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The Guardian Sues SSP Rubicon Project Over Programmatic Fee Dispute

The Guardian has opened a lawsuit against Rubicon Project following a dispute over the SSP's alleged non-disclosure of fees skimmed from ad spend on the site's inventory.

Ad tech company Rubicon Project is facing a lawsuit by the Guardian newspaper, for alleged non-disclosure of fees when purchasing the site’s inventory on behalf of advertisers. 

A spokesperson for the Guardian said in a statement; “We can confirm that we have commenced proceedings against Rubicon Project for the recovery of non-disclosed buyer fees in relation of Guardian inventory.”

While details of the Guardian’s lawsuit remain sketchy, Business Insider predicts the news publisher will be seeking remuneration of “only a number in the single digit millions”, following a feud that can be traced back several years. 

According to a report by Digiday, the Guardian has clearly marked its stand on automated ad vendors since discovering that it received less than a third of every pound spent on its inventory programmatically, with the rest going to data merchants. 

Since then, the Guardian has been seeking new terms with vendors and SSPs (supply-side platforms) in what it sees to be an off-kilter relationship between these companies and media publishers. Digiday reports this latest action comes with 80% of the publisher’s inventory being sold via programmatic in the last three months. 

Rubicon hits back

Rubicon has defended itself releasing an open statement, in which it claims to have disclosed all fees clearly and publicly, “including in our SEC filings, and in client contracts, including a contract we signed with Guardian over a year ago”.

The group further argues that its marketplace fees on transactions support the “considerable and compounding costs of performing an open auction”, which it says includes brand protection - another issue currently positioning programmatic in a dim light among advertisers -  inventory quality screening and malware protection. 

“As we add new buyers and sellers onto the platform, the resulting impact is compounding infrastructure costs. Without buyer fees, we would need to charge sellers more, and we think our approach is fair,” the statement adds. 

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Mark  Jones

Mark Jones

Mark manages all aspects of editorial on PerformanceIN as the company's Head of Content, including reporting on the fast-paced world of digital marketing and curating the site’s network of expert industry contributions.

Going by the ethos that there is no 'jack-of-all-trades' in performance marketing, only experts within their field, Mark’s day-to-day aim is to provide an engaging platform for members to learn and question one another, helping to push the industry forward as a result.

Originally from Plymouth, Mark studied in Reading and London, eventually earning his Master's in Digital Journalism- before making his return to the West Country to join the PI team in Bristol.

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