Publishing Trade Body Digital Content Next Announces Online Ad Marketplace

Automated online ad system TrustX aims to increase transparency in online advertising

Digital media trade body Digital Content Next is launching an automated online ad marketplace called TrustX, in a bid to bring more transparency to online advertising. The ad marketplace, or “ad exchange,” will allow marketers to buy ad space across properties owned by 25 media companies, including ABC, Condé Nast, Hearst, NBCUniversal, the Washington Post, Meredith, ESPN, Vox Media and News Corp which owns The Wall Street Journal.

The marketplace will function as a non-profit subsidiary of DCN and is designed to help restore some transparency to the increasingly complicated online advertising supply chain, according to DCN Chief Executive Jason Kint.

“It was clear that to move the needle on trust in the market, we needed to get in the game in a more direct way,” Mr. Kint said. With no outside investors and no profit motives, TrustX will focus on driving long-term benefits to marketers and publishers, DCN said.

Mr. Kint said he expects the marketplace to be operational by early next year. It’s unclear how much ad space participating publishers will actually make available through the TrustX marketplace.TrustX will guarantee that marketers will only pay for ads that real consumers can actually view, as opposed to ads served to non-human or “bot” traffic. It also promises to provide marketers and publishers with complete transparency about the cost of campaign delivery, in an attempt to reduce the fees that are sometimes charged by multiple parties in complicated online ad arrangements.

Online publishers typically work with a range of automated ad sales platforms in attempt to wring as much revenue from their ad space as possible. As a result, it’s likely they will test the TrustX marketplace to see how it compares with other sales opportunities before committing large portions of their ad space to it. Nonetheless, participating publishers say they support TrustX’s principles.

“We became a ‘TrustX’ Founder because we’re seeing a growing gap between the trusted experiences and performance that advertisers enjoy with premium publishers versus the open programmatic markets across the wider web,” said Dave Morris, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at CBS Interactive, in a prepared statement.

“TrustX’s mission to create a high-quality marketplace through transparency based on engagement and viewability, is a much-needed evolution for the industry and a movement with which we are in full alignment,” Lisa Valentino, senior vice president of network sales and partnerships at Condé Nast, said in a statement.

Ad tech development company IPONWEB has been selected to build the underlying technology to power the TrustX marketplace, DCN said. TrustX participants are prepaying fees for the marketplace’s initial development and deployment costs. They will be paid back these fees in the form of service credits after TrustX becomes cash flow positive, Mr. Kint said.

Publishers have experimented with similar programmatic ad alliances in the past, with varying degrees of success. Gannett, Tribune Publishing, McClatchy and the Hearst newspaper group joined forces to create Nucleus Marketing Solutions in April, in an effort to leverage their geographic reach and combined scale to help marketers more effectively target their ads.

In early 2015, the Guardian, CNN International, the Financial Times, Reuters and the Economist said they were banding together to form a programmatic sales alliance called Pangaea.

In France, a similar effort called La Place Media has been operational since 2012.

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