How the AppNexus Programmable Platform Balances

When you ask the team behind the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP) where they drew their inspiration from, you may be surprised to hear them say, “Tesla.” `After all, what could a DSP and an electric car possibly have in common?

More than you’d think. Please, hear us out.

Blog Post
The AppNexus Team
Reading Time: ~5min

Tesla vehicles were designed from the start to be the highest-performing electric cars on the market, and they’ve clearly met that goal. But the team behind Tesla knew it wasn’t enough to build an extremely powerful electric car. They also wanted to build a car that would be a joy to drive – not just compared to other electric cars, but to any car, period. The team accomplished that by adding features like powerful acceleration, drivability, and AI-enabled assistance to augment the driving experience, eventually producing a car that famously broke the Consumer Reports review scale.

We wanted to strike a similar balance between record-setting performance and sleek user experience with APP. Using machine learning-powered technology, we set out to build a tool that could both revolutionize the DSP market with never-before-seen performance while also offering a simple, intuitive user experience. Just as Tesla doesn’t want to build a car only a racecar driver can handle, we wanted to build a tool that any trader can use successfully.

Below, we’re going to give you the rundown on how APP combines performance and usability to drastically improve the way traders build their campaigns.


AppNexus Programmable Bidder: The drive-train behind the world’s first programmable DSP

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Tesla’s unique drive-train design is one of the key reasons its vehicles can hit performance goals no electric car could previously. As you can see from the picture above, it’s a radical departure from the drive-train of a traditional car, but that outside-the-box design is what enables the Tesla to get so much more driving distance out of each electric charge.

Just as that drive-train is the (literal) engine that powers a Tesla vehicle to peak performance, the AppNexus Programmable Bidder (APB) is the engine that enables APP to unlock better campaign results for traders. We actually released APB two years ago as part of Console for Buyers. Its key differentiator is that it enables traders to combine their first-party data with our platform data to build sophisticated bidding algorithms that weren’t possible before.

But while APB is powerful, it takes some coding and data science skills to use it to its full potential. With APP, we set out to take the power of APB, and make it accessible to any trader.


How APP makes programmability simple and attainable

While it’s mostly praised for its battery performance, that alone isn’t what makes a Tesla a Tesla. Just as important is the fact that it’s fun to drive. The Tesla team has invested in features that don’t have much to do with the core concept an electric car – AI-enabled Autopilot, parking sensors, a display with a web browser – yet still lend a huge boost to the driving experience.

Similarly, we knew that APP wouldn’t be the best product it could be on the merits of its campaign building capabilities alone. After all, what good is performance in a DSP if you need to be a programmer or a data scientist to unlock its full potential? We knew APP needed to improve on the user experience of APB to be successful, and we believe we’ve achieved that with the following: 

  • Campaigns that just work. When traders set up a campaign in APP, all they need to do is enter their goal KPI – the number they want to achieve for CTR, CPC, viewability, etc. – and a budget. From there, they can easily add information on geographic regions, site domains, and user segments they think might perform well, and APP can automatically experiment with those variables while still hitting the higher-level campaign goals.
  • No more manual budget optimization. With traditional DSPs, traders need to spend an inordinate amount of time checking that their campaigns are spending at budget and manually adjusting them if not. With APP’s built-in adaptive pacing, traders just need to enter four pieces of information for each campaign: lifetime budget, flight dates, percentage by which to pace ahead, and the geographic regions they’re serving in. From there, APP paces spend automatically.
  • A streamlined user interface. With APP, a complex campaign that would ordinarily take a trader ten to thirty minutes to set up is reduced to about a minute. The process is fast and feels simple to traders, yet on the backend they’re producing complex code that governs their campaign strategy.

None of these features improve campaign performance as profoundly as APP’s programmability, but they’ll help make traders more effective by taking menial, day-to-day tasks off their plate. You can see them in action by watching the full video of our Summit presentation on how we built APP. We also recommend you download our white paper on the future of trading to learn more about how we believe the DSPs of the future will address the evolving needs of programmatic traders.