“Towards an Open, Complete, Efficient Marketplace” – #RubiUni Event Stockholm Report

“Towards an Open, Complete, Efficient Marketplace” – #RubiUni Event Stockholm Report

Our CEO Daniel Ahlbert kicks off #RubiUni, hosted alongside Rubicon Project

Our CEO Daniel Ahlbert kicks off #RubiUni, hosted alongside Rubicon Project

50 of the leading publishers in Sweden gathered together last Wednesday at Berns for our latest event – covering both the latest product updates, as well as analysing the most recent market trends.

Presented alongside our partner Rubicon Project, these events give our customers fuel to keep growing their programmatic businesses – and a chance to catch up with colleagues – all in just a couple of hours.

Rubicon’s Director of Mobile & Video EMEA Flora Evans covers the benefits of header bidding

Rubicon’s Director of Mobile & Video EMEA Flora Evans covers the benefits of header bidding

Rubicon's Flora Evans kicked off the event with an informative talk about all things header bidding, from its creation – to optimise all revenue sources in real-time – to its quick passage from wide adoption to maturity – the open source standards which Rubicon jointly oversees on the Prebid council.

Next up is moving the whole process out of the page header to the server (also known as server-to-server header bidding), which promises even lower latency and faster page loading times – though this is still at an early stage.

Netric Account Director Victor Hammarstrand shows the benefits of SPO

Netric Account Director Victor Hammarstrand shows the benefits of SPO

Our own Victor Hammarstrand also took to the stage, explaining why Rubicon’s acquisition of supply path optimisation (SPO) tech nToggle is so important to the future. Of course, other companies have talked about SPO, but our partner is the only to invest millions of dollars in the technology. What nToggle essentially does is to enable buyers to navigate the new reality of header bidding, getting around its complexities. Essentially, with this new piece of kit in place, we are helping them to avoid inventory duplication, cut operating costs and increase win rates. When you think of the longer term market forces, we believe this will help to surface the quality publishers on our own platform – and make demand even stronger.

Another, similarly important project is the adoption of ads.txt. Born out of the IAB, it’s essentially a simple way of adding an extra layer of transparency to programmatic. And at the same time, limit access to premium inventory only to authorised buyers. Rubicon Account Director Nathan Probert explained the benefits in detail, and a quick show of hands confirmed that a number of Swedish publishers have already adopted the measure.

Rubicon Project Account Director Nathan Probert covering the benefits of ads.txt

Rubicon Project Account Director Nathan Probert covering the benefits of ads.txt

To summarise all of the talks in one in a short space is tricky – but whether it’s header bidding, SPO, ads.txt or any of the other areas discussed – what brings them all together is the aim of becoming the most open, complete and efficient marketplace in the Nordics (and worldwide). And you could even say that events like this have their part to play in that strategy.

If you attended, we hope you got a lot out of the morning. If you didn’t, we hope to see you at another one soon.

We will follow up in the coming weeks with a series of interviews featuring some of our customers who were there on the day.

Prebid header, whether via a server or on the page solution will be a big play for the remainder of 2017, and into next year. This is being rolled out at high speed at the moment. But Nordic publishers don´t need to go through the whole trial and error period the US market went through with this. Over here, we can skip straight to best practice - and get better results than legacy waterfall setups - all set up in a matter of days.
— Netric CEO Daniel Ahlbert

The Nordic Advertising Market in 5 Charts

The Nordic Advertising Market in 5 Charts

With a shared population of just 27 million, the Nordic countries are some of the most advanced, creative digital advertising markets in the world. Here are five charts showing where they stand right now:

1. A display market worth $1.5 billion in 2017

Display Ad Spend in the Nordics, 2017 ($)

Data from eMarketer, March 2017

2. The Nordics is a leader in digital in particular - how do we know this? A number of our markets have some of the highest digital digital ad spend as a percentage of overall spend:

Digital Ad Spend Share of Total Media Ad Spend, 2017 (%)

Data from eMarketer, March 2017

Here's that same data, put alongside the other top countries worldwide for digital ad spend percentage - as you can see, Norway and Denmark are around #3 and #5 in the world:

Digital Ad Spend Share of Total Media Ad Spend (% 2016-2020)

