Google’s SPM to MCM switchover for AdX, explained

Google Ad Exchange (AdX) is the most widely adopted premium ad exchange in the world. Small and mid-size publishers upgrading from AdSense and similar plug-and-play ad networks typically see much better CPMs and overall revenue when they eventually transition to using AdX.

Getting access to AdX can be challenging for everyone except the largest publishers though. Google doesn’t share the exact qualification criteria publicly, but depending on the niche, traffic geo, and user demographics, publishers need anywhere between 10 to 20 million monthly pageviews to qualify for a direct AdX integration. Because a lot of publishers don’t meet that qualification threshold, in 2014, Google created the Scaled Partner Management (SPM) program to enable publishers to work with authorized channel partners to gain access to AdX.

Starting September 30th, Google will replace the SPM program with something called the Multiple Customer Management (MCM) program, which has been created to simplify the Google Ad Manager experience for all users and also to give publishers access to a few additional monetization features, such as programmatic direct and Open Bidding.

As the rollout date is approaching, there is increasing dialogue within the publisher community about what these changes mean and their impact. In this short guide, we’ll explain why Google is switching from SPM to MCM, the timeline of migration, and what that means for publishers.

Unpacking “MCM”

Before getting into how MCM works, it’s helpful to note that under the new Google terminology, channel partners are now called “parent publishers” and the publishers seeking access to AdX and Open Bidding are referred to as “child publishers”. That said, in this guide, we’ve retained the original channel partner/publisher terminology to keep things simple.

MCM has two “delegation” types: Manage Inventory and Manage Account.

With the MCM Manage Account delegation, channel partners are granted edit access to manage the publisher’s inventory. The publisher retains permissions and access to all settings. Under this delegation, while the channel partner can manage multiple child accounts, the publisher can only have one channel partner manage their account. This delegation type seems to be designed for publishers who have a go-to channel partner that manages their entire account.

On the other hand, the MCM Manage Inventory delegation allows publishers to work with up to 15 channel partners at the same time. Configuring this delegation requires both the publisher and the involved channel partners to have their own Ad Manager networks. Channel partners can manage the publisher’s inventory directly within their own account using Ad units, orders, and line items. By design, channels partners only have access to the delegated publisher inventory within their account, as opposed to having access over the publisher’s entire account. This delegation is better suited for publishers who take a more hands-on approach to managing their inventory and need the freedom to work with multiple channel partners for monetization.

Why Google is making the SPM to MCM switch

Back in 2018, Google did a pretty extensive rebrand of its ad stack. The exercise brought together Google’s ad server (previously called DoubleClick for Publishers or DFP) and its ad exchange (AdX) into a single platform called Google Ad Manager (GAM).

When this happened, AdX became a component of GAM, and since SPM was previously a component of AdX—Google had to decide whether to keep the program going as is or bring it under the umbrella of GAM. Eventually, Google decided to take the latter route.

So one part of the decision was simply based on the need to deprecate an older branding convention. The second part is that with MCM now under GAM, Google can continue building new and better features for channel partners and publishers under a single unified platform.

What’s next for publishers?

Publishers who are currently working with an SPM channel partner risk losing their access to AdX unless they migrate to a channel partner that’s been invited into the MCM program. Since AdX contributes a significant chunk of the total revenue for publishers who have access to it—and the migration deadline is just around the corner—publishers need to decide their plan of action.

To be clear, it’s possible that your existing SPM channel partner has already been invited to MCM, but there’s no guarantee of that as Google is reportedly setting stricter guidelines about which channel partners qualify to be in the new program.

Part of the reason for this increased scrutiny is to improve the quality of the channel partner ecosystem and ensure that they are compliant with the latest privacy standards and regulations. For instance, under the Manage Inventory delegation, the ad requests will be generated from the channel partner’s network, which means that they have to be responsible for ensuring compliance with GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy regulations.

Blockthrough has already been invited to the MCM program and is working with its client publishers, who use the AdX demand we provide to run Acceptable Ads compliant advertising on their adblocked inventory, to complete the switchover ahead of the September deadline.

If you haven’t heard about the SPM to MCM switchover from your channel partner yet, ask them if they’ve been invited. In case they have been invited, the transition should be simple and your channel partner should be able to share clear instructions on how to proceed. If your channel partner hasn’t been invited, it’s probably time to start evaluating a new MCM vendor.

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