Centro Launches Programmatic DSP to Put Mobile and Desktop Inventory in One Place

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Cuddling with multiple devices

The mobile ad tech sector has grown up largely independent from its desktop counterpart, but the two sides may soon come together. At least, Centro thinks so. The veteran media management firm has rolled out a new demand-side platform that brings together its core media management platform with SiteScout, the mobile DSP that the company acquired in 2013.

The company says the new product, Centro DSP, will help the firm bring SiteScout’s programmatic capabilities, which it typically sold as a self-service product to smaller businesses, to regional and smaller national brands who may struggle to capture the attention of the larger mobile ad tech players.

“One of the major problems [in programmatic advertising] is that there are two types of DSPs: those building for Fortune 500 brands, and the ones who are focused on the small business,” says Katie Risch, SVP of publisher development at Centro. Unless you have a budget who can compete with the big ones, it’s hard to get access to the training, education and handholding that many mid-sized advertisers want.”

But the move also suggests a bigger bet on the state of the the mobile advertising ecosystem. To an extent, the decision to fuse its mobile and desktop properties is based on the belief that the value of having a single platform for both desktop and mobile inventory now overshadows the benefit of focusing on innovating in mobile advertising alone.

“The last thing that marketers, particular mid-sized ones, want is a new channel with duplication of targeting and attribution.,” says Ratko Vidakovic, VP of programmatic at Centro. “It needs to be one journey where they can track customers across devices The first wave of mobile solutions didn’t really focus on the cross-channel journey, and that’s starting to change.”

We caught up with both Vidakovic and Risch recently to talk about the state of programmatic and location, what cross-device targeting means from mobile and their early thoughts on Verizon’s acquisition of AOL.

What impact has programmatic advertising had on the local media industry, and then how will that change in the next 12 months?
Risch: When we look at local publishers, the introduction of programmatic has obviously deeply impacted the way they think about selling their media. What we find is that one of publisher’s biggest struggles is that they have a lack of representation across the programmatic buying community when they put it in an exchange environment. Let’s say you’re a smaller publisher and you put your inventory on an exchange, it doesn’t mean that the buyers are going to come.

Publishers are starting to think about getting representation for their inventory for their programmatic space, and so a lot of them are thinking about consortium and private marketplace opportunities and other ways they can aggregate their inventory with others and get more visibility across the buy-side. It’s driving more collaboration in the industry than you’ve seen in the past, simply out of necessity. They need to find a way to get on the radar screens of programmatic buyers, and being on a private marketplace isn’t enough.

How will the opening of this dam between mobile and desktop inventory impact the data used to influence purchasing of media on both platforms?
Vidakovic: What it all comes down to is the customer journey. If you have information about where the person has visited — say, you know they have been to a hardware store — you can infer certain things about their behavior. Those mobile data points often paint a clearer picture about a consumer than the desktop alternatives. And, if you tie it back to first-party and CRM data, you can begin to create this very holistic understanding of a consumer’s entirely life-cycle of interacting with a brand.

Would you say that mobile location data can offer a clearer picture of consumer intent than cookie-based audience data on desktop?
Vidakovic: It’s important to realize that location data from mobile devices is often much more reliable than the cookie data from a browser. Our phones are a lot more personal than our computers since they are not shared. It gets a little muddy on desktop whereas on mobile device you can deal with a lot more certainty.

What impact do you see Verizon’s acquisition of AOL impacting the mobile advertising community, particularly among those working in the location space?
Risch: I think that there’s a lot of location data that Verizon brings to the table. That’s going to be the value add to really supercharge what AOL is doing. Overall, I think it’s a very positive sign for programmatic buying in general.

We’re starting to see these dynamics where advertisers, agencies and brands want to work more closely with their technology platform, but they are increasingly looking for platforms that let them buy across all media. Mergers and acquisitions like this are good signs for the industry.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.