Why Heineken is doing more ad buying in private marketplaces

Heineken wants its ad tech partners to share more than just their take rates.

The advertiser wants more information on how exchanges handle auctions so that it can only bid in the ones it’s most likely to win, a process commonly known as supply-path optimization. Heineken is already making these decisions to a degree through the demand-side platform it buys its programmatic ads, but the intel the ad tech uses to those customize bids is limited. There’s more of that information sitting within the supply-side platforms that sell programmatic ads to Heineken because they manage the auctions.

Accessing those insights would allow the advertiser to consolidate programmatic spend into those ad tech vendors that add value, which is an ongoing concern for the advertiser given how frequently ad tech fees are used to differentiate those businesses. “If you just focus on costs and fees in programmatic, then it will take you to some bad places, whether that’s on viewability, fraud or inappropriate content,” said Heineken’s global media lead, Ron Amram.

That intel could prove invaluable to Heineken over the next 12 months as it buys more programmatic ads from pricey private marketplaces. The security that comes from knowing the inventory has been curated is offset by the cost needed to buy it. As much as the advertiser will continue to buy ads from the open marketplace, the lack of transparency on those purchases has pushed its bids further into private marketplace deals.

“There’s a big focus on working out how we curate our supply this year, and that includes looking at how we build more private marketplace deals as well as understanding how to lock in more of the inventory we prefer,” said Amram.

But Heineken wouldn’t have to spend as much in private marketplaces if it used the intel mined from SSPs to find the same impressions in the open marketplace at cheaper prices.

“There needs to be more data to the conversation when it comes to how we curate our inventory,” said Amram. “We need better integration of data between the DSP and the SSPs we buy from in order to see more clearly the inventory and how it performs.”

One way to get closer to SSPs, according to Amram, could be for the advertiser to negotiate preferred treatment with them in open auctions just as advertisers have done in private marketplaces for several years.

He pointed to the Goodway Group’s deal with Pubmatic as something the business could explore in the future in order to stand a better chance of winning auctions for inventory in the open marketplace. Not only does the Goodway Group’s deal mean that all media purchased through Pubmatic has one, agency negotiated feed across all publishers, that fee decreases the more ads are bought. It effectively encourages the consolidation of spend into a single SSP by rewarding advertisers that buy more.

The model is worth exploring, said Amram, in spite of his reservations over whether those sorts of deals put the advertiser’s interests first when brokered by agencies. If an agency is already giving an SSP preferential treatment in exchange for special pricing, it pricks suspicions as to whether there are other undisclosed incentives being used to secure commitment.

“Agencies have struck similar deals in the past, and sometimes it’s worked and been in our best interests and other times it hasn’t,” said Amram. “Before we do anything, we need to understand more of the detail behind the deal. I do think that bringing vendors together for the benefit of clients is in the best interests of agencies. I hope that it’s a good thing, but you never know.


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