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Yahoo is making an unspecified portion of its reserved inventory available to demand-side platforms (DSPs), months after display rivals like AOL pledged to put its guaranteed placements on exchanges. Read the release.

When Yahoo acquired ad exchange pioneer Right Media six years ago for $680 million, the portal was seen as taking steps far beyond what its closest rivals, Google and AOL, were doing to advance online advertising. But Yahoo was eclipsed by its competitors, in part because of its perceived neglect of Right Media and other related ad-tech properties it picked up in the subsequent years.

The past several months have shown small signs of an attempt by Yahoo to put that programmatic puzzle back in place. Yahoo’s partnership with outside DSPs, including Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager, “is just one important step we’re taking to make the buying process faster and easier,” said Dennis Buchheim, Yahoo’s VP of product management.

“Several DSPs and agency partners have integrated with Yahoo using our API to access guaranteed inventory programmatically through our advertising platform,” he added.

Yahoo’s rivals, however, have made bigger splashes. In September, AOL gathered some 800 media buyers together for a "programmatic upfront" and promised to put its direct-sold inventory available on automated platforms for the first time starting early next year. While AOL didn’t specify how much inventory there was or the available inventory’s value, it certainly caught buyers’ attention with its lavish presentation that implied the amount offered for programmatic would be substantial.

That's not to say that Yahoo has been indifferent to programmatic. "Yahoo has some of the highest valued digital ad inventory available, and we’re finding new ways to streamline the buying process so that our advertisers can be as efficient as possible," Buchheim said. "We’ve been very clear that programmatic – both real-time and guaranteed – is a focus for Yahoo. You will continue to see more innovation from Yahoo in this area because it provides great value for the brands, agencies and partners we work with."

In July, after Marissa Mayer told analysts during an earnings call that the company would make more of an investment in ad tech, the company said it was acquiringsmall mobile-ad targeter and data-management software startup AdMovate.

The same week AOL had been hyping its programmatic spectacle, it issued a smaller joint announcement with Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo, saying the three would adhere to the same standard principles for automating reserved inventory. At the time, Buchheim  told AdAge that certain "premium" placements, such as the Yahoo Homepage Takeover unit, would "not be available through [an automated system] anytime soon."

Rather than trying to challenge AOL and Google, Yahoo's deal with DoubleClick Bid Manager, MediaMath and The Trading Desk should primarily help it appeal to agencies and their trading desks. Among the agencies that have signed on to Yahoo's DSP deal are Omnicom trading desk Accuen, Interpublic Group's Magna Global, WPP Group's Neo@Ogilvy, Aegis' Amnet and Merkle.