MarTech Interview with Yaroslav Kholod, Director of Programmatic Operations, Admixer

Admixer’s Director of Programmatic on tech, transparency and IDs and what Ukraine can teach the west about the digital ad supply chain

Admixer offers an ecosystem of interconnected products for the buy and sell side; can you tell us a little about the context it is operating in today and the challenges you’ve set out to solve?

There is such a thing as a new breed of ad tech company, born at a time when rampant fraud and an inherent lack of transparency were clearly damaging the viability of programmatic advertising. Looking at the mess with a clean slate, we resolved to do our bit to illuminate and untangle.

After all, deltas, it turns out, are rarely good news. In May 2020, around a year before the naming of the Delta variant that is now giving us all such trouble, another delta made gloomy headlines of a different kind: This ‘unknown delta’, in the words of ISBA, was the 15% of UK digital advertising spend – around one-third of supply chain costs – that could not be attributed to any known player in the supply chain.

The ISBA Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study gave a value to the murkiness of one country’s advertising supply chain – some say a highly restrained one – but in truth, no-one in the digital advertising business can have been surprised that programmatic’s numbers didn’t add up.

What are the key challenges the industry is facing, in your view?

Ever since real-time bidding gave birth to today’s global network of ad exchanges and SSPs, fraud, misrepresented inventory and opaque supply chains have plagued the digital ad business. Most SSPs, content to simply re-sell poor quality traffic, have done little to stop it.

When we set up our SSP in 2016, a few years before the UK found its unknown delta, it was clear to us as a local Ukrainian advertising network that the world did not need another platform that simply took its cut and added to the murk of the programmatic supply chain.

Like the programmatic advertising market, Ukraine is perhaps not known for spotless business practices. Last year, Transparency International ranked the country as the second most corrupt in Europe, ahead of only Russia. All the more reason, then, to do all we could to inject genuine credibility into the digital advertising business of Ukraine and the wider region.

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As one of its founding employees, can you tell us about Admixer’s mission?

We aspired to watch over the open web in Eastern Europe, enriching and purifying traffic in an effort to make regional digital publishers competitive on the international stage.

Fraud detection and prevention was an early priority, and we deployed forensic post-bid validation. We scanned every impression and tracked differences between internal and validator analytics, and implemented pre-bid blocklists to weed out compromised parties, from apps to vendors to platforms. We also introduced internal anti-fraud practices, developing machine learning modules to spot outliers and discrepancies on the user level and cut out malicious patterns.

But fraud is not the only challenge in hooking a region into the global programmatic marketplace. Many publishers and media owners in the region do not have a robust first-party strategy, and frequently their bid requests arrive without all the necessary parameters. So we partnered with vendors who could add device data and geo-location data to incomplete requests.

And we worked with various local data providers to better segment traffic and offer ad slots with additional data points. In this way, we were able to offer premium audience segments to global advertisers.

How have you worked with other players and industry bodies to help with this overall mission?

The key, we have always recognised, is to continually move forward. When the IAB Tech Lab introduced the ads.txt and sellers.json categorisations as a solution to misrepresented inventory on the publishers side, we promptly implemented both, enabling buyers to check the source of inventory, permitted vendors, direct publishers and traffic resellers.

We are also vocal supporters of the RTB 3.0 – a more advanced programmatic protocol to filter out supply fraud – and have developed our own advertising ID solution, Admixer ID – allowing web advertisers to track users across browsers, platforms and devices without third-party cookies.

Where does Admixer operate today?

Now we operate in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Georgia, as well as the UK and Germany, working with more than 200 supply and demand partners, reaching 2.5 bn impressions across 40,000 publishers worldwide. We recently launched a white-label stack of ad-management SaaS platforms which enable any company to launch its own ad exchange.

What is the role of a modern ad network, in your view?

The world only becomes more complex, but it has also become more aware of what it needs to do to break out of the cycles of the past. We think the role of a modern ad network is to work fast and constantly evolve to meet the new challenges of the marketplace; to act as a consultant to publishers on revenue, inventory and tech challenges. When such a network emerges out of Ukraine to assume a position of international trust and renown, you know we have worked harder than most to get there!

Admixer is an independent adtech company that provides full-stack programmatic solutions for all market players. Since its creation in 2008, the company has been developing an ecosystem of interconnected products to meet the needs of both buy- and sell-side, one that is ever evolving to adapt to the constantly changing digital landscape.

A global business, Admixer fulfils a multi-faceted role for clients, acting as revenue consultants, advising on how to increase their digital traffic, applying their expertise to the effectiveness of publisher ad inventory and sharing insights into the latest technology that could positively impact their revenue stream.

As specialists in everything from online advertising, ad exchange and real-time bidding to both sell- and buy-side platforms and yield optimisation, Admixer works with more than 100 supply and demand partners, with over 3,000 clients, reaching 20bn impressions across 40,000 publishers worldwide.

With over ten years of experience in online advertising, Yaroslav has been an instrumental member of the Admixer team since its very beginnings. He spent five years building the business’s publisher-side operations before shifting his focus to the programmatic ecosystem in 2016. He is responsible for the growth of Admixer’s demand and supply-side offering, ad-serving solutions, and developing comprehensive user-friendly services for customers across the industry.