The Death and Rebirth of the PMP

Kelsey Corlett, Programmatic Manager, CvE


In recent months, private marketplaces (PMPs) have begun to regain relevance in programmatic display advertising. A PMP is an advertising agreement between publishers and a select group of advertisers, offering access to premium, high-quality inventory that is not available through open exchanges.

In its infancy, having strong direct relationships between advertisers and publishers was a core aspect of the programmatic landscape, inherited from the days of direct bookings and big print media entertainment budgets. Agencies would negotiate preferred rates to access inventory on reputable publications. 

As Programmatic Display grew to feature on all comprehensive digital media plans, however, agencies needed quick access to cost-effective inventory at scale. This meant that agencies began to circumvent publishers and funnel more media spend into the open exchanges. The growth of Google-competitive DSP’s also meant that troubleshooting deals became more complex and time-consuming. 

The move away from the PMP may also have been triggered by the fact that few publishers were able to diversify their offering. With publishers bursting onto the programmatic scene globally, many publishers (specifically news media publishers) offered bulk access to standardized ad units with generic audiences at a high cost.

Fast Forward to 2023, however, and PMPs are once again rising to the programmatic forefront, regaining popularity for reasons relating to brand safety, viewability, ad fraud, data security and performance concerns. According to eMarketer (2020), 2020 was the first year programmatic digital display ad spending against the private marketplace was higher than in the open exchange.

Brand Safety, Viewability and Ad Fraud

In the wake of ad scandals and controversies surrounding programmatic advertising, advertisers have become more cautious about where their ads are placed. PMPs typically have more stringent requirements for ad placements compared to other programmatic advertising solutions, which helps to avoid suspicious websites or apps, and other problematic placements.

Ad Fraud Restrictions - CvE

By hand-picking advertisers and monitoring their activity, publishers can also limit the risk of their inventory being hijacked by malicious actors. With more transparency and control over ad placement, PMP’s can help to prevent domain spoofing and other forms of ad fraud. 

Having more direct relationships with publishers, enables advertisers to negotiate specific terms and conditions around brand safety, viewability and ad fraud. Overall, PMPs offer a more secure and reliable way for buyers to access safe, high quality inventory.

Inventory Diversity

With competition among publishers intensifying during the rise of programmatic advertising, publishers have had to reassess their offering and bring something more unique to the digital media table. As a result of this pressure, publishers have begun to offer PMP’s as a way to access bespoke, interactive media executions, including expandable units, interstitials and scrollable creatives.


Since publishers often manage their programmatic inventory through waterfalling, PMP inventory which is “premium” in nature, is often accessed before remnant open auction inventory. This means that PMP’s offer a way for advertisers to take advantage of a qualified impression before any bidders on the open auction. Accessing inventory before it enters the open market, has been seen to drive higher campaign results. For CvE, managed campaigns for example, the inclusion of PMP’s has improved CTR’s by up to 20%.

Advantage of Qualified Impressions

Data Protection and Cookie Policies

One of the biggest factors driving the PMP into the future is the death of the 3rd party cookie – a hot topic on every advertiser’s lips. With the future of third-party data segments hanging in the balance, contextual targeting steps into the spotlight. The PMP offers a clear-cut solution for accessing inventory in relevant content verticals with reduced competition. 


In conclusion, the relevance of private marketplaces in recent years has grown dramatically and is now a big competitive advantage for those able to manage them at scale. Ensuring you get access to the best inventory at the best price in programmatic terms is known as supply path optimisation (SPO) of which such direct deals are a cornerstone. If you run display campaigns and want to improve the quality, lower the risk of fraud and drive better results, it’s well worth your time to develop your PMPs.

If you would like help with this or any aspect of programmatic or digital marketing please get in touch

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