Q&A: Why self-service tools are becoming central to buyer-seller relationships

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Over the past 12 months, the ad industry has seen unprecedented change brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

One change that has been particularly interesting to observe is the staggering increase in time spent consuming digital content across all screens. In fact, according to Forbes, global online content consumption doubled in 2020. This sharp rise in digital content consumption has resulted in significant opportunities for publishers, turning the trend of declining advertising revenue on its head and putting them back in the driver’s seat.

This change has also resulted in the rise of self-service supply-side platforms, which allow publishers to take total ownership of their ad inventory. 

To better understand the ways publishers are working with self-service platforms, and the role of these tools now and in the future, Kenneth Suh, Chief Strategy Officer at Unruly, recently discussed this trend with Bill Condon, XUMO’s senior vice president of advertising partnerships. 

Kenneth Suh: How do self-service platforms and tools fit into your day-to-day business, and how has this changed over the past year? 

Bill Condon: Self-service platforms have provided a great opportunity for XUMO to better monitor deals and ensure everything is functioning properly. Over the past year, the capability of these platforms has continued to expand, making deal set up, troubleshooting, monitoring and reporting much easier to access and report on. This has allowed us to more transparently communicate with our advertising partners and adjust goals to guarantee alignment. 

Suh: We’ve been hearing from a lot of customers that the ease of setting up deals is a huge selling point for them. Is this a selling point for you? What other features of these platforms are most relevant to your business? 

Condon: That’s certainly true. Having the ability to monitor and troubleshoot specific deal opportunities is also a huge selling point for us. Being able to pinpoint issues and work with clients to provide insights that improve performance is incredibly helpful. Ultimately, that increases our ability to scale our business. Self-service platforms make it easier to connect with both small and large partners because we can bypass any integration lifts and essentially eliminate onboarding time. 

Suh: Are there any UI features or capabilities specific to CTV PMPs you look for in a self-service platform? 

Condon: Yes, these include cross-screen measurement and TV data availability, to name a few. These insights allow us to be significantly more effective. 

Suh: How useful to you are platform integrations with universal ID partner solutions, and how important are factors such as DMPs powering first-party data deals and the ability to layer-on this kind of data when setting up PMPs in a self-service platform? 

Condon: This is incredibly useful. It improves efficiency by sending clients the specific inventory they are seeking and allows us to better understand the scale of the specific audience they are looking for. 

Suh: We’ve been working on PMPs for the past decade, helping our publishers scale them in our platform. How important is the human factor from an SSP partner, considering increased availability of self-service offerings? 

Condon: As automation continues to make transactions easier and improve the tools we can access, the human factor is still very important. Understanding how the self-service offerings work, how to best use tools, sell ideas and products through the clients is what ultimately pushes individual opportunities and the industry as a whole forward. All of this requires human connection. 

Suh: Finally, where do you think the role of self-service tools is headed and what would you like to see from them in the future?  

Condon: Self-service tools have the potential to become an integral piece in the buyer-seller relationship. This depends on the types of integrations the tools offer, how much of that development work has already been completed, and, in turn, how much of the tool is simply plug-and-play. In addition to the integrations, reporting and transparency will be critical to expand and get right. If buyers can simply log in to their dashboard, see the audiences they’ve targeted and confirm delivery without needing to request a report from the seller, that will alleviate several roadblocks currently plaguing the CTV space.


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