The Index Exchange global team gathers at least twice a year to participate in an all-hands summit. This is a somewhat new tradition, our fourth was just last week, but it’s a tradition we’re eager to carry on for a bevy of reasons.
It’s a chance for us to examine and understand all angles of the business, and laugh and get to know each other better (in real life), opportunities which pay massive dividends as we return to our regular day jobs. Plus, the catering at the Ace Hotel New York is ridiculously good and we hosted a really fun summer kick-off party in a beautiful outdoor space.
As an in-house researcher that studies what Index is doing, how well we’re doing it, and what’s happening organizationally to bring our product and services to life , I approach these summits analytically. I want to make sure the proclamations about our future, our values, and exciting new developments make sense and that there are proof points to support statements that without evidence, would just be Kool-Aid.
I came away from the summit full of inspiration and excitement about the current and future state of programmatic. There was a ton of content, which ranged from internal teams presentations and panels to interviews with publishers and buyers.The underlying themes of the content were what I found most inspirational: each session directly or indirectly proved Index’s commitment to transparency, collaboration, and mutual benefit in the media ecosystem, themes I believe are critical to the continued improvement of the programmatic market.
Below is the proof.
The Growth and Importance of Header Tag
Naturally, a ton of talk at the summit focused on header tag, how it’s grown, what its future holds, and why publisher adoption of this means of selling has been so steep.
In February 2015, header tag-based spend overtook waterfall spend within Index Exchange, which means we see more revenue from publishers selling in the header. The amount we see is growing significantly too: open market header spend was 225% higher in May 2016 than in January and private marketplace header spend in May topped January’s figures by 228%.
Header-based selling is a more transparent means of selling, which is a major reason we’re so in this game. All available inventory can be surfaced to programmatic demand in real time with granular information about the impression, the page, and the spot. This gives the buyer full vision of inventory and helps the publisher understand just how the programmatic market values inventory that, in the past, wouldn’t be sold there.
The caliber of the publishers selling through the header is another reason I’m excited for the future of this approach. These publishers are high-end, well-lit environments, and they’ve been historically shy about embracing programmatic. As direct dollars move into the header, the programmatic markets for our premium publishers’ inventory will continue to mature.
Header also necessitates constant collaboration between a publisher, buyer, and the exchange. Our engineers have a direct line to publisher engineers, and our analyst team is constantly working with publisher ad ops heroes to improve the liquidity of their header tag inventory. The Index Exchange demand team, which represents the buy side, connects their clients to publishers to set up unique deals through the header. The advertising exchange has become a real exchange of so much more than impressions.
Making New Friends
We spent a bit of time talking through our latest partnerships with would-be competitors. The partnerships exist to eliminate friction in the marketplace and help surface choice to publishers. Many relationships came up, but two in focus were those with AppNexus and Google.
In May we announced Index Exchange and AppNexus would mutually support each other’s wrapper solutions. Publishers can easily integrate to AppNexus through Index’s wrapper and vice versa. The announcement “represents a stark contrast to the typical ad tech industry norm: whereas proprietary solutions typically reign supreme and generally lead to slow adoption, confusion, and impeded innovation, the partnership brings two competitive solutions together with the intention of advancing programmatic and providing publishers with a turnkey option to allow different sources of liquidity to compete in parallel.”
Additionally, Index is involved in an unprecedented pilot program with Google, which you can read about here.
The Full Marketplace Perspective
The all-hands content was one of the more robust presentations on the whole ecosystem of programmatic today that I’ve seen in a while. All key participants were represented (buy-side, sell-side, ad ops, engineering) and the diversity of perspectives helped paint a picture of what’s really going on out there. Drew Bradstock’s, Index Exchange’s SVP of Product, presentation on the Index Exchange platform and upcoming product developments so aptly responded to the current state of programmatic.
One of my favorite sessions was from our in-house header tag maven, Jourdain Casale, who talked about the burgeoning header tag video market. “The header tag video opportunity exists and opens up sheer volumes of inventory that once would be sold out,” he said, “platforms want you to think video is complicated, but it’s not that complicated.” As the barrier to buy good, quality, pre-roll inventory lowers, publishers and buyers will rejoice in mutual benefit.
We’ve Built a Digital Tool, But We Need to Use Them Too
We weren’t focused on programmatic and the exchange the whole time. We regularly found ourselves exploring new ways to strengthen cross-border and cross-team communication. Slack, everyone’s favorite collaboration and messaging tool, was a star in many conversations. We believe in transparent interactions with one another and we want everyone to understand what each disparate team (no matter how globally dispersed) is responsible for and working towards. If it’s clear to us, it’s clear to the programmatic market which we serve.