Data from eMarketer, March 2017

3. All markets are now rapidly adopting programmatic as a way of trading media easier, faster and better - here's where programmatic as a percentage of all media stood at last year:

Percentage of Digital Spend that is Programmatic (2016)

Data from Local IABs & Danske Medier

4. Video is a key area for programmatic, and the Nordics look set to see big programmatic video revenue growth this year:

Programmatic Video Revenue - Percentage Growth in 2017

Data from SpotX / IHS Research

So there you have it, five charts showing the current state of digital advertising across the Nordics - with programmatic, video, mobile and header bidding all key areas to watch over the next 12-24 months.

Meanwhile, it would also be interesting to see the share of overall spend the duopoly (Google and Facebook) holds versus over countries, and how this alters in future. This is especially true given the fears that arose among brands around YouTube in particular earlier this year.

Prebid.org launches to build open source header bidding for publishers

AppNexus and Rubicon Project have announced the creation and launch of Prebid.org, Inc., an independent organization dedicated to the development and promotion of open-source header bidding solutions and other open-source tools to drive publisher monetization. A collaborative effort of industry partners, Prebid.org is open to all parties advocating for unbiased and efficient monetization solutions and a digital advertising ecosystem that thrives through fair competition.

In joining Prebid.org, partners commit to a Code of Conduct containing directives for header bidding wrapper mechanics, data and transparency, and user experience. Written to ensure best practices for fair market competition, the Code of Conduct supports improved performance for publishers and user experience for consumers. 

“The formation of Prebid.org marks a crucial step forward in the push for industry-wide adoption of open-source header bidding technologies,” said Tom Kershaw, Chief Technology Officer, Rubicon Project and a director of Prebid.org. “Today’s announcement demonstrates a collaborative commitment to buyers, sellers, and the advertising ecosystem as a whole as we continue to blaze this trail of sharing and openness in an effort to promote continued growth and monetization opportunities for all parties.”

Header bidding is a technique created to offer publishers a more efficient way of working with programmatic vendors, equipping them to improve their monetization strategies in an unbiased environment. As opposed to proprietary technologies, open-source header bidding solutions are updated on a continuous basis by a multitude of industry players – the Prebid.org community currently spans 81 demand partner adapters, 5 analytics providers, and 191 individuals who contribute code to the project. The collaborative nature of the organization instills transparency and accountability into the ecosystem, while enabling the Prebid solutions to adapt quickly to market and publisher needs.

“A fragmented header bidding landscape poses a great risk to the industry,” said Michael Richardson, Product Line Manager, AppNexus and Chairman of Prebid.org. “Rather than independently competing, duplicating efforts, and wasting resources, we can push for fair competition and better results as a team. The collaboration around Prebid.org by industry partners has been incredible, showing it to be the pragmatic path forward.”

“I am super excited about Prebid.org – an independent, community-supported organization will bring meaningful support and innovation to the Prebid solutions, which in turn contribute to the long-term viability of publishers within the advertising ecosystem,” said Danny Khatib, co-founder of Granite Media and former COO of Livingly, a pioneer of header bidding. “As a publisher, my ability to participate and advocate in the Prebid community gives me confidence in Prebid.org to continue to develop the most effective and transparent solutions for our business.”

The launch of Prebid.org as an independent organization does not alter the functionality of existing Prebid products, but rather bolsters support for their development and adoption within the industry. Amongst the products currently contributed to Prebid.org are client-side wrapper solution, Prebid.js, server-side header bidding solution, Prebid Server, as well as Prebid Mobile, Prebid Video, and Prebid Native. The solutions support all device types.

Publishers and ad tech vendors are encouraged to join Prebid.org, to further develop and champion best practices for open-source header bidding. Companies interested in participating should visit prebid.org for additional information.

“We’re excited to participate in Prebid.org since open-source header bidding technologies are developed in a way which favors growth for publishers and the programmatic industry as a whole, versus proprietary solutions,” said Evan Simeone, SVP of Product Management at PubMatic. “Development in open-source projects is self-correcting for the benefit of the community as opposed to benefiting any one party, as we all should be up front and helpful in addressing our industry’s challenges to move forward.”

