Semantics Matter: Automated Guaranteed vs. Programmatic Guaranteed

Guaranteed orders have historically been placed directly within ad servers at high priority using tags. Following that, the concept of automated guaranteed orders entered the fray as a method for executing these orders. Neither of these methods appears to be the preferred choice for buyers and sellers, as the recent advent of programmatic guaranteed would suggest. The differences between these order execution paths are subtle on the surface but represent fundamentally different solutions.

The purpose of this wiki post is to provide clarity, from the publisher’s perspective, by distinguishing between these two distinct approaches to transacting programmatically:

  • automated guaranteed which focuses on the automation aspect of programmatic only; and
  • programmatic guaranteed which focuses on the full algorithmic, data and automation aspect of the programmatic offering.

Automated guaranteed

Automated guaranteed is a transaction designed to automate direct sales through a publisher’s ad server API and ad tags. It is a limited transaction type for fulfilling orders programmatically that requires a 100% bid rate from the buying platform, otherwise a highly latent passback/waterfall model will be used. This was a common fulfillment method before more advanced methods like header tag style programmatic guarantees were introduced. The IAB OpenDirect specification worked to standardize APIs around this technology, though it has yet to be as widely adopted in the marketplace compared to newer fulfillment methods.

Programmatic guaranteed

By comparison, programmatic guaranteed is an automated transaction that allows a buyer to see 100% of the audience and to ‘pick and choose’ which impressions to bid on. This occurs alongside existing direct sold campaigns residing within the ad server. Publishers that make guaranteed deals grant buyers full access to see their audience prior to submitting their bid. The technologies used to facilitate these transactions are deal IDs as defined by OpenRTB protocol via header tag or another proprietary first look technology built by the seller. This opens up a whole new host of possibilities, including more advanced forecasting and more selective purchasing of inventory (i.e. restricting to a homepage only target is easily handled by the buyer based on the URL signaled in the request).

A fixed price is negotiated for reserved inventory with the publisher providing a deal ID. In this model, the seller can guarantee a certain minimum win rate on the line item specific to that deal. This is in stark contrast to bidding through the open market where there are no assurances on win rate.

Today’s modern publisher can now offer a holistic view of both direct commitments and programmatic sales opportunity to programmatic buyers. To activate this type of solution via the header, the implementation must support deal IDs outside of price-based mediation layers. Deals can be setup one-to-one between a seller and a specific brand buyer, or in some cases, one-to-many, where a publisher will allow any buyer in a specific platform to participate on a guarantee. The latter can create issues for direct sales teams in terms of reporting and calculating commissions so it is not seen as frequently.

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