AppNexus is making the move via a new software product called
Twixt, which aims to streamline much of the negotiation that occurs
prior to the execution of a digital ad buy. The majority of digital
ads are still planned and transacted over email and phone, with
Excel and Word used for the heavy lifting. Twixt, which begins with
the RFP and then lets buyers and sellers negotiate and agree to
terms within the product, was created to take much of the manual
work out of the equation.
"Right now, you're looking at a bunch of human beings wasting
their time doing operational process that could be automated," said
Andy Atherton, senior VP at AppNexus. "If we can take that
inefficiency out of the system, we're unleashing billions of
dollars of value."
Using Twixt, a buyer can send out RFPs out to a list of sellers,
gather and compare their responses, negotiate line items, and agree
to terms with publishers. "At the end of the process, the buyer
gets to a plan that they're happy with. Then they can download the
final, fully negotiated plan into an Excel spreadsheet formatted to
work with another system" such as an server or financial backend,
said Mr. Atherton.
In order to participate, a publisher clicks a link in an email
they get when a buyer sends them an RFP through Twixt. They then
have access to the system and can fill out their response and send
it back to the buyer.
For publishers, the system also stores information such as ad
specs and past proposal responses, streamlining what can be a
complicated process for that side of the business. "Sellers waste a
ton of money on operational processes to actually traffic orders.
About 10% of the value of a buy is consumed just on sell side
trafficking resources," said Mr. Atherton. "The broad goal of the
initiative is to empower buyers and sellers and take inefficiency
out of the process."
Automating direct deals brings AppNexus into competition with
Centro, which has negotiation functionality
within its system. Centro made a move into AppNexus' territory in
November, when it acquired SiteScout, a DSP.
Twixt is free for now, but AppNexus plans to operate it on a
"freemium" model in the future. One way it could make money from
Twixt would be by connecting it to ad servers. Once it does that,
Twixt could take a percentage of media dollars spent through it,
much like the rest of the ad-tech ecosystem does today.