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Forbes Media Invests in Premium and Real-Time Buying



Mark Howard
Senior Vice President of Digital Advertising
Forbes Media

Mark Howard, senior vice president of digital advertising strategy at Forbes Media, oversees all advertising products, including the company’s ad exchange. Howard spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher about how Forbes is benefiting from offering media buyers exchange-based display advertising and where real-time bidding (RTB) is headed.

eMarketer: The attention and demand devoted to RTB has been increasing steadily over the last 18 to 24 months. What affect has this had on Forbes Media?

Mark Howard: The industry has seen such a monumental shift toward programmatic buying, so for us, it’s been a huge year in terms of investment and resources, really dedicating people here to both the technology and sales efforts of our private ad exchange.

“We’ve had more of an abundance mentality where we’ve said no black lists, no white lists and no pricing floors.”

There’s money that’s being spent through programmatic channels that is happening with or without the direct sales efforts. So rather than try and fight something that’s happening anyway, we wanted to run toward it and invest those resources so we could make ourselves more available to those who want to do business this way.

While a lot of publishers are either using the exclusive, private marketplace model or opening up all of their inventory to the buying marketplace but with limitations, we’ve had more of an abundance mentality where we’ve said no black lists, no white lists and no pricing floors. This encourages everyone to come and bid for our inventory.

eMarketer: Most premium publishers are taking the approach of building private ad exchanges where they can tightly control who bids on their impressions and for how much. That ensures their inventory is sold at a price that meets their margins. What affect has loosening these controls and inviting everyone to bid had for you?

Howard: We find that the more competition we see for each bid, the higher the rates people are willing to pay for that inventory. As a result, we see higher yield in terms of not just the cost per impression but the overall revenue generated. This has been really useful in helping us understand the true value of our display inventory as a result of that increased competition.

It gives us a daily feedback mechanism that shows us where the volume of activity is taking place, in what industries, for which companies and for which campaign objectives.

“RTB is moving further up the funnel, but it’s still early days.”

eMarketer: What are some of the objectives and goals media buyers are looking to accomplish?

Howard: Our direct sales channel typically deals with agency planning and buying teams on bigger-ticket items such as sponsorships, mobile and video. Then we’ve got the indirect channels, which are flowing through these exchanges, and we see two distinct dynamics with those.

A large part of the indirect channel is still very focused on direct response. But one of the new phenomena we’re seeing is the agency trading desks now starting to look at doing private, direct deals on the exchanges where they can start to blend in some of the more premium ad placements with those buys. It’s evidence that RTB is moving further up the funnel, but it’s still early days.

eMarketer: Where do you see programmatic buying headed in the next year or so?

Howard: There’s no doubt that more dollars are going to continue to shift to RTB as these technologies get more sophisticated. I think we’ve gone through that first huge wave, and now we’re going to need a second wave to come in behind it.

I think that second wave will mostly be metrics-driven. We’ll see an emergence of metrics that brand marketers will need to measure the branding impact of this channel.

“I think we’ve gone through that first huge wave, and now we’re going to need a second wave to come in behind it.”

Over the next few years, I think a lot of the technologies that exist today only in the programmatic marketplace will start to penetrate the direct-buy process. You’ll see a lot of those efficiencies from a buying, execution and optimization standpoint start to affect what you can do on the direct side, but I don’t see programmatic buying replacing direct buys any time soon.

A lot of marketers, especially the brand marketers, will continue to look for opportunities for key sponsorships, high impact placements and more sophisticated content marketing strategies—all of which are so far removed from what you can currently do with programmatic buying. So, I don’t see RTB replacing the direct buy, only enhancing it.


A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer corporate subscribers only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a corporate subscriber, click here.


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