Netric New Business Director Christopher Grenö on 'smart experiments' and what's next for Nordic publishers

We’re happy to announce that Christopher Grenö has joined Netric as our New Business Director.

Christopher started his career on the publisher side, with stints at Expressen and Bonnier, then switched over to ad tech, where he has worked on both buy and sell side, most recently with Sizmek and Ooyala. He has also worked as a consultant, so has a good overview of the entire market, and seeing the industry-wide impact of programmatic and online video.

Christopher Greno.jpeg

What’s your view of the current state and opportunities across the Nordic ad and media markets?

In terms of opportunity, it’s all about the ‘big three’ – programmatic, video and mobile.

At this point, programmatic is of course pretty mainstream, but there’s still opportunity for growth in the Nordics. Especially as the big publishers adopt a smarter, more long-term approach to maximising yield.

In terms of video specifically, in-app is an area I don’t think we’ve made the most of yet. And likewise, programmatic in over-the-top TV (Apple TV or Roku for example) still hasn’t really happened, so it’s a big opportunity, especially in the Nordics.

What about header bidding?

Header bidding burst onto the scene very quickly – and already has high adoption in display. But video is still another matter – and I think video header bidding may be the next big thing we need to think about. And with video versus display, it’s more clearly a smarter approach to inventory allocation that will drive growth for publishers – rather than just opening up the pipes to an increase in demand.

Where would you say are the biggest opportunities for publishers over the coming year?

I would say there are still big opportunities around data – specifically the smart use of your first party data to win back control.

Combined with data, if you can use your inventory intelligently, there is potential for greater revenue – especially when you still see lots of mismanagement of publisher inventory out there.

So, making proper use of your audience when selling video for instance, and making intelligent use of data when optimising your yield.

If I had to summarise it, I’d say smart experimentation is what’s needed for publishers to move forward.  

What I mean by that is don’t be afraid to try new things – encourage your team to try new approaches and experiment with programmatic. After all - that’s where all the growth is.

At the same time – each of these experiments takes lots of care, learning and attention to detail – you forget to launch tags, passbacks etc – and they fall flat. It’s all in the detail. And as mentioned, there’s money to be made if you do it smartly.

There’s a lot of talk across the industry right now around transparency and brand safety – what's your take on this?

It’s definitely true that the need for control and transparency is greater than ever – but it’s equally a good thing that we’re all more aware of these issues than we were a year ago – it means we’re in a much better position to sort them out.

As programmatic is now becoming the dominant way that media is bought and sold, calls for a well-lit marketplace – for transparent control and brand safety - are absolutely vital.

It’s also a big reason why I wanted to work with Netric – although you don’t read about it often in the press, its technology partner Rubicon Project has probably invested more and spent more time developing a safe, well-lit marketplace than anyone in the market.

I believe what we will see more and more is that brands will put their trust in tech partners that truly confront these challenges.

What do you see as the major developments in Nordic media and advertising market in future?

I expect to see automation growing even more, especially around marketplaces that can handle that increasing demand for control and transparency. And also those that can automate more, different media – not just mobile and video, but also radio, outdoor etc.

The role of independent platforms is going to be an interesting one too – and those that work exclusively for publishers to create their revenues. There are some reports of cracks appearing in the walled gardens, and of course, it’s great for both buyers and publishers that there is some diversity. This could be a big one for the next couple of years.

Data quality and uniqueness is another one to keep an eye on. And I think publishers will have as big a role to play here as ever as we look to the future.

Third, as brands and agencies move towards solutions that can give a more holistic view of campaigns across all media and devices, given the increased complexity of an average campaign and customer journey. I think we will see solutions that will connect the dots on the publisher side too.

Publishers more than ever will value the importance of a tech provider that is scalable enough to offer the right solutions, but also the right integrations with buyers, verification tools, cross-device, audience data and all of that in a safe, controlled environment. 

Tapad Head of Nordics Steffen Svartberg on how cross-device tech benefits publishers

We all know people are consuming media across an ever more diverse range of screens and devices. But are publishers and advertisers keeping pace? Are cross-device campaigns in their current state accurate? And why is this all so vital for publishers to keep pace with the likes of Facebook and Google?

