The Magic Of Tidying Up Your Business Partnerships

31926-EC-Rohan Creasey

Our industry is built on a large network of partnerships, but in this guest post, Rubicon Project’s Rohan Creasey suggests that it might be time for a Marie Kondo-style tidy up.

Anyone who has been in the online advertising industry for any length of time will have a somewhat fixed list of default business partners. Yet some of these relationships will undoubtedly be more effective than others – and I’d venture to suggest that just as charity shops around the world are bearing the brunt of the Marie Kondo cleaning frenzy, many business partnerships could use spring cleaning as well.

Agencies and publishers in particular can be guilty of letting too many of their partnerships fall into ‘set and forget’ territory.  If both sides don’t regularly check in and identify those partnerships that are no longer offering value, the long-term damaging effects can be significant. 

This isn’t to say that agencies and publishers don’t care about transparency, value and ROI. They do. But I hear the comment “We’re agnostic” all too often. The concern is that when someone in our industry claims to be agnostic about who they are partnering with, it’s more likely that they are simply being apathetic.  That is, they are disinterested, indifferent or lackadaisical. And I’m sure we can all agree that apathy and business do not mix well.  

So how to proceed?  Quite simply – examine your partners. Our industry is full of lovely people, many of whom are selling lovely products and many of whom may have become your friends – but those qualities shouldn’t underpin your business decisions. Instead, focus on the things that will bring “joy” to your business – revenue, service levels, transparency, trust, costs, CPMs, win rates, or a combination of all of these. 


Publishers need to roll up their sleeves and consolidate their exchanges. Now of course, there is some self interest in that statement, but there truly is no point keeping several exchanges around just for the sake of it, especially when there’s a chance they’re simply duplicating others’ efforts. But before you go full-on minimalist, make sure you fully understand which exchange offers you the best fees, service, relationship and ultimately, the best value.

There’s a power in making these decisions. I encourage publishers to take that power and get involved. If you want to do your deals through a particular exchange, go ahead. You don’t have to leave it to the buyers – those that want your inventory will simply use your preferred exchange. Too much choice is not always a good thing, and consolidating your channels helps. 

Ever stopped to consider why more and more brands have started bringing their own teams in house? Perhaps they’ve started their own clean out – and they’ve not only watched the Netflix series, but read the book too.

No matter what area of the industry you work in, the story is the same: if your partnerships are no longer sparking joy (or bringing in the bacon), it’s time to thank them for their service and move on.

Agencies must get in on the action too. Be brutally honest and ask yourself why you’re transacting on the exchanges you’ve been using.  Are you just ticking every box in your DSP? If so, that’s just apathetic. What about transparency, cost, ROI, the take rates? And take a look at how your team is making their buying decisions. The only way to know for sure if your spend is being directed appropriately is by getting curious. Start asking questions and then consider – is the reason you are using a partner simply due to blind loyalty and apathy, or is this a partnership genuinely worth keeping? 

You’ll quickly learn that habit or nostalgia are never good enough reasons to keep partnerships around. After all, the phrase “That’s the way we’ve always done it” should never be the driving force behind your business decisions.

It’s important to take better care of what we do keep. If we don’t look after the relationships we value, we might suddenly find ourselves at the pointy end of a tidying up session.

So, if you are one of the millions who have been busily applying a clean-up to your own home, it’s high time you started implementing this philosophy into your business life. The world has been captivated by Marie Kondo’s method because it places great importance on being mindful and forward-looking. Our industry would do well to start thinking in the same way.

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