CPAX 2.0 brings back the human element

After two-year 'pilot', Canada's senior premium ad marketplace to charge for seats in a fully fleshed-out business

CBC’s Rebecca Shropshire

The Canadian Premium Audience Exchange (CPAX), a real-time ad exchange operated by some of Canada’s most well-established publishers and media brands, is relaunching at the end of this month with a new mandate to provide more hands-on services for buyers and better representation for publishers.

CPAX members said that the previous two years have been a “pilot project” focused on learning about programmatic technology and the Canadian market for it. By contrast, CPAX 2.0 will be a fully fleshed-out business.

Members said that CPAX achieved its core objectives, which were to learn about programmatic technology and build a cooperative organization to represent Canadian media in the programmatic marketplace. But sellers weren’t seeing as much demand as they were expecting, based on buyers’ growing enthusiasm for programmatic premium.

“Even though there is such a big spend in the programmatic space now, and everyone is talking about premium, we’re not actually seeing the rubber hit the road in terms of investment,” said Rebecca Shropshire, director of digital sales at CBC. “That really sparked the intention to take another look at the platform [and] what we wanted to offer to the community.”

The relaunch aims to make the exchange more accessible and attractive to buyers, by providing them with substantially improved sales and support services. Members will take a much more active role in promoting CPAX as a channel for buying their inventory, and CPAX’s new technology partner, Casale Media, will provide technical services to ensure buyers can make the most of programmatic technology.

The organization hopes to drive greater investment by establishing CPAX as a “premium” marketplace, where advertisers can reach the best quality online audiences in Canada without risking exposure to fraud or inappropriate content. CPAX members currently include several of Canada’s most respected digital publishers, like Rogers Media, CBC, Shaw, Corus Entertainment, National Geographic and Over the coming weeks, CPAX will be announcing several other additions to its publisher roster.

“We know we have really strong and premium brands. We know that we have real people, real audiences consuming our content and interacting with our sites and mobile apps,” said Corby Fine, Rogers Media vice-president business development, platforms and innovation. “Our goal is to make sure that the advertisers that are looking for premium audiences, premium brands and premium content are going to have access.”

CPAX also has a chance to provide thought leadership on issues like fraud and viewability, members said. As an organization representing many Canadian publishers, it can provide a consensus perspective and speak with authority on important industry issues. So far, CPAX hasn’t taken advantage of this; but expect that to change in the future.

New tech partner brings homegrown insight, global scale

Until now CPAX’s exchange has been operated by AppNexus, one of the largest independent programmatic technology companies in the world. As part of the relaunch, CPAX will be migrating to Casale Media, a Canadian sell-side technology provider that operates the Index marketplace and licenses its platform to other exchanges.

The choice was not so much about technical capabilities as it was about having a provider that understands the Canadian market, said Rogers’ Fine. “When we think about Canadian advertisers, Canadian consumers, Canadian brands, there’s a lot of sense to saying, ‘Hey, let’s get a Canadian technology provider in that mix as well,'” he said. “When we think about things like the French market and some of our other unique offerings … it really helps to have somebody domestic to help facilitate that. Somebody who gets the market.”

That doesn’t mean Casale is a small-time local player — it does much of its business in the U.S. and Europe. CPAX members hope to take advantage of Casale’s technology expertise and connections in international markets.

One advantage Casale will bring on the technology front is Deal ID, which enables direct bulk deals between advertisers and sellers within the exchange environment. Deal ID acts as private key that buyers can use to get a first look at a publisher’s inventory and buy at a price they’ve negotiated with the publisher, rather than bidding against other buyers.

Though advertisers and publishers can set up automated direct sales outside of CPAX, that can require tedious and technically difficult integrations between the buyer and each individual publisher. With Deal ID, buyers only need to connect once to access both exchange trading and automated direct sales across all of CPAX’s members.

Casale’s vice-president, platform solutions, Alex Gardner said he believes the Casale Index platform’s programmatic direct capabilities were a big draw for CPAX members, and that they will be talking about those capabilities with buyers.

“It’s a big deal for a bunch of important reasons, least of which is it’s a way to circumvent fraud, because it is inherently one-to-one,” he said.

Not a private exchange, but not a free-for-all either

CPAX 2.0 won’t be private in the sense that advertisers will have to be invited to join, but it will no longer be completely open to any buying organization who wants to drop in. Casale’s Gardner said that although the new format has yet to be finalized, members will likely have to pay a seat fee to trade on the exchange, which will be discounted based on how much they’re spending. If they meet a minimum spend threshold, the fee will be waived.

The goal, he said, is to discourage traders from pulling a chair up to the table if they don’t plan to play. In the past, some DSPs used CPAX’s premium reputation to attract advertiser clients, but delivered much lower quality inventory from other exchanges, in order to make larger profit from client fees. That hurt CPAX’s reputation for quality. A sitting fee makes that kind of arbitrage trading a lot less attractive.

“What we want to do is make sure that if CPAX and corresponding members are being used as a way to solicit dollars in the programmatic marketplace, that it’s being done in a responsible way,” said Gardner. He said CPAX members want to make sure the quality of their inventory is fairly represented.

“Our goal is to open it up, it’s not to limit it,” said Fine. “We just want to make sure there are protections to maintain a value exchange that’s fair in-market. We’re not interested in advertisers, agencies and buyers that are just looking for the cheapest stuff in the market. That’s not what we are, and there are other places to get that.”

Canada’s first marketplace for premium French inventory

Société Radio-Canada Manager, Digital Sales and Marketing Thibault Davet says CPAX 2.0 plans on a much bigger push into the French market, where programmatic adoption has lagged. Most exchanges still target francophone consumers based on whether they’re using a French browser; by contrast, CPAX will give Quebec advertisers easy access to a large pool of French language-only inventory, from publishers like SRC, Télé-Quebec and V. Some of CPAX’s yet-to-be-announced publishers will also be French and bilingual, Davet said.

“Our offer is really distinctive, in that it’s a host of French premium sites delivered to clients who want premium inventory,” he said. “We listen to the market, and that’s what they’re looking for.”

Casale’s in-market technical support will be a big part of that. Casale already operates in Quebec, and understands that it’s a distinct market with unique needs.

“What we’ve seen [in Quebec] in the past year or so is a real catch up in the usage and demand for programmatic,” Davet said. “So I feel like we’re doing this at the perfect time to be able to respond to the market’s needs.”

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