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By Mona Khaldi - Marketing Coordinator, Platforms

This installment of the Marketer’s Guide Series provides a review of ad networks, ad exchanges, demand side platforms, supply side platforms, and trading desks – all of which are intermediaries in the adtech ecosystem, dealing with the buying and selling of digital media.

In the beginning…

Historically (i.e. the mid-1990s), if an advertiser or agency needed to purchase inventory, they would do so by directly negotiating site-level deals with individual publishers, as there were only a small handful of sites. By the early 2000s, however, the web had millions of websites, an engaged and growing audience, and advertisers willing to pay – so the traditional buying and selling method was not sufficient for scale.

Initially, ad networks emerged as closed marketplaces that aggregated, categorized, and sold remnant (unsold) inventory, so that marketers could expand their campaigns’ reach across the growing web. Many networks focused their publisher relationships within a single industry, such as pharmaceutical or automotive, to provide more appropriate inventory to their clients. Additionally, ad networks helped publishers monetize inventory that may have otherwise gone unsold.

Growing pains

By the mid-2000s, there were close to 100 million websites and numerous ad networks, so marketers needed a way to access all of these ad networks and tackle a number of challenges that arose with this new paradigm:

  • Fragmentation – There were too many undifferentiated ad networks that simply provided access to inventory
  • Lack of transparency – Ad networks often did not disclose prices or the site on which the ad was placed
  • Arbitrage – Ad networks were often accused of taking too high of margins
  • Limited reach – The daisy-chain structure of ad networks was still not sufficient to access the now millions of available sites
  • Limited targeting  Targeting was based on publisher-site viewer attributes (contextual targeting) as opposed to known user behavior (behavioral targeting), which most marketers found more valuable as this enabled them to target more granular segments

Rise of automation

Similar to stock exchanges, ad exchanges soon emerged as open marketplaces where advertisers, agencies, publishers, and ad networks could buy and sell inventory via real-time bidding (RTB) – a method of buying where inventory is bid upon and purchased one impression at a time (as opposed to CPM- per thousand), using behavioral targeting (made possible by the use of cookies). This meant advertisers were able to accomplish more granular targeting of the exact audiences they wanted, which eliminated wasted spend on lesser-valued impressions.

Additionally, there was a level of pricing and inventory transparency that never existed with ad networks – as exchanges provided pricing and inventory transparency. Exchanges also provided much greater scalability as they bought impressions across the growing number of networks and publishers.

Today, ad networks have changed the way they position themselves; most now offer specialized managed media services that bundle and sell inventory from multiple sources (publishers, exchanges, and SSPs). Some of the ways they differentiate themselves include serving to vertical targeting, or fulfilling specific campaign needs, e.g., CPA campaigns.

Big steps for programmatic

While ad exchanges do accomplish more granular targeting segments without compromising scalability, marketers need a methodology behind the buying engine – this is where Demand Side Platforms (DSP) come in.

DSPs offer programmatic technology, which automates media buying and eliminates manual negotiations. While the RTB technology that makes the buy is a subset of “programmatic,” DSPs also provide the algorithmic methodology that determines which inventory to buy, how much of it to buy, and which creative to display. Through a single interface, DSPs provide centralized access to exchanges, networks, publishers, and Supply Side Platforms (SSP) – tech platforms that help sellers monetize their inventory.

As programmatic evolved, more inventory gained exposure that would otherwise go unfound and unsold, which was a good thing, but it also meant potential commoditization. So, SSPs emerged to help publishers facilitate more “control” over their inventory (e.g., with price floors and minimum bids), and to help them optimize their yield – which means not just selling as much inventory as possible, but getting the max bid possible for each impression. SSPs essentially serve the same function as DSPs do, but for the sell side.

 Centralized services

The agency buyer – to publisher rep model is still used for much of today’s digital media buying, but as programmatic has become an increasingly important way of transacting, special units of programmatic experts have emerged within agencies, or independently, called Trading Desks. Acting as centralized service layers, Trading Desks manage programmatic across all the different vendors mentioned. They also help agencies and advertisers navigate a very complex space, and reduce costs of building tech stacks and internal teams.

What have we accomplished with these developments? The amount of precision and efficiency within the buying process has increased immensely. Additionally, marketers can target more granular segments without compromising scalability, which means audiences are being served ads that are more relevant to their needs. And who doesn’t love that!

Want to learn more about the vast digital space? Check out our Field Guide to Digital Marketing!


Name: Eric Goldfisher
Title: Training Specialist
Joined Mediaocean: Started at DDS in 2007, and came back in 2013.
College: Syracuse University

Tell us about your journey. Why advertising and technology?

