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Stephen F. Johnston, Jr. of Pubwise, on increasing revenue for publishers using programmatic advertising

Had an interesting, nuts-and-bolts-oriented talk with Stephen F. Johnston, Jr., CTO of Pubwise, a company that helps publishers increase revenue through programmatic advertising by offering header bidding as a service. As described on its website, Pubwise came about “after a long, frustrating road of expensive consultants delivering empty promises, combined with the arrival of Header Bidding to the adtech scene.” After “getting wise to the murky, sometimes dishonest and inefficient programmatic advertising world; we decided to create the technology ourselves – to see the data inside the black box.”

Stephen and I take a deep dive into Pubwise’s Prebid technology, which optimizes ad auctions for better win rates and revenue for both buyers and sellers and then broaden the conversation’s scope to discuss the evolution of the ad tech industry, which is currently undergoing a phase that blurs the lines that once separated SSPs, DSPs, and exchanges.

We tackle issues pertaining to the mechanics of ad auctions, including latency, and monetization, with Stephen noting that today’s environment requires publishers to constantly monitor and remeasure auction metrics to avoid long-term performance issues. Additionally, both publishers and sellers must surface the right data to connect audiences with interest or risk a period of low fidelity and decreased campaign scale. As Stephen notes, observability is key to optimizing ad performance, as it provides contextual data for both publishers and advertisers to improve their systems.

We chat about the issue of environmental sustainability and how it intersects with the traditional need for programmatic ads to execute multiple, energy-consuming server calls. Stephen expresses optimism about industry progress but raises concerns about efficiency and carbon footprint due to browser changes such as those entailed in Google’s post-cookie proposal. He also notes that while there is a lot of focus on reducing requests and carbon impact, the solution is still fragmented, with many companies vying to be the solutions provider.

As Stephen notes, uncertainty in the digital advertising industry will likely prevail for the foreseeable future, providing an opportunity for companies such as his own to demonstrate their value.


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