TechBytes with Tom Kershaw, Chief Technology Officer, Rubicon Project

Tom Kershaw

Tom Kershaw
Chief Technology Officer, Rubicon Project

Last month, Rubicon Project announced that it has opened up its exchange to DSPs for programmatic buying in guaranteed private marketplaces. Rubicon Project is currently in the process of signing up other major DSPs for guaranteed private marketplace integrations in the near future. To better understand what Rubicon Project’s Programmatic Guaranteed Buying Marketplace offers and how advertisers could benefit from such an arrangement, we spoke to their CTO, Tom Kershaw.

Tell us about your role at Rubicon Project and the team/technology you handle.

As Chief Technology Officer (CTO), I oversee all of our technical operations, including our Product Management team which is ultimately responsible for all aspects of product development, platform strategy and operations, and product design. I also manage Rubicon Project’s engineering capabilities and our network operations functions.

How big is your advertising exchange? How do you deliver more control, clarity, precision and friction-free solutions to your global clients?

Rubicon Project serves more than 1,300 premium publishers and app developers, and more than 900,000 brands, agencies and DSPs. We’re present in 49 countries and reach approximately 1 billion consumers globally across more than 1 million websites and 200,000 apps.

Across all of our products and technology, we maintain a commitment to providing high-quality inventory in a transparent, well-lit marketplace as evidenced by actions we’ve taken in the last six months alone. These included the elimination of our buy-side fees, the move to a first price auction across our exchange, and our ongoing dedication to brand safety and inventory quality.

How do you see the ‘State of Multi-Channel Advertising’ in 2018?

What is perhaps most exciting about where the market is headed in 2018 and beyond is the emerging platforms taking hold – from OTT to Audio to Digital Out-Of-Home. These channels will continue to gain momentum and may even become the mainstream. To streamline this build-out, marketers will need to be able to access premium audiences, across connected devices, in one simple programmatic buy. As the supply chain becomes more integrated and collaborative, the buying and selling of inventory will become more efficient and capable of achieving that.

What does a Programmatic Guaranteed Buying Marketplace offer? How could advertisers benefit from such an arrangement?

Programmatic Guaranteed combines the predictability and premium inventory of traditional guaranteed transactions with the data-driven approach and automation of the programmatic channel. We are super excited about Programmatic Guaranteed because it represents a net influx of new, high-quality inventory into the programmatic channel that our buyers can now access faster, easier and more efficiently than ever before. And for buyers and sellers, it gives them the advantage of predictability and the ability to get volume discounts in exchange for commitments. It really is a win-win for both buyers and sellers.

What are your predictions on ad fraud management and brand safety standards?

I think it’s great that we’re finally seeing universal awareness of these profound issues, and that companies are really acting and not just paying lip service. Rubicon Project has always maintained a strong stance on fraud and brand safety, but it takes the alignment of the whole industry to fully remove the economic incentives for bad actors. Mobile app is where the real challenges are now, and the industry will make some real progress this year through the adoption of an ads.txt spec that supports mobile apps, rollout of the open measurement SDK, and improvements in the ability to detect invalid traffic and, I hope, score brand safety in mobile app environments.

How does your recent collaboration with DSPs help to deliver compliant-centric brand safety?

By compliant-centric, we mean brand safety that you can measure. Too much of the brand safety world is subjective and not-measurable, and as a result, brands are holding back their spend in new, emerging areas such as Native, Mobile App, and new interactive formats. We need to develop universal, objective criteria for determining brand safety and make those scoring systems actionable for our buyers. We expect big progress on this front — especially for mobile apps — in 2018.

At Rubicon Project, how do you verify the authenticity of data? How does it impact your ability to offer higher transparency and performance to advertisers?

It’s really critical that buyers have accurate signals to transact on, since bad signals lead to poor performance at best and fraud at worst. This all contributes to revenue leakage and inefficiency. Our engineering team has been deploying technology to independently collect and validate inventory attributes. This is an area we’re going to continue to prioritize to make sure that both buyers and sellers get the most effective possible matchmaking in the marketplace.

How do you leverage AI/ML and data science at Rubicon Project? Which AI companies are you particularly interested in?

Data science is one of the most critical areas to Rubicon Project’s success going forward, and we continue to invest heavily in both our data science team and the data processing tools that make them successful. There are four key areas of algorithmic development for us — how to run our auctions, how to match audiences between buyers and sellers, how to construct Deals, and how to improve automated methods of protecting our buyers and sellers from fraud, spam and other forms of bad traffic.

How do you prepare for the post-GDPR era?

We will continue to monitor regulatory guidance issued from Europe to ensure ongoing compliance. We also have a cross-functional team responsible for maintaining the privacy safeguards, policies and procedures we implemented as a result of the regulation.

What is the one message you would give to all advertising brands preparing for the oncoming disruptions in adtech industry?

No matter how many disruptions lie ahead, quality and transparency will never be out of style. My advice to all players in the industry would be to ensure they’re serving their clients in as clean and efficient manner as possible.

Thanks for chatting with us, Tom.
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