Back in college, I wanted to be a sportscaster, but after having internships and seeing how the market looked, I thought the business side would be better – especially since I wanted to be in New York.  I started in radio, at a rep firm.  We used DDS software, and I picked it up quickly and would help other reps use it.  They were used to doing things by hand, so it was pretty new to them.  And then I saw the opportunity to come here.   I always liked it here, and knew a lot of the people, so I was happy to come back in 2013. 

In what ways has working at Mediaocean challenged you and enabled you to grow?

Learning the tech jargon and the product side of things is really interesting. I’m learning new things every day.

What do you enjoy most about working at Mediaocean?

The people and the culture here. The environment is all about the employees -- making them know they’re appreciated for all their hard work, and keeping them happy.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what role does Mediaocean play in helping you get there?

I see myself in a leadership role, staying within the media landscape. Tech companies are always evolving and on the forefront for innovation, so I’d like to stay in this area.

Give some tips for someone looking to land a job like yours. 

• Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.

• Show that you’re willing to try different things and step out of your comfort zone.

What are your favorite websites that you can be found browsing during lunch? 

Yahoo (I do amateur boxing on the side), (I went to high school with the guys who created these puppet videos.  They’re hilarious.)

If you were stranded out at sea and could only have 3 things, what would they be? 

• I’d say my dog. It’s selfish, maybe, but I need her and at least she’ll have a lot of room to run around.

• A grill- I’ll find something to cook there. 

• And my phone, I guess. So I could look up different recipes and ways to kill fish.

What’s your favorite TV show?

“Mad Men.”

If your life were made into a movie, who would play you and why?  

Ben Affleck or Tom Hardy. I think we have similar backgrounds and mannerisms.

“Spotlight On” is a series of employee profiles that will give our community insight into who Mediaocean is, right down to the people that make us our best! For more information on Mediaocean and our employees, contact

Some say that if your organization doesn’t believe in performing user testing on a regular basis, you need to change that culture. Without closing the loop of cyclical feedback to drive iterative development, you’ll never get a good product out to market. Indeed, the golden rule of user design states "test, test, and test again" - the more user testing conducted, the better.  But how do you get good feedback when your user pool is tricky to access, specialized, and short on time?

As a user experience designer working on our new Aura platform, this question is often on my mind. I know first-hand just how difficult it can be to receive regular feedback from actual end users.  So, I posed the question at a recent talk given by Peter Szabo of on ‘The seven (plus) deadly sins of UX design’.  He offered a number of possible solutions, one of which was particularly interesting: relying on user testing companies to recruit people who closely match your user profiles.  However, the cost associated with this approach limits its regular use in the development cycle.

A UX team member from the event’s host, Huddle, offered a suggestion often overlooked: tap into your support team, find out what users are calling about, and reach out to them directly. From this approach, the company found users were more engaged when they saw their issues being addressed, and, by establishing these relationships, they could reach out to the users again for further feedback. Additionally, those users became ambassadors for Huddle within their organization. There is a danger, however, in basing your user testing on the perspective of individual users - so this method is best used only as a starting point.  If you can find other users who share the same problems, and put it into context, you can then better rely on this information.

Another potential source of information is past products. Aura’s predecessor application, BrandOcean, has been in use for over 8 years and has amassed a huge amount of feedback and insights in that time. My team compiled this feedback, identified and prioritised the pain points, and created the development path accordingly.  Focusing on these improvements, the UX team is helping Aura outshine its predecessor.  And after being available for about a year now, with thousands of agency users, it’s now much easier to gather more feedback and further improve the UX.

Can the latter two methods replace formal user testing? Not entirely. But, when you’ve got limitations, you need to think outside the box and find a way to utilize what’s already available to you. 

Name: Jessica Breault Ramirez
Title: Chief of Staff
Joined Mediaocean: November 2009
College: University of Delaware

What are a few of your strengths and passions? How has working at Mediaocean enabled you to flex some of these muscles?

My communication skills and outgoing personality.  I love to meet new people and support them in their goals, and working at Mediaocean has allowed me to travel to different offices and get to know so many employees on a personal level.  I’ve gotten the opportunity to work closely with Bill and see his vision and future of the company - which is very exciting!

In what ways has working at Mediaocean challenged you and enabled you to grow?

Mediaocean constantly challenges me to learn more, step outside my comfort zone, and take chances.  I have gotten to work on our company events, run our facilities, lead our large NY office move, and work with so many people in different departments and offices.  It’s helped me broaden my horizons and see things from different views.  And then, of course, trying to manage Bill’s crazy schedule is always a challenge :)

What do you enjoy most about working at Mediaocean?

