Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

As tech giants spar, publishers and brands demand transparency

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Geoff Wolinetz, SVP of Demand Partnerships, OpenX, explains how the ad tech landscape is evolving. Publishers and brands will select partners not for their legacy DSP or SSP capabilities, but for their ability to deliver on a new set of needs, from identity-based buying to sustainability. Key to all this will be transparency…

In the past few months, The Trade Desk has announced their intention to work directly with publishers, PubMatic acquired a buy-side tech company that is essentially a DSP, and Snowflake has made it public that they plan to become a player in the ad-tech space above and beyond their data capabilities. 

These are all moves that cut across the “LUMAscape” buckets of DSP, SSP and data cloud, riling up competitors, buyers and publishers, alike. Buyers wonder if there are better ways to reach their audience. Publishers wonder if there are better ways to maximize the value of their inventory. And as tech companies consider how to navigate these changes, both buyers and sellers wonder if their DSP or SSP partner will put fewer resources towards their own needs as they focus on their new strategies. 

Regardless of where these companies will fit in the ecosystem in the coming months or years, publishers and brands will select partners not for their legacy DSP or SSP capabilities, but for their ability to deliver on a new set of needs, from identity-based buying to sustainability.

Geoff Wolinetz, SVP of Demand Partnerships, OpenX

To deliver what they need, the market must continue to deliver the best audiences at the best prices, while evolving to deliver against the publishers’ and brands’ new priorities. This new set of requirements is creating a stronger need than ever for transparency in the marketplace. 

Brands and Publishers Need Different Solutions

Don’t forget that Google has essentially operated the biggest DSP and the biggest SSP for years. While they are now coming under antitrust scrutiny, their business model actually makes clear today that while one company can serve both buyers and sellers, one technology can’t. DV360 is an altogether different solution than AdX with completely different product roadmaps, features and functionality. 

Any other company that creates ad technology for both buyers and sellers will need to do the same thing, or similar. Buyers are trying to target audiences on quality content and measure campaign performance across their campaigns. Sellers are trying to sell audiences and inventory, getting the highest price possible for these assets. 

While there might not be many companies that successfully create full-fledged DSP/SSP businesses any time soon, many of us are moving closer to the “other side.” This move started with SPO nearly a decade ago, when buyers demanded more transparency, fewer hops in the ad journey and a closer relationship with publishers and data owners. That type of SPO has essentially played out, and brands now expect transparency, control and some strategic relationship with sell-side partners, be they SSPs or publishers.

What’s starting to emerge now is the next phase, driven in large part by brands again. This time, they are demanding new capabilities from identity-based buying to diverse publisher content to sustainability. Across all of these initiatives, it’s in our collective best interest to give brands what they want. DSPs provide buyers with a unified view of their media buying, help with measurement and billing and help find the best audiences at the best prices. No SSP needs to cut a DSP out in order to provide brands with more accurate first-party targeting. Rather, the SSP should work with the brand the way the brand wants them to, most likely in partnership with their agency and DSP. 

The same goes for publishers. While SSPs have built up technology that helps publishers get the best possible price for their inventory and maximize their fill rates across their media properties, DSPs and agencies will connect directly with publishers for a variety of reasons, from direct media buys to strategic data partnerships.

Denying any of these market realities is just getting in the way of what buyers and sellers want. If we’re here to serve buyers and sellers, then we shouldn’t fight it, we should evolve to make it easier, more successful and more scalable. 

Filling in The Blank Spaces

While DSPs and SSPs stare at each other across the center line, data cloud providers and specialty networks are sweeping in from the sidelines, ready to fill in gaps and take advantage of evolving needs. The current programmatic technology was built for third-party cookies and open action dynamics. The media buying world is shifting to first-party targeting and deal-based buys. 

In this new market, brands will evaluate partners on entirely different capabilities. For data needs, they’ll pick partners based on audience overlaps, match rates, data security and compliance. They’ll spend big with new commerce partners that crack the code on implementing programmatic best practices on their retail media network. They’ll earmark large budgets for sustainable content and diverse audiences and will test new channels and technologies like commerce-enabled CTV, virtual product placement and streaming. 

We’ve railed against the walled gardens for their opaqueness, their unfair data advantage and their crazy scale. Now is a chance to open up the market and work together on behalf of buyers and sellers – as new players gain more leverage and old rules no longer apply. Embracing these changes, rather than fighting them, will ensure that we provide the control, transparency and performance that both brands and publishers demand no matter which side we’re on. 

Geoff Wolinetz
SVP of Demand Partnerships, OpenX

OpenX is a pioneering leader in advertising technology, helping create a world where the open web thrives. The company powers advertising on web, mobile and connected TV formats, enabling marketers to reach their target audience across OpenX’s global network of publishers. OpenX works with more than 130,000 premium publishers and receives more than 300 billion ad requests every day. OpenX has been certified as a CarbonNeutral® company and is on a path to becoming one of the first companies in the world to achieve Net-Zero status. For more information, visit the company’s website at