For the answer to these questions and more, we spoke to Tapad Head of Nordics Steffen Svartberg.

Tapad Head of Nordics Steffen Svartberg

Tapad Head of Nordics Steffen Svartberg

Can you tell us a little about Tapad and what you do?

Tapad was the first cross-device marketing tech company on the market. We were founded in 2010 - so pretty early on in terms of connecting devices. We work with ad tech companies, publishers as well as brands and have offices across North America, Europe and Asia. In 2016, we were acquired by Telenor group, a Norwegian telco.

Could you explain the current trends around cross-screen advertising? How is it developing and what are the latest innovations?

For Europe, I’d say it’s still at an early stage, somewhat like where mobile advertising was around 2011/12, before we saw a tremendous lift in investment. But we are definitely starting to see the shift that will enable agencies and publishers alike to finally develop a unified cross-device view.

Whether that means partnering with tech companies, or investing in building capabilities in house, lots of publishers and brands are engaging more and more in understanding their audiences, how they consume content and react to ads on different devices.

Why do you think this is so important?

Without a clear and accurate view of your audience across different screens and devices, you quickly end up with problems around reach and frequency capping – invariably raising tension between brand and consumer, while reducing attention.

How Tapad's cross-device technology, The Device Graph™ works.

There’s no doubt this is part of the reason ad blocking has become an issue in the industry. Aside from over-interruptive formats, a major sticking point is that customer experience wasn’t placed at the core of media planning.

And why is that? Because the tech wasn’t there to produce relevant ads in an appropriate way. With accurate cross-device measurement, you can control the frequency of ads between devices, target the consumer more effectively, all the while without over-investing in a particular medium. 

What is the agency and brand view on cross-screen?

From my experience meeting with agencies, their view is it’s a no brainer to do cross-device, and equally, it makes no sense to buy siloed inventory – by desktop, mobile, tablet etc. For some, cross-device is already the default way of buying.

What do publishers need to do to become more attractive to agencies in this area?

Google and Facebook already do cross-device campaigns really well. That is a key advantage the so-called ‘walled gardens’ have over publishers – their ID management is superior. And if the agencies’ job is to optimise spend most effectively – to increase results, while reducing costs - it’s clear in which direction they’ll be leaning.

On the other hand, there are ways for publishers to compete more effectively with Facebook, Google etc. And that is having a solid partner like Netric/Rubicon Project with cross-device partners integrated, or working with those partners directly.

What companies like our own do is analyse the publisher’s data across different devices, then enable them to sell their audience accurately and effectively across all screens. Problems we solve for the buyer include dynamic messaging, sequential targeting, multi-touch attribution, path to conversion tracking, global frequency capping… you name it, all of which in turn can help publishers catch up with the walled gardens.

It’s my view that when all this noise around programmatic calms down, we’ll see a greater focus on the ‘right ad in the right context’, as opposed to aggregation with less control. Arguably we’re starting to see this in some quarters already.

What are the particular challenges around cross-screen advertising in the Nordics, would you say?

One of the Nordic markets’ great strengths is a high penetration of new devices and digital consumption in general, giving publishers and brands plenty of opportunity to reach people more effectively via technology.

The biggest challenge the industry faces right now is around the upcoming GDPR, and in upholding user privacy.

As a company, our goal is to have the consumer in the front seat, and to lead the way in terms of upholding privacy. And that is what we’ve been doing since 2011. Of course, this has turned out to be a competitive advantage for establishing ourselves in Europe. But I should also add that having a parent company that is a global telco means we have the all the necessary resources to be 100% compliant in 2018.

What does the future look like for cross-screen advertising in the Nordics?

The current situation is that cross-screen is still a fairly new thing in the Nordics – at least as far as what technology like our own can bring to publishers – but there’s lots of excitement around it.

Whereas, in two years’ time we won’t be talking about media or platform-specific campaigns at all, but people specific – and there’s lots of innovation still to come.

Consumers clearly want free premium content, and for that to work you still need advertising – no one has come up with any kind of viable alternative as yet.

It’s a common trade-off – I visit for free, you pass on some data for more relevant ads. And as long as you work with regulators closely to ensure you’re aligned, there should still be tremendous opportunities with people opting in and asking for more relevant ads in future.