The people!  I love surrounding myself with awesome people.  I laugh every day at work.  When I came back from maternity leave, I had tons of people ask me about Mason – even a few people I had never spoken to before – and they still ask.  It feels like a family here and I love that.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what role does Mediaocean play in helping you get there?

I live for the moment with a little planning here and there. Mediaocean has allowed me to work on projects I never could have imagined, and I see myself growing with the company and continuing to work on various projects with various teams.

What’s your favorite employee perk at Mediaocean? 

The music in the café… and in the bathroom! (Laughs.)  It’s a moment of singing and dancing that I can’t always do at my desk.

Coffee or tea?

English breakfast tea with a little milk – the Australian way

Cats or dogs?

Dogs, of course!

Give some tips for someone looking to land a job like yours.

• Be personable – you need more than just experience - a strong and trusting work-relationship with your boss and other employees is key. 
• Pay attention to detail and be organized (in whatever way works for you).
• Be honest and trustworthy

What’s your favorite TV show?


Our esteemed panel of judges were given the challenging task of choosing the top video submissions based on passion, creativity, and overall answer. Out of 81 entries, they've narrowed it down to ten semifinalists who are in the running to be awarded one of three 25k scholarships for their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Now it's your turn - help us decide the three winners of the scholarship by voting for your favorite video. Voting closes on Friday, August 7th at 11:59 PM, so make sure to get your votes in on time! One vote per day is allowed. 

Congrats again to the semifinalists, and make sure to cast your vote today.

Name: Michael Felsman
Title: Account Manager
Joined Mediaocean: January 2011
College: Touro College

Tell us about your journey. Why advertising and technology?

My entire career has been in IT. After spending 15 years in IT for television and financial companies, I joined a startup that specialized in Out-of-Home advertising. I caught the ad tech bug -- I was hooked. I focused on roles dealing with agencies as they are the driving force for the direction technology takes in this industry. 

In what ways has working at Mediaocean challenged you and enabled you to grow?

Working with agencies is challenging, as they usually need custom technology and services that accommodate their unique positions in the industry. The focus required to support agencies in this environment has allowed me to grow and expand my management and client service skills. 

What do you enjoy most about working at Mediaocean?

I enjoy the fact that no two days are alike. You never know where the day might take you. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what role does Mediaocean play in helping you get there?

I see myself taking on expanded roles in dealing with agencies as well as partner companies that will help Mediaocean grow globally. I believe that Mediaocean is uniquely positioned to offer career opportunities to anyone who is ready for the challenge. 

What’s your favorite employee perk at Mediaocean?

Snacks! “Fridays with Felsman” is only possible at Mediaocean (I bring in snacks every Friday to share and encourage conversations with my office neighbors). 

Cats or dogs?


Give 3 tips for someone looking to land a job like yours.

• Have a good understanding of IT technologies and programming
• Understand the players in the ad tech space
• Excellent management and organizational skills

If you were stranded out at sea and could only have 3 things, what would they be? 
• Solar powered battery
• iPhone (with lots of books on the Kindle app)
• A big, fat survival kit

What’s your favorite TV show? 

“Breaking Bad.”

If your life were made into a movie, who would play you and why?

Liev Schreiber - because he is a fixer.

Name: Fraser Woollard
Title: VP, Business Development - Connect
Joined Mediaocean: 15th June 1997
College: University College London: BSc Architecture.

Tell us about your journey. Why advertising and technology?

I have always been fascinated with good design and how things are built. While studying Architecture at college, I discovered the Internet (it was 1993) and I wanted to learn more about computers and systems. After graduating, I focused on industries where technology was used for something I understood (TV and advertising) – and that’s how I found myself interviewing at Donovan Data Systems.  17 years later, I’m still amazed at how much there is to learn every day in this industry. When I started, Google, Facebook, and Twitter didn’t exist – and now they are established multi-billion dollar companies that touch all our lives. 

In what ways has working at Mediaocean challenged you and enabled you to grow?

Risk taking. It’s easy to stay in a comfort zone, but one thing that I have found is that by taking risks you really learn a lot about yourself. Whether that’s presenting at a conference, being interviewed for a press article, or even moving to a new city – everything is an opportunity to grow. 

What do you enjoy most about working at Mediaocean?

The people. I’ve met Al Gore at a conference, trained an actor and comedian on Adbuyer when he worked at an Agency, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazingly talented colleagues at Mediaocean. It’s the latter that I appreciate the most – especially talking to many of the younger hires. It’s a fun industry and extremely dynamic, and the people at Mediaocean reflect that.

What’s your favorite employee perk at Mediaocean?

The summer and holiday parties are awesome. 

Coffee or tea?

