Cox Digital Solutions, the online sales arm of broadcast and newspaper owner Cox Enterprises, is the latest media company to turn to ad exchange operator AppNexus to help set up its own real-time bidding platform. The move to open up the platform, dubbed CDS Connect, marks a move by the company from crafting vertical ad networks as a way of connected ad dollars to its broadcast and publishing brands to the growing RTB model.
Cox Digital Solutions was formed in January to house the combined Adify and Cox Cross Media units of Cox Enterprises. Shortly after folding those two separate entities into one, Cox bought IB Local Network, which is the business and advertising sales group of Internet Broadcasting.
But Cox fully entered the online ad in April 2008 when it acquired the white label ad network Adify, which was founded in 2006 and created vertical ad networks for Guardian, Forbes.com, NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA), Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO).
At the time, the idea of vertical ad networks was viewed a good way for publishers to fight for ad dollars that were chasing audiences according to subject matter, such as sports or fashion, as opposed to going directly to media brands specifically. Vertical ad networks gave premium publishers ad sales control, while offering advertisers a collection of smaller blogs that were grouped under a particular heading.
These days, marketers are chasing audiences through RTB and exchanges. So publishers have begun to use private marketplaces set up by supply side platforms like The Rubicon Group, PubMatic and Admeld (which is still waiting for regulatory approval to be granted before being sold to Google).
SSPs evolved from ad optimizers to serve publishers and protect their prices as demand side platforms rose to help ad agencies and marketers bid on audiences and ad inventory at bargain prices. AppNexus, co-founded in 2007 by Mike Nolet and Brian O’Kelley, who was previously at RTB pioneer Right Media before it was acquired by Yahoo, has positioned itself above SSPs and DSPs in that it helps all sides simply set up their own RTB marketplace. In recent months, AppNexus has been tapped by various companies to power their RTB systems, including Microsoft and ad tech firm Collective.
Cox Digital Solutions will layer the RTB platform over its two separate inventory sets: the local media sites associated with its newspapers, broadcast TV stations and directories, and national vertical content sites that it assembled under the old Adify property.