An expanding group of Canadian media companies are teaming up to sell their online ads through automated bidding – with the selling point that, unlike some ads purchased on other digital ad exchanges, more real human beings will actually see those ads.
Canadian Premium Audience Exchange (CPAX) on Thursday is announcing four additions to its ranks: Postmedia Network Canada Corp., which publishes the National Post and other newspapers across the country; Yellow Pages Ltd.; Halifax newspaper the Chronicle Herald; and DHX Television, which owns the specialty networks Family Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD and sells ads on its channels' websites. They join existing members of CPAX, which include the CBC, Rogers Media Inc., Shaw Communications Inc., Quebecor Media Inc. and others.
The group is a response to the rise in real-time, "programmatic" bidding, a system of buying and selling digital ads on virtual trading desks. In recent years, marketers have been moving more of their ad budgets into this type of bidding, because it is more efficient and can remove the need to pay agencies to pick up the phone and negotiate rates for ads. It also allows for real-time monitoring of people's movements around the Web, allowing advertisers to target people with specific target characteristics, in real time.
Programmatic buying has pushed prices down, but it has also created an environment where there are more intermediaries handling ad buys, and advertisers don't always know where their ads are ending up. Fraudsters have been able to capture marketing dollars by creating cheap websites and using bots to fake high traffic.
CPAX offers up ad space from its members' websites, and limits the number of agencies and buy-side trading platforms that can access the members' inventory.
"It makes it easier to trace the money, which is what we're all trying to do," said Andrew Casale, president and CEO of Index Exchange, which powers the sales platform for CPAX.
The group charges a premium for its ads, compared with some rates on open exchanges. It is also hoping to measure viewability – another major concern of online advertising, when an ad is placed on a legitimate site but for a variety of factors (placement on the page, for example) is paid for but not seen. If it can measure how much more often its ads are seen by humans, CPAX is hoping it could charge a reasonable sum in an online ad market otherwise steeped in downward pricing pressure.
(The Globe and Mail is not currently a member of CPAX, and operates its own private programmatic marketplace.)
It's hard to know just how much online advertising in Canada is purchased through these types of automated trades. But it has been growing, and while major marketers value the method for efficiency, many have also voiced concerns about how reliable it is. Toronto-Dominion Bank, for example, has been wary of spending through open online ad exchanges, and has demanded that publishers account for viewability and fraud prevention before it will buy ads from them.
"Prior to open exchanges, fraud was not the concern it is today," Alison Steeves, senior manager of corporate and public affairs at TD, said in an e-mail.
Editor's note: A prior version of this story said Andrew Casale was vice-president of strategy at Casale Media. In fact, the company is now known as Index Exchange, and Mr. Casale is its president and CEO. The story has been corrected.