When in England, it has to be tea…but having been a New Yorker, coffee all the way.

Cats or dogs?

Have you seen my Facebook profile? DOGS!!! 

Give 3 tips for someone looking to land a job like yours.

• Speak to as many people in the industry to learn about the trends
• Be willing to try new things that put you outside the comfort zone
• Keep networking - despite the ad-tech explosion, this is still a small industry.

What are your favorite websites that you can be found browsing during lunch?,, 

If you were stranded out at sea and could only have 3 things, what would they be? 
• Spotify. I love music.
• Any books by Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett
• Case of IPA (India Pale Ale)

If your life were made into a movie, who would play you and why?

When I first moved to the US, everyone said I sounded like Hugh Grant…so I’d probably have him play me!

At Mediaocean, we envision a future where gender equality in the tech industry is the norm. So to give even more women the opportunity to build their careers in tech, we’ve extended the deadline for our Women in Tech scholarship.

The deadline for entries is now July 15, 2015. For more information about the scholarship, visit the Women in Tech website today.

Today we announced that Vista Equity Partners (Vista) is acquiring a majority stake in Mediaocean. Michael Donovan will retain a significant equity stake in company going forward and will remain on the board of directors, while Bill Wise will remain CEO of Mediaocean.  

This is an exciting milestone for Mediaocean, an almost 50-year-old company that continues to lead and disrupt the market. With the investment from Vista we will accelerate growth, further drive product innovation, enhance our customers experience, and – ultimately – continue our vision to unleash the full potential of the global advertising ecosystem.  

As a client or partner, your relationship with Mediaocean will remain the same. Your current platforms and services will remain unaffected and our professional services teams are here to support you along the way. As always, we will continue to provide you with the best customer experience and world-class solutions for the most challenging marketing and advertising issues. 

If you are wondering, we picked Vista as our new investment ally because of their track record in software and technology. They are a world-class firm with over 25 portfolio companies in the tech sector and they have strong expertise within our category.  Their reputation is fantastic and they share our vision for heightened growth and innovation. This new chapter at Mediaocean will help increase product innovation and deliver best-in-class solutions for the advertising ecosystem.  Vista is a not a classic financial buyer – they are a holding company for software companies, with a significant operations and consulting arm. This is what attracted us to them. 

For more information about this exciting news, please read the press release here

Name: Brian Lawrence

Title: Account Manager

Joined Mediaocean: Started at Donovan in 1995, came back in 2005.

College: West Virginia State University

Tell us about your journey. Why advertising and technology?  

I moved to New York to start a career in broadcasting. I was the “Voice of the Yellow Jackets,” announcing football and basketball games, hosting and producing radio and TV shows in college, and I had worked at the top NBC affiliate station in West Virginia’s largest market (Charleston-Huntington, WV). But this “plan” provided humbling experiences.  I accepted a position as a sales assistant at Blair television (now known as Petry), while pursuing a few promising sportscasting opportunities.  I liked working on the business side of media, and the thought of spending years slowly working my way to ESPN just didn’t seem as appealing as it once did.  After stops at Comcast (local cable advertising sales) and Nielsen Media Research, I found a home at DDS. There was so much to like about DDS that after a four-year stop again at Nielsen, I returned to DDS in 2005. And here I am…

What are a few of your strengths and passions? How has working at Mediaocean enabled you to flex some of these muscles?  

Matching client needs with what we have to offer. Client needs change, and our platforms are evolving to meet those needs. You need a combination of project management, problem solving, effective communication, relationship building, openness to learn new things, and adaptability to meet this challenge. My job never gets old.

In what ways has working at Mediaocean challenged you and enabled you to grow? 

Just when I figure out all the answers, someone changes all the questions…

What do you enjoy most about working at Mediaocean?

• The people

• Great work environment

• Mentorship program

• There is no company better positioned to be the leader in the emerging world of media convergence. Very excited about the possibilities.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years and what role does Mediaocean play in helping you get there?

• I see myself here, in digital advertising - Mediaocean is positioned to spearhead the industry in its efforts to reach convergence.

• Or, living in a beachfront on the island of Barbados counting my mega-million dollar lottery winnings from the ticket I bought with my Mediaocean salary…

What’s your favorite employee perk at Mediaocean? 

The champion softball team and our themed holiday parties.

Cats or dogs? 

Dogs (preferably Beagles, they’re the best).

Give some tips for someone looking to land a job like yours.

• Have a good understanding of what Mediaocean has to offer, as well as an understanding of our clients’ business.

• Show that you are assertive.

• Show your sense of humor; you will have to call on it from time to time…

What’s your favorite TV show? 

“Law and Order” (the original series). But it’s tied with “Frasier.”