‘Yield isn’t everything’: How Turner shifted programmatic private

Turner is cashing in on the private marketplace craze.

In the first half of 2017, Turner doubled the revenue it drove through PMPs compared to the same period a year ago, said Nick Johnson, Turner’s svp of digital ad strategy. Turner’s PMP business grew after the publisher restructured its sales teams.

Turner still sells most of its inventory direct and prioritizes direct deals over programmatic. Within its programmatic inventory, it has set up a hierarchy in its ad server so PMPs get precedence over open exchanges, which is a tactic that other publishers like Meredith, Business Insider and IBT Media have adopted. Because Turner tweaked the line items in its ad server to benefit its largest and most loyal advertisers, a preferred advertiser in a PMP deal bidding $10 on an impression might beat out an open exchange advertiser bidding $12 on the same impression.

“Yield isn’t everything,” Johnson said. “If you are just going for straight yield, [PMPs] aren’t beneficial. But we’re building a long-term business around long-term relationships.”

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Turner now has more than 100 active PMPs, and the growth reflects a broader industry trend as programmatic direct has grown to account for 56 percent of all programmatic advertising, according to eMarketer. As advertisers have become more sensitive about having their ads appear next to extremist content, there’s been a trend to shift spend from open exchanges to PMPs, where advertisers have more control over the websites their ads will show up on. Two publishing execs, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Digiday they also expect their PMP revenue to double in 2017. But that doesn’t mean that Turner’s PMP growth rate is exactly common, they said.

“Publishers who are really focusing on PMPs are growing revenue, but it doesn’t just happen for everyone,” said one of the execs. “It only happens if there is something about your inventory and product that makes advertisers feel that they need to find a way to get ahead of the open market for it.”

Turner’s PMP business took off about 18 months ago when it restructured its sales teams so each team included a programmatic specialist, which helped Turner’s sales teams get the company’s programmatic offerings in front of larger clients, Johnson said.

For example, if a CPG advertiser wanted to make a large buy on Turner’s properties but it found the CPMs for Turner’s direct inventory to be too high, Turner’s sales team could direct its sales pitch toward an automated guaranteed deal, in which the two parties agree on a set price and inventory amount to be transacted programmatically. The advertiser likes this because it can negotiate better rates than what it might find on the open exchange, and Turner likes it because it can get the advertiser to commit to a set amount of spend.

Another thing that helped Turner grow its PMPs is that it owns a slew of brands — like CNN, Bleacher Report and TNT. This allows Turner to package PMPs across multiple sites. For example, rather than doing a PMP deal with just Bleacher Report, advertisers can enter a PMP deal around sports that pulls inventory from across Turner’s digital properties. Turner’s digital properties had a combined 125 million unique visitors in May, according to comScore.

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