It’s a new era for programmatic advertising, and Index Exchange is leaning in with a new brand identity and completely re-architected exchange.
Seventeen year-old Index Exchange is one of the original supply side platforms helping publishers monetize their inventory programmatically. But a lot has changed in the almost two decades since the company launched.
The loss of online identifiers such as third-party cookies in Chrome and Apple’s IDFA on mobile devices, tighter regulations around personal data usage and a mass migration of programmatic dollars to connected TV mean that Index Exchange’s fundamental architecture needed a rebuild, said CEO Andrew Casale.
“At some point, you have to recreate the foundation to really ensure you are modernized and ready for the future,” he said.
The new exchange is written on Golang, an open source programming language that allows engineers to build simple programs quickly. It has been re-engineered to solve three core problems: efficiency, speed and compliance.
With the ability to process programmatic auctions more quickly, the new platform allows Index Exchange to pass along greater savings on processing costs to its customers: online publishers. Speed also creates a better user experience for the reader, who does not have to wait for slow loading ads on a webpage, Casale said.
Speed is also important from a privacy perspective, as the landscape continues to shift rapidly. The new platform “unlocks even more engineering velocity so we can build and rebuild, and build and rebuild much faster, because that is the name of the game,” Casale said.
On the privacy compliance front, the platform supports open identifiers including Unified ID 2.0, LiveRamp’s IdentityLink and Merkle’s M1, all of which Index Exchange has worked on developing. When personal identifiers are unavailable, the exchange supports tools including Google’s FLoC and Apple’s SKAdNetwork.
“We don't see identity as a solution set that a seller picks and requires marketers to tap into,” Casale said. “We see it as a decision that starts with each marketer, and we have to be able to connect into that.”
Index Exchange began planning for the platform rebuild in late 2019, but the pandemic accelerated the process, Casale said. What was intended to be a three to five year project was compressed into 19 months as the market slowed down and the company was able to refocus all of its engineering efforts on the rebuild, as well as a rebrand including a new logo.
The new platform and brand debut at a time of mass consolidation in the ad tech sector. In Q3 alone, there were 31 deals worth more than $100 million in transaction value across ad tech, mar tech and digital content, according to ad tech M&A advisory Luma Partners.
Supply-side platforms, which support publishers, have tried to resist consolidation in recent years by getting cozier with agencies and marketers, which control budgets in programmatic transactions. Index Exchange has a longstanding partnership with GroupM that has saved the media buying giant $1.5 million in supply fees alone. Index Exchange has also built APIs for marketers to track and audit programmatic spend themselves.
“Over the past few years, we have certainly found ourselves spending more time with the buy side as they have done surveys and audits and asked for more details on how the supply chain works and where their money goes in programmatic,” Casale said.
As for an exit, Casale, who has been at the helm of Index Exchange since he took over the former Casale Media from his father in 2015, is “not tired enough yet and I love what I do too much” to sell the company.
“Our bet is on innovation,” he said. “Rather than buying a couple of companies and putting them together, we want to create one unified stack.”