Rivr closes the programmatic gap between supply and demand

At the core of Rivr’s audience yield manager for publishers and SSPs is the AI-powered user classification technology, launched by Simplaex earlier in 2018.

Following his appearance at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch in December, where he discussed the challenges publishers face in an automated media buying world, vice president of Simplaex, Benjamin Hansz talks about why transparency and trust remain the major challenges of the ecosystem and how Rivr bridges the programmatic gap between advertisers and publishers.

There’s been plenty of hype around AI, but is it really making a difference in ad-tech?

AI has found applications in a surprising range of industries; from gaming to finance to medicine. Beneath all the hype and buzzwords, the technology is making serious progress. And it’s happening faster than many of us realize. According to a study by eMarketer, in 2016 companies invested about $6 billion into AI research and development. By 2021, that figure is expected to grow to $29 billion.

The best thing about AI in ad-tech is that it benefits both sides of the ecosystem. It allows SSPs and publishers to do business directly with advertisers. AI can help the supply side understand how the demand side classifies users. With these insights, the supply side can offer better quality impressions, for which the advertiser will gladly pay more.

A suitably designed AI can watch your bid-stream for any granular movement that might affect your revenues, and then translate those movements into user-level programmatic yield optimization and actionable intelligence.

In 2019, what advice would you give to publishers and SSPs?

In programmatic advertising, life moves fast. According to Zenith Optimedia, 67% of the digital display advertising will be sold programmatically by 2019. However, transparency and trust remain the major challenges of the ecosystem.

Anyone who’s been in this industry for more than a couple of years has witnessed massive changes in the way we work and the tools we use.

Our new product, Rivr, answers the most pressing questions faced by publishers and SSPs.

Which audiences are driving the most revenue? Which demand partner wants to bid on which audience? What’s the most appropriate demand partner for each bid request?

By switching from a traffic-based model to an audience-based model, publishers and SSPs can finally optimize their pricing and fill rates accordingly.

You have recently launched your product called Rivr. Tell us the story.

The programmatic ecosystem once held great promise. Its goal was to connect ad buyers with publishers in the most simple and efficient way, letting the market determine the true value of each transaction. In practice, however, the programmatic approach has created needless layers of complexity and confusion.

Take a look at Facebook and Google. In the ad-tech industry, everyone loves to criticize them. Facebook and Google built their empires by giving both sides of the ecosystem exactly what they wanted: better accuracy for advertisers, more revenue for publishers. If the rest of the industry hopes to claw back market share and compete with these two goliaths, we would do well to take notes on their strategy. Supply and demand need to stop competing and start collaborating.

To bridge the programmatic gap, advertisers and publishers must find a way to evaluate traffic more transparently. They must agree on a common standard for assessing the value of their audiences. With these challenges in mind, Simplaex has built a solution. We’ve found a way to fix the inconsistencies and fragmentation of user information without adding another layer of complexity to the tech stack.

Our solution is called Rivr. At the point in the bid stream where demand and supply intersect, Rivr acts as a universal translator between the audience classification of the two sides. Rather than providing mismatched feedback to each side, it gives everyone a consistent and unified view of the user.

Rivr is built as a supply-side solution and its AI technology can easily be added via a server-side or client-side integration. With this single integration, publishers can authenticate user classifications across the value chain and apply optimal floor prices for each demand partner.

By tapping into the bid stream, Rivr’s AI engine can analyse the bid requests and the bid responses and extract the key audience information. Rivr observes how the demand side is classifying a user, while at the same time monitoring that user’s behaviour on the supply side. With this end-to-end process, Rivr can determine the user’s actual interest and intent.

Hansz was a panelist on the Publishing and Programmatic session at The Drum Programmatic Punch 2018.


Programmatic Punch is done, on to Simplaex event!

I’m not saying that the year is over, but the year is over, right? Wrong.

At the beginning of September when we first laid out the plan to attend eight conferences by the first week of December, it didn’t seem impossible as much as it was a lot of work. And phew boy, was it ever! Now at the back end of that schedule with only the Simplaex Company Christmas party to worry about, I’m happy for having put in the effort. Last week saw me finishing up the Rivr Road Trip by attending The Drum’s Programmatic Punch. For good measure we decided to throw in a ticket to the DigiPublish World Disrupt Forum as well!

The Drum’s Programmatic Punch was a good event, the panel was with News UK (sister company of News Corp) and The Guardian, both of whom are leading members of the Ozone publisher alliance. The audience in general was the right one for Rivr – it was full of publishers who are keen to take a firm grip of the steering wheel and drive their companies forward.

