Can Private Marketplaces Get Publishers To Adopt Geotargeting More Widely?

Publishers are wary of using geo-data to target ads for fear of giving up precious first party data and alienating their audience. Native ad specialist Blis hopes to change doubters' minds.

While online ad sales teams at major publishers have given up their collective resistance to programmatic methods and the operations of real-time ad exchanges, the adoption of geo-data to serve those RTB ads to their audience has been a bit more challenging.

UK-based location-centric native ad platform Blis believes its rollout of a private marketplace will help generate more comfort for large publishers who worry about either depressing or relinquishing control of their crucial first-party audience data by providing greater transparency.

Location And Viewability

Blis, which recently raised $25 million, calls its private marketplace Blis Prime. The name is meant to signify “high quality inventory” and “brand-safe environment” (i.e., no cheap ads for gambling sites or dubious medical claims marketing).

The company has signed up blue chip publishers The New York Times, Forbes, and Condé Nast as launch partners, Adweek reported. The news was released at the Cannes Lions Awards event in France on Tuesday.

“Blis Prime combines the huge insight of location data with the quality and pricing benefits of private market deals” said Greg Isbister, CEO of Blis, in a statement. “This unlocks tremendous value for our clients.”

In addition to helping publishers and their ad clients reach the right audience in the right place, Blis is also promising to tackle the issue of viewability. The inability of some publishers to determine if an actual consumer was likely to have seen an ad placement or not has caused marketers a lot of uncertainty. And the unreliability as to whether an ad was viewed or not has led brands to hold back their online spending.

So Blis is working with analytics company Moat to provide ad viewability and engagement within Prime.

“As consumers increasingly move towards mobile first, location data is a powerful asset for marketers seeking the right time to reach their audiences. We are excited to work with Blis to provide even more insight into how those audiences pay attention to ads online,” said Jonah Goodhart, CEO and co-founder of Moat.

What Are Private Marketplaces?

The role of private marketplaces has grown along with the the use of location-based advertising.

Generally speaking, a private marketplace puts more control in publishers’ hands by providing clear controls to more easily select what kinds of buyers can view and bid on their inventory. The idea of a private marketplace that is tied to location-based advertising further narrows the field for publishers, who, in theory at least, will have better reasons to offer higher quality ad placements that have a geo-related aspect to them.

The advent of private marketplaces began with the likes of Rubicon, PubMatic, and the company formerly known as AdMeld (it was acquired by Google in 2011 and is now a key component in DoubleClick for Publishers).

These entities served the “supply-side” — i.e., publishers — who felt that the agencies on the buy side had all the advantages and tools in exchange-based environments — particularly demand-side platforms, which serve as on-ramps to programmatic platforms. Publishers who put their ad space up for bid felt vulnerable to buyers who would simply drive the price down.

The shorthand: Advertisers increasingly want to be able to narrowly select certain audience types as opposed to simply picking a random ad placement within an entire website or app.

If publishers are able to offer direct access to the specific consumers a marketer wants in real-time based on location, those sellers are potentially in a position to charge more — as long as they can prove the quality and accuracy associated with the people being served those ads.

As such, Blis joins other location platforms such as geo-data specialist Factual, location-marketplace xAd, and mobile ad platform Verve in offering a product designed to get publishers to sell higher-value placements within automated exchanges. And in turn, marketers will be more able to narrowly target those mobile ads to consumers based on the places they go and are in a given moment.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.