How to Regain Control of Your Most Valuable Asset

November 18, 2016

Imagine walking into a bakery, pointing to a beautifully frosted chocolate cake and saying to the baker, "I'd just like to buy the frosting from this cake, please." The baker's answer would be, "I can't sell the rest of this cake if I scrape off the frosting and sell it to you." It's a losing proposition for the baker. And it's a losing proposition for publishers when brands and agencies come along and only want your "frosting." If you aren't set up to deliver the niche segments they're looking for, or to price those slices of your cake accordingly, you could be setting yourself up to lose big.

We see the two ways publishers can regain control and fix the information asymmetry: actionable analytics and maximizing the open demand opportunity.

Actionable Analytics (cross platform, cross device and by audience)

Buyers should not have a supreme leg up in their ability to target and pick off impressions one by one at whatever price they've determined an impression is worth. Publishers need deep analytics to understand which audiences are most valuable, package and price them correctly, and allocate to the right channels to maximize yield. The core analytics tools to harness your audience enable publishers to take action on:

  • Packaging (often as PMP)
  • Enhancing audiences (DMP + source valuable audiences)
  • Pricing


There is an ongoing need for transparency into your audiences in order to discern which audiences are worth the most and in highest demand so that you can package accordingly. Publishers can find their target audience's distribution across devices.

Enhance your audience

Publishers can supercharge audiences by leveraging data -- both their own data and proprietary data -- to create unique audience segments that will resonate with buyers. This also gives publishers an opportunity to sell audiences they know are valuable, and extend the monetization opportunity.


The value of your audience shifts every second, so publishers need help to effectively price their audiences to maximize the value of every impression. Simulation tools show the opportunity cost of running one model over another (direct sales vs. open auction vs. PMP), and give guidance on how to price deals -- with the opportunity to optimize pricing in real time.

All actionable

How do these insights translate into realtime monetization decisions? Publishers need a platform that lets them instantly take action on insights. A unified platform across mobile, video and display that can instantly turn decisions into action. With a single click, create deals based on audience segment, update deal pricing, get alerted about poorly performing audiences (or deals) and take action, or even blacklist and whitelist creatives or buyers.

Making deal management easier, more scalable and more profitable will result in closer, more valuable relationships with buyers and demand partners. Proving to buyers that this level of transparency is valuable -- through accurate targeting and packaging, and your commitment to optimizing, troubleshooting and evolving the relationship -- will encourage more buyer dollars in this direction. The alternative? Those dollars being dumped into distribution platforms like Facebook and Google, which don't have (nor are interested in maintaining) valued 1:1 relationships.

For transactions allocated to the open auction, price floor optimization will automatically reprice floors to best monetize at the impression level, bias-free (where bids aren't ingested before setting floors).

Maximize demand opportunity

Publishers need a platform that not only maximizes their existing demand, but finds new avenues to source demand, as more competition equals more revenue.

  • Enable programmatic demand to compete directly with direct sales to ensure highest CPMs (holistic yield, deal first SSP, price floor optimization)
  • Create a true auction across all your programmatic demand partners (header bidding container tag)
  • Understand that the off-platform opportunity is one of those demand opportunities (but not the only one), and you can’t put all your eggs in one basket

Holistic yield and true auction

Many savvy publishers have already moved in the direction of pitting programmatic against direct, or even above it. At a recent publisher advisory board, a new common model surfaced: Sponsorship > PMP > Direct Sold > Open Auction

There's lesser value in working with all those demand partners if most of them never have access to your inventory to offer up their bids. The traditional waterfall reinforced the hierarchy of certain programmatic demand over other sources in the waterfall, preventing the ability to know the potential value of every impression. At AOL, we think holistic yield means not only enabling programmatic channels to compete with direct, but to do so openly, without restrictions from the platform’s closed ecosystem (like the black box holistic yield solutions of today).

We offer holistic yield through our platforms (ONE Video and ONE Ad Server) with an open, transparent perspective, enabling holistic direct campaigns to compete programmatically with AOL demand as well as 3P demand. We also encourage and facilitate true auctions outside of the ad server with our header bidding solution -- unified reporting, non-bias, free premium service. This lets every partner that a publisher wants to work with participate in real time, with the enhanced competition obviously driving higher CPMs, in an open, transparent way.

Keep the off-platform opportunity in check

Lastly, there’s no avoiding where many eyeballs are today -- off platform, and at AOL, we source this opportunity for demand. But we understand that this is just one demand channel to access, and that our on-property audience is still the most valuable in terms of audience data and CPMs. We also know that today's monetization decisions aren't responsible just for today's success, but for the success of tomorrow. Working with an open, transparent and trustworthy partner is crucial to that. Investing all eggs in one basket, when that partner is a black box that constantly changes up the game (in their best interest) is a risk publishers can’t afford. Consider Zynga, a game publisher that went all in on Facebook with Farmville. They tied all of their traffic and currency to Facebook, only to have a single algorithm change cause their business model to collapse. Similarly, advertisers who relied on Facebook for their video strategy now have no visibility into how any of their campaigns truly performed.

At AOL, our on-site audience is the source of the powerful data that drives our editorial strategy, helps us make monetization decisions, enables a personalized customer experience and builds brand equity. We build open technology to unlock that audience's value in a transparent way -- both with our platforms, and with other partners we work with.

Learn how to take back control of your most valuable asset with ONE by AOL for Publishers