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. launches to build open source header bidding for publishers

AppNexus and Rubicon Project have announced the creation and launch of, 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, is open to all parties advocating for unbiased and efficient monetization solutions and a digital advertising ecosystem that thrives through fair competition.

In joining, 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 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 “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 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 “Rather than independently competing, duplicating efforts, and wasting resources, we can push for fair competition and better results as a team. The collaboration around by industry partners has been incredible, showing it to be the pragmatic path forward.”

“I am super excited about – 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 to continue to develop the most effective and transparent solutions for our business.”

The launch of 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 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, to further develop and champion best practices for open-source header bidding. Companies interested in participating should visit for additional information.

“We’re excited to participate in 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.

Video Options for Publishers Multiply – What’s your Route?

Video Options for Publishers Multiply – What’s your Route?

For non-broadcast publishers, creating digital video has long been an option. But also a challenge. Up until now, many of us had good reason to hold back from launching a full-blown video offering - citing resource demands, investment and ROI.

The thing is, while many of us have been sitting back, in cruise control – the road has gone from a single track, to a six lane motorway.

In other words, the video question for publishers has shifted from ‘sell this to me, why do I risk it?’ to ‘if we don’t embrace this now, will we be left behind?’

Facebook & Buzzfeed’s Best Friend

Facebook is already predicting that its own service will be all video before long. The ultimate goal is reportedly for consumers to spend four hours a day on the platform – and it sees video as the way to build that engagement (as well no doubt as taking a slice of TV ad spend.)

Meanwhile, another digital leader in the shape of Buzzfeed has also pivoted towards a strong focus on video – its Tasty food brand already driving huge traffic. And it seems like every day another publisher announces a video-focussed spin-off – Time Inc’s personal finance-focused Coinage being just the latest.

And there are two major factors that explain the shift. One, video ad spend is on the up – by 2020 in the US alone, it will reportedly top $28bn. Now add that to the growing dominance of mobile – also within the next three years, video will make up fully 75% of all mobile content according to Cisco.

Barriers to Entry

But back to that traditional reason for hanging back on the video highway - cost, of course – but also resource – retraining – and extra skills. While none of these challenges is ever going away, there are a number of new tools in place to help you produce videos faster, cheaper and more efficiently.

It’s interesting to note that, when video inventory sells out, a publisher like Bonnier uses text-to-video software to create more video content. In this case, it uses a service called Wibbitz to speed up and even automate the process. Another one is Wochit, which aims to dramatically speed up video creation – with a ‘real-time’ media bank, and it can even suggest content directly based on a link to your story.

By no means are we advocating publishers plumb for quantity over quality here. Rather they need to bring in video where it suits or expands on the story. In a similar vein, producing video solely for ad revenue is a dead-end – not least if the content, style and length isn’t suited to the medium, or indeed doesn’t fit well with your brand. Tasty is a simple, yet great example – it fits perfectly with its parent Buzzfeed, as well as being an original format, and one you can feel has been optimised and tested for its audience.

Video without Video Formats

It’s worth adding at this point that a reliance on video content to run video ads doesn’t tell the whole story. For one, regular banner formats can also run video creative - another key area for publishers to consider.

Another ‘video without video’ format which has gained widespread adoption is outstream – videos which render within articles, but are easily dismissed, with user experience front of mind.

Going back to ads within video content, pre-roll has traditionally been the publisher’s best friend. But just like understanding your viewer’s optimum video length, other types of format and duration need careful consideration.

The 30 second pre-roll for one – a direct transplant from the world of TV – is considered to be too long by many. And indeed, YouTube is ending support for 30 second unskippable formats within the year. It’s also interesting to note that Facebook is experimenting with mid-roll ads (not to mention auto-play audio – let’s see how that plays out.)

The Future

Of course, there’s another reason why publishers like Buzzfeed are investing in big teams devoted to original video – it’s part of their diversification efforts. And much like the New York Times’ own video-focussed T Brand Studio, they are effectively reinventing themselves as agencies – whether it’s producing video ads, or even long-form video content for advertisers.

It might seem a longshot, especially if until recently, as a publisher you’d still only largely focused on text, as opposed to the moving image. But for a taster of the road some publishers are on, look no further than Amazon and Netflix.

Until recently little more than content aggregators, within the space of a couple of years, they’re now major producers of original video content in their own right. Amazon just picked up its first Oscar nomination for best picture – and any producer predicting that even a few years ago might well have been laughed (or even hounded) out of Hollywood.

Whatever road you pick, from mobile to connected TV, a video-dominated future awaits us all. Before we reach that destination, know that the options – the possible routes for publishers, are both multiplying and diverging. And that means greater opportunities, as well as challenges for some.

But as many publishers’ increasing focus on video suggests, the opportunities right now outweigh those drawbacks.

The last time you want to be stuck in the slow lane, is just as the competition pulls away.