There are a number of questions a publisher asks themselves when it comes to the demanding task of display monetisation. Who handles ad stack optimisation and yield management? Where does it all take place? How much is one making in the end? From a financial perspective, the ‘who’ and ‘where’ in monetisation are equally as important as the ‘how much?’. That’s where the term ‘exclusivity’ often comes up, with some saying that it’s exclusivity that’s the answer to many of those questions, while others disagree. So is it - or is it not?
In an industry where there are as many different cases and circumstances as there are publishers, exclusivity has its perks. Perhaps you don’t have the physical time to deal with advertising or prefer to place a greater focus on content generation and user engagement. Perhaps you don’t have the necessary experience, or you lack the manpower. Maintaining an in-house direct sales team is often too big of an effort even for large publishers, who might prefer to fully outsource such deals and work with a single large-scale partner. It’s no different when it comes to in-house ad trafficking and optimisation - you’d need a team with relevant experience in both fields, or two separate teams to handle things well. However, they might not necessarily be able to achieve the performance of an extended ad ops and yield optimisation team, who live, eat and breathe yield maximisation - in the end, it’s not who does the job, but net revenue that counts.
Finding the right fit
Of course, settling on a particular partner for an exclusive agreement is a tricky task - it requires a certain amount of research and information to make an adequate decision. Ideally, you’d have first-hand experience of the performance of various providers and networks up against similar circumstances before selecting the right one. When you’re new in the business though, you may lack such industry insight and end up agreeing to lower margins. And a one-year period is a long time to be bound by terms you’re not happy with.
So when is exclusivity not the answer? Naturally, when you can afford to have a designated team to handle your display advertising in-house, it allows for a more hands-on approach and direct control. Even if you can’t, non-exclusive partnerships can offer more flexibility altogether, and they could secure you access to more varied demand. Using a combination of services, you might eventually find that a certain company delivers strong direct deals for you, while another works better when it comes to first-look remnant inventory, and a third serves well as a back-fill partner. In relatively smaller monetisation companies, economies of scale make way for a more customised approach, which could turn out to better fit a website’s needs than any single provider demanding an exclusive relationship.
The bottom line is, exclusivity is neither a panacea, nor a no-no. It might lead to a lot of missed benefits for some, and it might be the best way to go for others. That’s why it’s important to get educated. It’s a dynamic industry and it’s challenging enough for publishers to juggle between content generation, revenue growth, community management, and many more. Therefore, they need to establish relationships based on mutual trust, with providers who are ahead of the game, regardless of whether they’re opting for exclusivity or not. Needless to say, despite the huge role of technology in online advertising, the added value of human effort should not be overlooked.