Private marketplace deals in programmatic media buying

Private marketplace deals, or PMPs for short, are inventory deals that buyers can conclude with sellers through SSPs to guarantee access for the buyers to a certain type of inventory programmatically. A few years ago, PMPs were touted as a way that could replace direct publisher sales and in many cases this has happened; for standard display banner formats, buyers often have deals set up with publishers that allows them to activate on that publisher’s inventory without having to go through the publisher’s sales people, freeing up those sales people to work on more advanced ad executions.

All the buyer and seller have to do is conclude the deal and set it up – sometimes easier said than done. The deal  can then remain available to the buyer as a doorway to that publisher’s inventory. This bring a lot of efficiency to buyers and sellers while maintaining publisher control of who is buying inventory on their properties, something that open auction buys are notoriously bad at.

PMPs in a way are the best of both world in terms of maintaining publisher control of their inventory and giving buyers that programmatic access to quality inventory.

However, with PMPs already a few years old, I thought it would be good to list a few specific use cases where having those PMPs makes sense as a buyer in my experience. Other buyer’s experience might differ.

Secure access to inventory: This to me has always been the original reason for PMPs as a buyer – opening up inventory for buying. There is inventory out there that is not available on the open marketplace and the only way to buy this inventory is through PMPs.

The reasons why that inventory is not available could be anything from the publisher being apprehensive about allowing just any buyer access to their inventory, the publisher finding that opening up access to inventory through open marketplace could eat at his revenue. A PMP in this case can help the publisher maintain control of his inventory while giving the buyer access to that inventory programmatically. Win-win.

Secure access to data: Publishers in some cases have access to data that they can provide coupled with their inventory. This data could be user sign in data, behavioral site data, or another type of proprietary data. Through a PMP, the publisher can open up access to inventory that is coupled with this data.

Access to a better price: PMPs could also be a way for buyers to leverage their preferential rates programmatically. For big agency buyers and big advertisers, the scale of spend that they carry could help them negotiate rates from publishers that are lower than the rates that are available on the open market. A PMP could be a way to put these rates into action.

Access to a specific section of the pub site: similarly to the access to data bit above, using PMPs, publishers can open up access to certain bits of their site to buyers. If a buyer is only interested in appearing on the economy section of a news portal for instance, a publisher might be able to set that up through a PMP. Although some tools can act as a proxy to achieve this effect (such as using contextual targeting in conjunction with site targeting while targeting open market inventory), setting this access up through a publisher will often yield better results.

Access to first look at inventory: First look at inventory is a real difference maker in the competitive world of performance marketing. Companies like Criteo have made a name for themselves for their excellent access to first look inventory, through direct relationship with publishers. How does first look world? Basically, you get to look at an impression as it goes through before the competition, for a premium.

Let’s say someone is on the market for a plane ticket from London to Berlin. He’s been on your site, cheapticketsthataregood.com, but hasn’t converted yet. You know that this user is close to making a booking. You want to reach that user as soon as possible.

Using first look deals, you’re able to check when an impression pops up if that impression belongs to that user. If it is, you have the first option to bid at a premium CPM. For users with high conversion potential, that premium will make sense.

Custom creative formats: Creative is often criticized as the weak part of programmatic. Part of that is down to the standardized formats that are used in programmatic buying to achieve scale. PMPs could be a way to circumvent those standardized formats and make connections that allow buyers and sellers to agree on and transact on custom creatives, such as skins, push-downs and the like.

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