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Exchange Lab to launch Proteus tech at Ad Week

September 25, 2014

The Exchange Lab is upping the ante on its unique multi-platform programmatic strategy with a new proprietary platform that makes media buying feel a lot like Wall Street securities trading.

The U.K. company is known for its unique approach to programmatic trading: it licenses programmatic buying software from a range of tech companies and sets them up in competition with one another on the same campaign. The idea is the best competitor will find the best-performing, most cost-efficient media.

On Monday at Ad Week, co-founder and CEO James Aitken (pictured) will debut The Exchange Lab’s new technology, Proteus. It acts as a surface-layer interface that combines the functionality of all of Exchange Lab’s software partners with data optimization tools into a programmatic behemoth. Traders can turn each platform on or off as needed, depending on the client’s needs and objectives.

It is set to replace the company’s current Datalab platform as its primary programmatic workhorse.

Aitken said the name “Proteus” comes from a Greek sea god, and represents the shifting currents of technology and supply under the surface of the platform.

“Each DSP has different strengths and weaknesses based on its heritage,” he said. “What we’re doing is providing a flexible platform on top, so that as new platforms get developed… we can integrate them.”

At present, Proteus has been integrated with 10 demand-side platforms, including MediaMath, AppNexus, The Trade Desk, TubeMogul, AdLearn Open Platform (AOP), Adbrain, Yahoo Ad Manager and Google DoubleClick Bid Manager. Through these platforms, it has access to 85 programmatic exchanges.

It’s also being integrated with Turn, a new strategic partner that Exchange Lab announced today. Aitken said that in the coming months he expects to add more mobile-specialist and programmatic television DSPs to Exchange Lab’s roster, to strengthen its capabilities in those still-developing channels.

Proteus can run coordinated, simultaneous buys across a selection of platforms chosen to suit the client’s needs and objectives. For example, the Trade Desk offers recency-based retargeting that enables traders to target consumers that have visited a product page within the last 15 minutes.

Several DSPs in Proteus’ stack offer TV syncing features, which target mobile ads based on shows that are currently on air. Others are specialized on specific channels, like video platform TubeMogul.

“You want to be accessing all these different opportunities for your media buys, but you don’t want to be caught up in all the process of going into different interfaces,” said Aitken. “We’ve cut out 40% of our traders’ [working] time by automating a lot of the process, so they can focus more on the results.”

To emphasize the significance of the change, the Exchange Lab has redesigned its website, marketing materials and logo. (The new logo is below.) The company’s new image will be rolled out next week.

A pedigree in high finance

Proteus was designed by chief technology officer Tim Palmer, a finance engineer who has worked for Deutsche Bank and Citibank. Palmer compared the platform to the Bloomberg Terminal, a system that Wall Street investors use to analyze financial markets to inform their investment decisions. Proteus is designed to work the same way – an intelligence and automation tool that helps traders find the best-quality, best-priced inventory across all accessible markets.

Just like the Terminal, Proteus enables minute-to-minute trading based on fluctuations in market prices. Campaign managers can track price trends as they evolve on a daily or hourly basis, and reallocate spend in response to market behaviour. If demand for BBC inventory spikes on Friday, and the Toronto Star sees a price lull at the same time, traders can spot the change and shift a chunk of their spend from one publisher to the other to take advantage of the momentary price differential.

The process gets even more complex when the difference in price between DSPs is taken into account. Palmer said that he’s been shocked by how wildly different prices can be for the same inventory on different platforms. A banner on might cost $6 per thousand on the Trade Desk, but it could cost $4.50 per thousand on MediaMath at the same time. Exploiting those price gaps – which single DSP-users aren’t able to see – can create significant savings over the course of a campaign.

This approach to programmatic buying, which has been called a “media investment philosophy” – leads to buying strategies that are as much based on market activity as the inventory itself. Traders can assess the risk of price increase or drops, diversify their campaign “portfolio” across a range of sites and channels that are performing, and even hedge against future market shifts.