WPP'S 24/7 Real Media to Partner With Yahoo's Right Media

Deal Might Be PR Boon for Portal, but Could Be Data Goldmine for Group M

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The big news about the Yahoo and WPP pact announced today is that it's not that different from the 100-plus other agreements struck by ad networks and Yahoo's Right Media Exchange.
Mike Walrath, Right Media founder and senior VP of advertising marketplaces at Yahoo
Mike Walrath, Right Media founder and senior VP of advertising marketplaces at Yahoo Credit: Darryl Estrine

Except that it's WPP. And it's Yahoo. And it couldn't come at a better time, public relations-wise, for the pressured portal.

Busy ad bazaar
The gist is WPP-owned 24/7 Real Media's ad network is going to enter the Right Media Exchange, a division of Yahoo that already works with more than 100 ad networks. Exchanges attempt to create a more liquid marketplace for ad impressions, allowing networks and publishers to better fulfill their client orders and sell inventory that they might normally not be able to sell.

In other words, working alone, 24/7 can glean data from the vast array of sites on which it serves ads. It can match that data with the insights from its clients, many of which are WPP clients and some of which are not. But sometimes an ad network such as 24/7 doesn't have the impressions that match up with its clients' targets. In those cases, it can tap into an exchange -- in which hundreds of other ad networks and publishers are also buying and selling impressions -- to find the precise impressions that it needs.

"The old challenge is a client says, 'I want to target against this set of consumers, but the people selling advertising can't sell me those or they want to sell me this other set of customers that they can identify, not the ones I can identify," said Mike Walrath, Right Media founder and senior VP of advertising marketplaces at Yahoo. He adds that the new way to address that problem is to tap "into a liquid marketplace where you can trade media based on attributes of that media. That's the game changer here."

What's the big deal?
When asked why this agreement merited such a big announcement, given that Yahoo already has a vast set of networks partnering with its exchange, Mr. Walrath said it's the scope of this partnership, as well as its global nature. According to ComScore, 24/7 Real Media's ad network was the 18th-largest ad-focused web sales property in April, reaching almost 100 million unique visitors and 52% of the online population. Right Media trades 6 billion impressions a month; Mr. Walrath says that the "vast minority" of those are Yahoo impressions.

Yahoo may have also pushed out the news because the company needs all the good press it can get right now, after letting the Microsoft deal walk away and now facing pressure from Carl Icahn and his merry band of activist shareholders.

So while it's true that working with an exchange nets 24/7 Real Media some new, albeit quite back-office, ways to extend its reach and targeting, the truly intriguing part of this has less to do with Yahoo and more to do with the way WPP's Group M is using its 24/7 Real Media asset.

Because the two share a corporate parent, there's a more comfortable exchange of targeting information, execs said. And if Group M can incorporate the extensive data about and insight into its clients' targets into 24/7, it will increase the effectiveness of the network as well as its forays into exchanges.

"The richness of information and insight a WPP has is fundamentally different than what an ad network traditionally sees," Mr. Walrath said.

Better targeting
Group M Interaction CEO Rob Norman said being part of the same corporate family as 24/7 means "we can use better information to inform the targeting." The partnership doesn't exclude WPP from doing similar deals with other ad exchanges. Microsoft is developing an exchange as part of its big platform play, and Google also has acquired an exchange through its DoubleClick buy.

"The 24/7 Global Alliance already has a huge array of websites over which WPP can observe behaviors," Mr. Norman said. "Now we can find those cookies that we like and pluck them from the whole of Right Media as well as 24/7. The bigger the pool [of impressions] you have to play with, the smarter the data, the better the performance."

At least that's the promise.
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