AppNexus Inks Deal to Sell Display Ads on LinkedIn

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An example of a LinkedIn display ad.
An example of a LinkedIn display ad. Credit: LinkedIn
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LinkedIn is the latest publisher to adopt AppNexus' sell-side platform, opening up premium desktop inventory to marketers through real-time bidding, the company said Tuesday.

The move makes AppNexus the second platform that lets marketers buy LinkedIn's desktop display ads programmatically, with Google being the other. A person familiar with the deal said it's unlikely a third partner will be added any time soon.

The move applies to both AppNexus' open and private auction buying options, the company said. Marketers will also be able to use their first and third-party data to target the ads they buy either through LinkedIn or AppNexus, said Michael Rubenstein, president at AppNexus.

"LinkedIn is a meaningful player in display advertising and its continued embrace in programmatic means fantastic things for the programmatic marketplace," Mr. Rubenstein said.

The company's ad business, which it calls Marketing Solutions, generated $177 million in revenue during the second quarter of 2016, nearly a 25% increase from the previous year. However, the bulk of LinkedIn's ad revenue now comes from sponsored content, which brought in $86 million during the first quarter of 2016, an 80% increase year-over-year and the most recent information provided by the company since Microsoft acquired it for $26 billion earlier this year.

People also visit LinkedIn more often by mobile device than on desktops. The company saw 37.3 million unique U.S. visitors on desktop in August 2016, but during the same month, 87.6 million unique visitors came exclusively to its mobile site, according to ComScore.

"It's a natural evolution of our business to extend our programmatic inventory to the AppNexus platform," Russell Glass, VP of product at LinkedIn, said in a statement. "AppNexus will help us build upon our programmatic offering through its open APIs, as well as help us meet our goal of connecting more buyers with our premium professional audience."

AppNexus, which is the global programmatic partner for Microsoft, had a relationship with LinkedIn for several years and prior to Microsoft's acquisition. AppNexus was also partners with Bizo, a company that LinkedIn later acquired.

Its recent move comes on the heels of a late-June announcement, when LinkedIn began selling its desktop display ads programmatically.

"AppNexus is uniquely positioned to enable our clients to leverage data science and algorithms to own, use, and learn from their data," Brian O'Kelley, CEO at AppNexus, said in a statement. "By creating a data loop that drives personalized content and marketing, we're enhancing the online experience and choices of end consumers, while empowering publishers to monetize their content and helping advertisers deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time and cost."