Smart AdServer’s response to the race towards header bidding-type solutions has been to integrate certain competitors, creating a clear and open framework with increased competition between SSPs. What follows is an interview with Smart Ad Server’s CEO Cyrille Geffray and the company’s COO, David Pironon.
As programmatic grows and evolves, we’ve observed that programmatic platforms like yours have begun to allude more and more to the fact that they work openly, contrary to a “walled garden”. Can you tell us more about that?
Cyrille Geffray: It’s in the market’s interest to have open platforms; it’s most efficient for advertisers, publishers and the entire ecosystem. As soon as we close these platforms, the platforms’ interests become most important, not the interests of other players in the industry. Closed platforms have a logic that goes against primary market interests. An example of our interest in this type of openness is our recent announcement that we’re integrating with a number of our demand side competitors — supply side platforms like Pubmatic and Pulse Point.
What’s the purpose of these integrations?
Cyrille Geffray: It brings added revenue to publishers as well as increased performance to advertisers. This is a solution that combines the advantages of a full stack with those of header bidding.
Are you allowing them all to compete against each other in the same marketplace?
Cyrille Geffray: Just by being connected to the same demand sources, we’ve found that revenues are ultimately still significantly higher for the publisher in this kind of configuration.
David Pironon: Technically, that’s what’s happening: for the same auction, we will actually query the DSP with whom we are directly connected as well as the integrated SSP.
Is it a different kind of header bidding?
David Pironon: Header bidding is much more sequential, more manual. Our system is something much more automated. For each bid, we’ll call all sources of demand simultaneously.
Cyrille Geffray: This is much more successful; it allows for the benefits of an SSP competition layout without the disadvantages.
David Pironon: And all this is in competition with direct sales, with true holistic inventory optimization. In addition, we examine all demand sources simultaneously, so demand is optimized as well.
Is this a decision you made following the development of header bidding? Is it a response to the phenomenon?
David Pironon: Yes, and it’s a pragmatic approach because it’s what the publishers are asking for. Publishers who are optimizing inventory and allocations between direct sales and programmatic have specific issues. Technically, we think this is the most successful response with respect to those issues. Plus, they’ll have the best of programmatic demand.
Cyrille Geffray: The goal for publishers is to maximize revenues while maximizing fill rates and average price. And the best way to do this is to allow the maximum amount of buyers to compete.
Let’s get back to our discussion of closed environments. As we see with this example of integration with your competitors that you just gave us, “open” platforms like yours still harbor development momentum that walled gardens are not able to preempt.
Cyrille Geffray: We are convinced that open environments will bring more value to stakeholders. Our whole approach is to do it and to prove it, which is what’s naturally moving us in this direction. We’ll be working for the next six to twelve months on beating the closed environments. Our openness will make us smarter, and that’s how we’ll beat them. We’ve already started to do it, in a certain number of cases, we bring more value to publishers, particularly on mobile. We’re going to see this process through to the end.
In this idea of “open” and “closed” environments, we’re seeing the vendors relying increasingly on social networks to distribute their own content. What’s your take on this?
David Pironon: This phenomenon is a threat to the digital environment because as soon as publishers become 100% dependent on Google and Facebook for the generation of their incoming traffic and monetization, they lose control of everything. Publishers won’t be able to do anything the day Facebook or Google decide to change the rules or their monetization criteria.
Cyrille Geffray: The illusion is that this is a fast and easy way to make money, but the reality is different. Publishers’ content is what makes them valuable. But it’s also up to them to know how to band together in order to protect these assets. One solution is for publishers to talk and agree on things, even if they are competitors.
We have some fine examples of this dynamic in France, with at least two companies — Square Media and Audience Square, right?
Cyrille Geffray: Absolutely. These are two good examples, examples that the international community has taken note of. When French publishers agree, they’re able to lead the way on a global level.