Guardian sets 'unusual' precedent with Rubicon Project lawsuit

The Guardian's lawsuit against ad tech vendor Rubicon Project on the grounds of undisclosed fees charged to advertisers is unusual on "any dimension", according to Nick Manning, chief strategy officer at Ebiquity.

Rubicon Project launched 'Project Awesome' last December
Rubicon Project launched 'Project Awesome' last December

Lawsuits in the industry involving programmatic are, in any case, unusual, Manning added with a disclaimer that commenting on a legal matter from press reports is "hard to do".

The Guardian has learnt that they’re receiving around 30p on the pound. WFA research has shown that on a good day, publishers get 40p on the dollar," Manning said. "Publishers have to do something about this because they’re bleeding." 

Speaking as to The Guardian’s possible grounds for action, Manning commented that the title would only do so if there were grounds. "The Guardian, presumably, would not go lightly into any situation. They would only do this if there was a breach of agreement."

He added that it’s not unusual for publishers to have contracts around inventory released to ad tech vendors. "The point I would make is that publishers are, generally speaking, on the wrong end of what’s going on in the programmatic space and are fighting for every dollar, cent and pound that they can."

The Guardian’s actions may lead other publishers to raise similar questions, Manning said.

Broadly speaking, he added, the programmatic marketplace is set up in terms that are unfavourable to both advertisers and publishers. "Advertisers are losing out because they’re not getting their money’s worth. Publishers are only getting 40 cents on the dollar. It’s the intermediaries who are making money here, selling impressions whether they are real or not. It’s not surprising, therefore, that advertisers and publishers are starting to question the economics because it’s not working for either of them."

Rubicon Project has not yet to responded to requests for comment.

A Guardian News & Media spokeswoman confirmed to Campaign: "We can confirm that we have commenced proceedings against Rubicon Project for the recovery of non-disclosed buyer fees in relation of Guardian inventory. We cannot say anything further at this time." 

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