IRM MD Madeleine Thor Interview: The State of Advertising & Programmatic across the Nordics

Perhaps we need a directive from the IAB to standardise how we explain programmatic adoption, so we can truly compare different markets.

Following her well-received presentation at the Netric Summit, we spoke to IRM MD Madeleine Thor to get a deeper view on what’s happening across the Nordic advertising markets.

For the benefit of those who don’t already know, can you summarise briefly who IRM is, and what you do?

IRM stands for the Institute for Advertising and Media Statistics. Our job since the 80s has been to collect, analyse and publish data on how the Nordic media markets are developing. We started off in Sweden, but now also cover Norway directly. We also co-operate with local agencies to cover Denmark and Finland.

We’re an independent membership organisation and a non-profit that works closely with the IAB, who sit on our board. We started off measuring the print ad market, but naturally progressed into digital and now increasingly we focus on programmatic too.

What is the current state of the digital ad market across the Nordics?

As small, affluent countries, each with a high per capita investment in advertising, we see similarities, but also big differences right now between each of the Nordic ad markets.

Sweden is of course the largest and in recent times also still the fastest growing. Norway on the other hand has been experiencing weaker growth for the past few years. In part, this is because of their economy’s oil dependence. Also, the shift from print to digital came relatively late in Norway and when it came it was very swift. So, we have seen large decreases in print spend during the past few years which affected the market very negatively. Overall, while Norway saw about 5% digital growth last year, the Swedish market grew by as much as 20%.

All four are highly digitised markets. Perhaps the most advanced of all is Denmark. And while Finland is technically the least digitised, digital there is also definitely on the rise.

And what is the state of programmatic adoption across the region?

Programmatic adoption across the Nordics has generally been categorised from outside as behind the curve – but a little more detail is really needed here to understand the true picture.

First, because these markets are typically concentrated around fewer publishers than in other countries, they obviously were never as fragmented. And where other programmatic economies were driven by buyers trying to overcome that fragmentation, so the pace of adoption was different over here.

Ultimately, are you trying to give a fair understanding of the market, or is the main purpose just to create the largest number?

Second, it’s actually really difficult to compare programmatic adoption country by country, because so often you’re not comparing like for like. Clearly more standardisation, and cooperation between research firms is called for – but what it maybe also comes down to is transparency. Ultimately, are you trying to give a fair understanding of the market, or is the main purpose just to create the largest number?

For our own part, we have decided to measure programmatic display as a percentage of overall display spend, excluding social. We decided not to include social because it adds to the number, but not to transparency.

Since it’s hard to know the exact numbers for social alone, the effect, in our view, is to muddy the water. Whereas if you exclude it, you can really focus on how much other companies have actually embraced programmatic.

And also, it allows us to get to a truly meaningful figure, even if it does look lower – at last count, programmatic spend was 30% of the total display market in Sweden, 25% in Norway – both in 2016. IAB FI puts Finland at 25% for H1 2016 (not including social) whereas Danske Medier’s numbers for 2015 put Denmark 50% (but this time including social, so it’s not like-for-like.) You start to see the problem. Both of the last two numbers are set to be updated imminently, incidentally.

Perhaps we need a directive from the IAB to standardise how we explain programmatic adoption, so we can truly compare different markets.

How quickly do you think programmatic will be adopted across the Nordics in future?

The future rate of programmatic adoption will be defined by the willingness to invest in, and to find solutions to the problems currently facing the market. Working together to solve issues like fraud and viewability, to make 100% sure there are accurate measurements across the industry.

How advertisers evolve in particular is also highly important. I mean in terms of how data-driven they are – how focused on truly learning about their customers – and of course how much they want to buy media based on those insights.

As compared to some other markets, the Nordics may have been a little slower in adopting programmatic – but one thing’s for sure – there’s definitely lots of activity now. And the fact of not being first to market is an impetus in itself to move faster.

Incidentally, Sweden is in fact an early adopter and a leader in one aspect of digital advertising. It has a very high share of online video versus TV – and therefore also programmatic video. Partly this is down to customer adoption, partly down to SVT, the public broadcaster, creating an online video service very early on. And then all of the commercial broadcasters following their example. Also, TV inventory was outsold from early on, resulting in a big investment in online video content.

