value propositions around SPO and do not want DSPs getting in the middle of that.”

Similarly, a separate source added, “Strategic partnerships between agencies and SSPs moves control from the DSP layer and into the exchange layer … it’s a whole dance that’s happening.”

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