The DigiPublish London Forum was also good, an event for more mature companies. One start-up presented a platform that is “using AI to accelerate audience influence and engagement”. They’re “in beta with five partners going commercial next year” and of course he couldn’t name which partners. I winked and shot him some finger guns. We know how tough it is to getting off the ground.

At the moment, Rivr has 10 signed partners in our beta – and without them, we wouldn’t be able to progress forward nearly as fast as we are. More interestingly, we have partners is the major regions of the world: North America, EMEA and Asia. So we’re truly global! Considering that we started the year with a couple of design partners, we’re really proud of the traction we’ve made in 2018.

Now the interesting bit is yet to come in 2019 when we go commercial and start to scale up properly. I’m not sure what the word is, but it’s a mixture of excitement and anxiousness. If you know a word in any language that sums that up – drop me a line 😀

Until then, we hope you all have a great end to 2018 and some great things lined up for 2019!

Digiday Programmatic Media Summit is Done, on to Programmatic Punch!

So, maybe it’s not a “small world” story, but just one hell of a coincidence. Either way, my trip to Scottsdale was a very interesting one, which I’ll explain.

So, maybe it’s not a “small world” story, but just one hell of a coincidence. Either way, my trip to Scottsdale was a very interesting one, which I’ll explain.

After the Admonsters Publishers Forum in Austin, I spent a couple days in San Francisco and then a couple more in LA. During that time, I met with some of Rivr’s current beta partners and some (hopefully) future partners.

Once in Scottsdale at the Digiday Programmatic Media Summit, I was definitely ready for the relaxing atmosphere of the Omni resort at the foothills of Camelback Mountain. There were presentations hosted by publishers explaining their experience with a specific topic or a vendor presentation providing unique insights to the industry via the data they have collected.

The themes spanned current topics concerning everyone including first price auctions, header bidding, transparency and GDPR. One recurring theme was how difficult it was to manage PMP’s – how a publisher can truly understand their “inventory pools” and how to ship these off to different demand partners effectively. “There’s the moment when the campaign starts and you hold your breath to see if it will spend or not”, said one publisher.

I spoke with representatives from 15 different companies, both publishers and vendors, meeting some new people and bumping into some old friends. And speaking of…

Between the evening’s one-on-one meetings and the networking drinks, I had 45 minutes to kill. So I went to the bar to see if there were others getting a head start. Lo and behold there were. So I said my hellos and ordered a drink from the bar. The bartender came back looking at the credit card I gave him. He asked “Did you used to live in Scottsdale?”


“Did you go to Navajo Elementary School?”

Uh… yep.

“Did you used to live on Rancho Vista?”


“Hi, I’m Adam. We used to be best friends back then.”

No shit! I lived in Scottsdale for two years some thirty years ago. I’m not going to say “small world” as this all happened in Scottsdale, but what a fricking coincidence, no? Adam and I spent some good time catching up. It was really great reconnecting with him.

Anyway, that’s the story. Now I get to take a quick Turkey break for The American holiday of Thanksgiving, but soon we’ll be back on the road. This time to Ol’ Blighty for The Drum’s Programmatic Punch and Digipublish event.

Admonsters Publisher Forum is Done, on to Digiday Programmatic Media Summit!

The stars at night are big and bright (clap! clap! clap! clap!) DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!

I had the great pleasure of attending and speaking at the Admonsters Publisher Forum this week in Austin, Texas. Although the weather was a bit shit, everything was well organised with a great group of almost 200 people, two-thirds of whom were publishers looking to learn more about the latest tech and trends.

The starting key note given by Bob Pearson of W20 was an insightful kick-off to the next couple of days. In his presentation, I became acquainted with the 1–9–90 rule of content, which posits that out of any given population only 1% create content, 9% repackage/redistribute, while 90% listen, lurk and learn. The other session I especially enjoyed was the Publisher Feedback panel where Tami Deleeuw of Ancestry and Erin Tobin of Bloomberg gave us vendors tips on how to be better partners, like making the handover between Sales and Account Management as smooth as possible and keeping communication consistent and proactive.

Outside of the sessions, there was the socialising as well. Whether we were hanging out at the hotel bar or enduring the muddy grounds trekking through the hills on our way to view some falconry, the vibe was playful and engaging.

My last morning, at breakfast, I had a great recap of the event with a handful of publishers, where I got some first hand feedback about the ideal vendor presentation. It’s about striking the right balance between a sales pitch and informative session — you’ve got to tell the audience what it is you do, but don’t bang on about it forever.

The organisation of the event was great, and the Admonsters team was very helpful, Gavin and Jonathan in particular. It was definitely worth the eleven hour flight from Berlin to attend this year.

