Media buyers are used to hearing about how RTB is all the rage, so it might come as a surprise that RTB giant AppNexus wants in on another hot new market – traditional, RFP-based direct media buys.
The programmatic technology company just launched Twixt, a tool to help buyers and sellers negotiate the old-fashioned way. The Twixt platform works a bit like a Google Drive for media deals: the buyer sets up an RFP, shares it with sellers, collects responses and then negotiates and adjusts the deal, all within the platform. When everyone’s satisfied, Twixt spits out a neatly formatted Excel spreadsheet with all of the information needed to launch a campaign.
The goal is to cut down on the mountain of paperwork, meetings and e-mails that fly back and forth during a negotiated buy, so both buyers and sellers can focus on the terms of the deal rather than the associated drudgery. “We’re trying to empower individuals to move their process gradually into a more automated, more efficient method,” says Andy Atherton, AppNexus senior vice-president, strategic accounts, and the point-man for the new platform.
Atherton says Twixt is designed meet clients where they live, so while Excel has long been seen as the antithesis of new-fangled media automation, its integration is all-important because it’s still the most widely used tool for marketers and agencies in every corner of the advertising world. “We’re being realistic about giving them an on-ramp,” he says. “We’re not saying, ‘Drop everything you’re doing and learn this entirely new thing,’ when you’re so busy you don’t even get lunch until 3 o’clock.”
That doesn’t mean AppNexus sees Twixt as a gateway to wider programmatic and RTB adoption, where its core business lies. Rather, the company is launching Twixt as a separate brand to make it clear it’s not just complementary to its RTB services. Atherton sees Twixt as the seed of a whole new arm of the business, catering specifically to direct buyers.
From here, AppNexus plans to build out the platform and automate more aspects of the buying process, like creative submission, data tagging and analytics. Eventually, Twixt will be able to plug into inventory sources directly, so buyers can negotiate and execute campaigns with large publishers like AOL and Yahoo all in one go. While basic access will always be free, some of the more advanced layers will require a paid membership.
Other companies such as Yieldex, iSocket, Bionic Ads and AdSlot already offer similar products, but Atherton says the market for automated direct buying is “getting hotter every day,” and he fully expects to see a lot more ad tech companies getting into the space in the next year or two. After all, direct still makes up the lion’s share of digital buying.
Twixt is not an enterprise solution that AppNexus will be pitching to CMOs, Atherton says. It’ll be used by people in the trenches, so that’s who AppNexus is targeting. “An individual can pick it up, without training, and the same day be more productive,” he says. “Getting this individual, 20-something, super overworked, under-appreciated buyer to lean in, and make their day better with technology – that’s the problem we’re trying to solve. So we’re marketing this solution directly to that user, rather than trying to sell it to their boss’s boss’s boss.”