Open Exchange Is Going Away?




February 23, 2023


Hi there,

Announcement Of The week:

March is right around a corner and marks the last month in Q1!  We are doing a bootcamp series focusing on Programmatic Ninja well-being which includes weekly podcast topics and 4 masterclasses.
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Here’s what we are planning for mid-March/Early April 2023:

A series of hourly masterclasses, Time and date will be confirmed, looking at the following:

  1. Optimization Best Practices: Targeting Levers 
  2. How To Optimize Site Lists/ Practicing SPO on the Buy-side
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Noteworthy News of the Week:

The open programmatic market is in a tough spot by Seb Joseph in Digiday and here are my takeaways from a programmatic trader perspective:

  • The open market of programmatic inventory is in a shaky spot, with publishers running concurrent auctions for the same impression at the same time as ad tech vendors are trying to reduce the number of auctions they have to bid on. (More on this below)
  • The longer this impasse continues, the worse off the open market is because the lowest quality supply occupies a growing share of programmatic inventory due to auction duplication. And yet publishers are still scrambling for fixes.
  • The majority of buyers (and advertisers) mostly buy open auctions. Still, agencies are trying to build their own supply pipelines of curated inventory on the back of one-to-many deals with publishers (Private deals). Eventually, these curated marketplaces could become the agency’s equivalent of the open auction.
  • For now, ad dollars continue to pour into the open programmatic market. However, the quality of the open auction continues to degrade, and checks and balances are in place to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I want to highlight three critical notes in this article that can help any trader become more efficient by understanding the gravity of what is shared in this article: auction duplication, curated supply pipeline, and the importance of optimization.  


First thing first, What do we call the Open market? 

An open ad exchange or auction is a public digital marketplace for ad inventory. There is usually a lot of ad inventory available with this kind of ad exchange… Like a wholattta of inventory. 

The industry also refers to the open programmatic market as open exchange, open marketplace, open auction, etc.

The open marketplace is how it all started because it allowed advertisers to access ad space from publishers via supply bridges (#SSPs).

Why is the open market in a shaky spot?  

The simple answer is a lack of performance and transparency. 

It has been a growing concern from the industry that quality from the open marketplace has dropped significantly… (I mean, if you’re not sure, go ahead and pull a site list performance report and see what kind of sites you’re serving on… 😮‍💨)

Let me also clarify that the lack of performance is due to the low quality of the sites we access through the open exchange. Some of these sites could be better presented; content could be clearer (compared to targeting), making you question who would read this and why I was bidding on it. 

This is also where the conversation of brand safety and brand suitability arises and another critical reason why we must optimize supply inventory often (more on this below). 

If you want to build your own supply pipeline efficiently, consider joining us next month during our private masterclasses. We will cover optimization best practices such as what was covered here. Join our waitlist and be the first to know and enjoy early birds specials.

Let me show you what auction duplication can look like:

When Seb Joseph speaks “about publishers running concurrent auctions for the same impression at the same time,” as a trader, I cannot sigh heavily enough because of the amount of duplication I see in my campaign reports. This is what it looks like: 

This example shows how sites can be available via multiple SSPs: 

*** Please note that this example was randomly pulled from 2020 performance report. I do not support or condemn any partners/sites in this example! It is just an example!!

Why would auction duplication be a challenge? 

The simple answer is duplication can lead to bidding against yourself, can be associated with being less cost-efficient, doesn’t always lead to higher performance, and is not the best thing for our planet (see Scope 3 and Good-Loop article).

Why is lack of transparency a challenge? 

Not all reporting is created equal, and not all DSPs offer a granular report with Sites, SSPs, and Sellers included. Clearly seeing these three dimensions in addition to campaign metrics is how we can assess, understand, and then create our own supply pipeline. 


In the example, we have a visual of the site, the seller, and the supplier:

On the other hand, not all traders pivot additional dimensions, such as SSPs or Sellers, when optimizing site inventory to understand this process further. We focus on which site lists could perform better and exclude them, a long and tedious process. 

Understanding which SSPs and Sellers are referring to the underperforming site inventory can help build your own inventory pipeline, like your own “OpenPath”.

The open exchange made it efficient and effective to access all the inventory programmatically, and it is still a solid tactic to add to your strategy. Still, you must regularly analyze this open inventory with a fine toothcomb.  

Don’t give up on the Open Exchange!

You can still include Open exchanges and SSPs inventories in your adgroups. Still, I recommend optimizing site inventory and pivoting in additional dimensions, such as SSPs and sellers, to understand top and lower-performing partners. The next step after this would be to build your own pipeline by working with performing SSPs and Sellers only and reaching out to the underperforming ones to understand and assess where the missed opportunity happened.  

In summary, don’t give up on the open exchange, as it has so much potential for your campaign and can lead to higher performance. To maximize this ocean of inventory access, you must optimize the inventory on the regular, beyond adding pre-bid filters to help niche down your targeting. 

  1. Make sure you optimize site inventory at least once a week. 
  2. Pivot additional dimensions such as sellers, SSPs, creative formats, and day parting to understand or assess behaviors.
  3. Create your supply pipeline by taking notes of the top performers and only working with them based on performance while reaching out to underperforming partners and understanding any missed opportunities.  
  4. It is not a set-it-and-forget-it
  5. It will take time, and no supply pipeline will fit all. 

You do not need to work with everyone and their mamas and need to start being intentionally strategic in how you buy media, and that includes working with those that support your client’s success and mission. 

If you want to build your own supply pipeline efficiently, consider joining us next month during our private masterclasses. We will cover optimization best practices such as what was covered here. Join our waitlist and be the first to know and enjoy early birds specials.

Cheers to leveling up!

Your Programmatic Coach


Our mission is to teach historically excluded people how to get started in programmatic media and find a career. We do so by providing on-demand education, a dope community, and support with job placement. 

That is why we founded  The Reach and Frequency™ program where we focus on training programmatic traders and planners with the tools they need to succeed. This program also includes hands-on experience in DSPs and weekly group coaching. 

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