Next up on the list for the one man traveling show is visiting some partners and prospects in San Francisco and Los Angeles before heading over to Scottsdale for the Digiday Programmatic Media Summit

Viva la republica de Texas! Viva!

Programmatic IO is done, on to Admonsters!

(for interested readers: the soundtrack to this post is Don Henley’s “In a New York Minute”)

One week I’m in the sunny paradise of the Cascais outside Lisbon, then after a brief stop in Spain and 8 more hours of luxurious economy class travel, I was whisked to the hustle and bustle of New York City. I was joined by Simplaex CTO, Moti, as we were attending AdExchanger’s Programmatic IO #PROGIO.

The first day was great, having different streams for different disciplines. There was a separate section for the Buy Side, Sell Side and Ad Ops. I gravitated toward the sell side, naturally — and got to hear some great presentations — especially from Business Insider’s Jana Meron and Digitas’ Liane Nadeau who spoke about the journey of one dollar as it travels through the ecosystem. Also interesting was Unruly’s COO, Kenneth Suh, speaking about how emotion is key for effective advertising.

I also got to bump into an old colleague from back in the day at Fiksu. The real Fiksu pre-June 2016, not whatever it is now 😉 Tom Cummings is VP Solution Consulting with Nanigans. He seems busy as ever helping build incremental value to user acquisition campaigns.

The closing session of the event was a fireside chat with Sir Martin Sorrell. That dude’s got his eye on the prize still, that’s for sure. Will be interesting to see the progress he makes with S4 Capital over the next 12 months.

Moti and I spent two more days in the city meeting with current partners and prospective clients. Cleverly, someone arranged it so we started the morning with our first meeting in the Financial District and walked our way back to midtown for our last meeting — with a pit stop at Chelsea Market.

Now back in Berlin, it’s time to do some laundry and a quick trip to London before heading off to Admonsters Publisher Forum in Austin, Texas. Between me and you, it’s been about six years since I was last in The Lone Star State — and I’m looking forward to it, for sure!

Roadhouse beers and BBQ anyone?

DiG Publishers is done, on to Programmatic IO!

So, there is a spectrum in which to rate the quality of events, from complete shit to great.

DIG Lisbon definitely falls in the direction of great! More than 350 people from publishers to tech partners at a great location, taking part in some worthwhile discussions.

First, I should say hats off to Teresa Sobrino, who was the main go-to for Jeff and I. She was there from the first minute to the last, making sure that everything was in order for our workshop and one-to-one meetings. She was a huge help.

The event wasn’t just about getting the word out about our audience yield manager, Rivr, but also hearing from publishers about what they saw as their main tasks ahead and other tech providers about how they were adding value to the ecosystem. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was all the drinks in the castle by the beach, but it seemed that everyone was open and in the mood to collaborate.

The feedback we got from the publishers we talked to (over 20 of them in total) was not only that Rivr was interesting for its programmatic yield optimization, but also the audience insights it could provide. Seems there’s a big interest in understanding the audience breakdown between premium decision makers and the average user. Good news, Rivr can do both!

Although it was sad to leave Lisbon after the three days, it’s hard to feel upset after such a great event. Now Programmatic I/O New York has some big shoes to fill in a weeks time. I’m sure they’re up to the challenge though!

Looking forward to being back in the land of liberty and melted cheese on the 15th of October!!!

DMEXCO is done, on to DIG Lisbon!

You want to talk about busy? Let’s take a look back at DMEXCO then, shall we?

To continue getting the word out to the market about Rivr, our audience yield manager, Simplaex secured a spot in The Start-up Village in Hall 5. Conveniently, we were positioned right at the entrance so there was plenty of footfall. Even if we didn’t have 20+ scheduled meetings for the two days, there would have been enough to keep us busy with the curious passers-by.

Making the situation even more challenging was that some of our meetings were, of course, in the other halls. My attempt at streamlining the process by lining up meeting that were in the same hall at the same time of day was, of course, stymied by last minute changes.

Another spanner in the works was the last minute offer to present Rivr for a second time on stage. That’s hard to pass up. So we re-jigged the schedules to make it work. And by “we”, I’m not using the Royal “we”, per usual, but rather JanMoti and Jeff were there as well. Between the four of us, we also found time to wonder and explore the halls. One booth used AI to predict the gender and age of those standing in front of its camera. Someone amongst our group was ID’d as being almost 10 years younger than his actual age. Alas, no, it wasn’t me…

So, if you didn’t get a chance to go, but want to make out as if you were there, (not sure why anyone would want to brag about being at an ad-tech conference they weren’t at but whatever…) in theory here’s what you could say:

“Connected TV… it’s so hot right now.”