It’s worth noting in this case that we saw many factors coming together to make this possible. It’s human nature to want one simple explanation, where in fact more often, it’s 10-15 factors all coming together at the right time.

YouTube-gate, Brand Safety and the Human/Tech Solution

YouTube-gate, Brand Safety and the Human/Tech Solution

In the past few weeks, questions around ad placement against inappropriate material has dominated the news. Lest we forget, this is a recurring problem. But this time, it's serious for Google – with clients pausing spend on YouTube and its broader Display Network.

But if we believe that the story is just about tech (or the lack of it) keeping brands safe on YouTube, we’d be naive. In a lot of ways, it speaks to some of the main challenges in media and advertising right now: the increasing role of automation, of course – but also the dominance of the Google/Facebook duopoly – to the point where people forget the drawbacks of such ‘walled gardens’.

Fake News

it’s interesting to note how quickly the discussion around what we will call here 'YouTube-gate' developed. At first, some suggested that with 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, there was just no way of getting round the issue. Then, within a matter of days, Google apologised, announcing improvements for advertisers, and even ‘artificial intelligence-powered filtering’ to follow.

Of course, there are parallels with the fake news scandal which blew up around the US Elections. In that case, Facebook moved quickly from denial to a practical, combined tech and human-based solution to the issue. And, lest we forget, Facebook had sacked its human editors not long before thism with the specific aim of avoiding accusations of political bias. Little did we know that algorithms can also be partisan.

While at Netric we only work with the top premium publishers across the four Nordic countries, and make tireless efforts to ensure ad quality is not an issue – we ourselves know from many years’ experience that the solution is human plus technology, not just one or the other.

Shelf Life

Taking a broader view, as Videology’s Tim Gentry does here, the problem is that we are now an industry led by short-term goals. In other words, as long as the average CMO’s tenure is just 18 months, as long as brands switch agencies with increasing regularity, and as long as the focus on direct response metrics increases - ad quality problems will persist.

A continuing push from brands to lower agency costs and fees will no doubt feed the dark side of the business. And to be clear, that means people only too ready to work cheaply – and provide ‘blind’ (i.e. suspicious, maybe fake) networks, clicks, traffic and media.

Given what has come to light in the past couple of weeks, does simply working to a whitelist of known, trusted publisher brands look like such a bad idea? Even if it means missing out on some scale, isn’t that extenuated by guaranteeing brand safety?

Walled Gardens

And what of Google and Facebook’s status as ‘walled gardens’ versus the relative openness of the rest of the real-time bidding landscape? To this point, some argue that the subtext of YouTube-gate is that brands are using it to pressure Google into knocking those walls down. But if those calls include allowing third party tracking and cookie syncing, Google is unlikely to agree: this would mean essentially giving up its crown jewels, especially when among those boycotting it include major competitors like Yahoo buyer Verizon.

Perhaps a more effective argument against walled gardens is that if they lowered their defences, and allowed third party verification tags to run, serving ads against offensive or illegal content could be blocked at source. And perhaps none of this mess would’ve occurred in the first place.

The Dark Side of Peppa Pig

A final point to consider is that – as our lives are increasingly led by technology, and algorithms – there will be other moments like YouTube-gate. But back to my earlier point – the solution is machine plus human intelligence, not one or the other in isolation.

Just as advertisers have apparently become hooked on YouTube, so have parents, for keeping the kids entertained. In the past few days, it emerged that fake, inappropriate versions of such loved childrens’ programmes such as Peppa Pig have been appearing on the video service, shown in some cases alongside the real thing.

Should parents boycott YouTube? No doubt some will. Were they unaware of the fact that, whatever automated filters are put in place, it is ultimately not a curated, broadcast medium likeTV, or even Netflix?

Whether it’s a cartoon pig, or advertising in general, this is an opportunity to check ourselves – become more knowledgeable around the issues that still affect technology – most of which, of course, are caused by human interference.

if anything good comes out of the whole Google/YouTube scandal, it will be a more level, equal ecosystem, which is not so dominated by two companies. Such a duopoly leaves us more at risk from flaws in their technology – and by extension, the people who know how to exploit them.