“To me, it seems like DMEXCO is becoming more about vendors selling to vendors.”

“Did it seem a little thinner compared to last year? Just not the same now that the founders aren’t involved anymore.”

And voila, it’s just like you were there!

So, now with DMEXCO behind us, there’s plenty to follow up on and there’s only two weeks for that before heading off to sunny Lisbon. No, not for a holiday, but for the DIG Lisbon conference where we’re presenting a workshop on how artificial intelligence can make sense out of the confusion of the ecosystem. I’m looking forward to that and maybe a bit of R&R on the beach… let’s see how lucky I am.

Follow the fun on Twitter and let’s see what happens next!

Next Stop — @DIG Lisbon!

Rivr team

MGS is done, on to DMEXCO!

The #MobileGrowthSummit was a nice start to the tour, especially because travel time is only two stops on the S-Bahn — no car, no plane… that’s the exception for this tour. The vibe at MGS was not just a local one, but lots of folks had flown in for it. We need more events like this in Berlin!

Speaking of more shows, next stop is DMEXCO in Cologne! At the moment, we have over 20 scheduled meetings. Joining me will be Simplaex’s Head of Product, Jan, and our two founders Moti, CTO, and Jeff, CEO.

What I’m more excited/nervous (“excirvous?”) about than meeting with partners and prospects to spread the word about our new Audience Yield Manager, Rivr, is the presentation that I’ll be giving there. I have a ten-minute time slot at The Start-up Village to present Rivr and how it can transform a Publisher’s or SSP’s business.

I’ll be speaking on Wednesday at 1:45pm — Stage 2 in the Dmexco Startup Village. If you’re around and looking for what’s new in yield management — stop by!

Hope to see you there!

Many Battlefronts In War Against Duopoly

It’s easy to bemoan the presence of two giants, Google and Facebook — aka the duopoly — as the demise of digital advertising. What makes things worse is that the rest of the ecosystem isn’t engaged as a united front against them, but simultaneously busy squabbling among themselves.

There are five main factions in the rest of the ecosystem: advertisers, demand-side companies, supply-side companies, publishers — and of course, everyone’s favorite, agencies.

The main schism in the rest of the ecosystem is straight down the middle between the supply side and demand side, cutting the market into two equal-ish parts. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as saying that it’s two halves against each other, as there are finer and no less vicious cracks in each respective half.

On the demand side, you have the advertiser pitted against various tech partners like demand-side platforms, automation platforms, data management platforms and attribution partners. On the supply side, there’s the publisher versus the supply-platforms and their cohort of partners. To make things even noisier, you have agencies roaming throughout both halves taking potshots and whatever spoils they can.

Two things are universal between all five parties. First, each has survival/independence as their main motivation. Secondly, each is asking the same question of the other four: “Why are you here taking a piece of the meager spoils? What exactly do you do to make the situation better?”

Each of these five has its own unique life-threatening issue that they need to conquer:

Advertisers: If they don’t use their marketing budgets efficiently and gather as much useful marketing intelligence as they can, they will lose out to their more adroit competitors.

Demand-side companies: Their battle is on two fronts. First, as advertisers become more knowledgeable about the landscape, they threaten to take more capabilities in-house. Simultaneously, when the supply-side companies make a move that tips the balance of power towards their half, the demand side loses a precious fraction of the available take.

Supply-side companies: One would be forgiven for thinking that the main battle for them is with the demand-side companies. Alas, no. There is also a skirmish with those publishers that share their half of the ecosystem. From the beginning, the credo of supply-side companies was to help publishers monetize their traffic. Analogous to wiser advertisers, more-educated publishers are now pressing supply-side companies on transparency and accountability.

Publishers: At best, their battle is one for independence, at worst it’s for survival. This is visible to the outside world, as popular titles are constantly being folded into larger conglomerates (for economies of scale) or simply going broke. While they do have the luxury of choosing between pay for services, living off advertising or a hybrid of both, that turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing.

Agencies: Literally stuck in the middle, it seems that they get it from all angles, constantly having to demonstrate their value.

Everyone needs all the allies they can get, but allegiances can only properly function on a foundation of unshakable trust, which of course isn’t the status quo at the moment. Therefore the situation in the rest of the ecosystem among these five parties is rife with mistrust, anxiety and downright paranoia.

As if that wasn’t enough, let’s remember that this is just the various tiffs going on in the rest of the ecosystem. These spats are playing out at the feet of the two giants, with an emerging third giant entering the fray.

Big picture: this is just one of a few battles in the war. At stake is the question of independence, if not survival itself.

At least if there was peace between demand and supply, it would at least lend focus to the fight against the duopoly.

Published on MediaPost