Aller Media Programmatic Head Sassy Ferreira Berild Interview: "header bidding is working brilliantly for us"

Header bidding is working brilliantly for Aller. Lots of buyers choose to buy programmatically, why should they be deprioritised just because of how we’re set up internally?
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Sassy Ferreira Berild is Head of Programmatic at Aller Media. We caught up with Sassy to get her thoughts on programmatic, and what’s next for publishers and advertising across the Nordics.

What is your view on programmatic, as we move towards the end of 2017?

The great promise of programmatic has always been that opportunity of showing the right ads to the right audience at the right time.

In other words, programmatic brings relevance – while also increasing revenue for publishers. At the same time, it should always respect the visitor – which is something that I believe, as we move further into this year, will become more of a standard.

How important are private marketplaces (PMPs) to your programmatic business at Aller?

Very. At present PMPs make up the majority of our programmatic revenues. And we hope to increase that even more.

Sitting at the top end of the market, we obviously don’t have an unlimited supply of inventory, so the control we retain through PMP trading is key. That is, control around inventory, brand relevance and quality, as well as eCPM of course – all are critical.

What about the ‘open marketplace’, what people often refer to as real-time bidding?

The open exchange still has an important role to play. Though for us it’s not so much a case of needing to sell excess inventory – it’s more of a lead generation tool.

We constantly look at bid reporting on the open market to identify new prospects and potential clients for direct and private marketplace deals. Sometimes that kind of insight gathering shows you advertisers you don’t currently work with – because they’re new in market – or just because there’s an affinity there you weren’t aware of.

Are you active with header bidding? And if so, how well is it working for you?

Header bidding is working brilliantly for Aller. Lots of buyers choose to buy programmatically, why should they be deprioritised just because of how we’re set up internally?

Header bidding puts everyone – regardless of how they chose to buy – on equal footing. It’s the flipside of the earlier relevance point – this time, it’s about selling the right inventory at the right time to the right buyer.

What’s next on the horizon? Where do you see big opportunities for programmatic and advertising in the Nordics?

Data, video and audio are obviously all important – especially instream for video and more outstream sales, plus ad opportunities around podcasting.

For the future, my hope is that programmatic becomes more creative. We’re all agreed that data is the future, but not so much around how it’s used. If we have all this information, why not use it creatively?

I think there’s a lot more we could be doing than just micro-targeting, which for better or worse has become synonymous with programmatic.

For instance, what about personalising the way we speak to a specific audience, instead of just the brand that reaches them?

Doing more around customisation is the order of the day – not just focusing on single KPIs, but multiple. We need to stay as agile as possible – after all, what is up to date today, is out of date tomorrow.

Leeads Programmatic Head Claes Mårtén Interview: "data could change the market completely"

Honestly, the most success we’ve had is through having open lines of communication with the major agencies.
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Claes Mårtén is Head of Programmatic at Leeads, an online advertising marketplace based in Stockholm. We chatted to Claes at our recent #RubiUni event to see what Leeads is doing for its clients in the programmatic space and beyond.

Could you give us a little background on what Leeads does for those who don’t already know?

Leeads was founded about eight years ago by ex-Schibsted employees. The idea was to set up a new kind of tech-focused sales house, that would represent publishers both individually and collectively by vertical.

I joined the team around four years back, focusing specifically around growing our publishers’ programmatic business. We are also preparing for a new technical setup that will take us into the programmable era, looking into outdoor, audio/podcast to name a few, as they also become automated.

But as publishers continue to diversify revenue streams, we’re also moving beyond ads. That means we’re increasingly taking care of broader technical and commercial areas including UX, data and latency – everything is connected.

What have been the most successful areas of programmatic for you as a business?

Honestly, the most success we’ve had is through having open lines of communication with the major agencies. It sounds simple, but to give you one example – anyone can create the right technical setup so they have high ad viewability rates. But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily educating buyers about the value of what they’re actually buying.

And we’ve been growing at a rate of about 40-50% in 2017, so we must be doing something right.

Our model is to help and educate both sides to get better results. And I think that as programmatic, data-focused people, there’s sometimes a risk of over-fixating on the highest number to the exclusion of all else. For instance, fewer units for a publisher can actually mean a better overall return. And likewise, 75% in-view with more relevant or better creative can have significantly better results for a buyer than 90% without.

How much of a focus are private marketplaces (PMPs) for Leeads?

Currently PMPs make up about 80% of our sales – and due to our scale across a number of verticals, those are contextual rather than data-driven deals.

That said, I do think that the upcoming GDPR legislation will mean publisher data is more valuable than ever. Overall, data will be a really big topic across the Nordics in 2018, and we’re looking closely into how we can help our publishers make more use of it.

With the upcoming new legislation, it’s no exaggeration to say data could change the market completely.

How involved are you in header bidding right now?

We are definitely involved and believe in header bidding, but it’s not yet a must have for all of our publishers. For the large-scale ones, it’s obviously very important. For specialist and niche publishers, that may come in time.

What’s next for advertising and programmatic in the Nordics?

We haven’t talked about video yet – which is obviously a big one. We’re working with publishers to help them grow their video inventory in a sustainable way, while maintaining quality. There’s been a lot of talk about publishers devoting more focus to video worldwide - but a lot less around how you do that well – in an economic, effective way – that doesn’t detract from everything else you’ve been building up for the last several years.

In terms of the future, I just hope all the market players get around the table and finally set rules that really make sense for all sides.

We need to get to a place where we can measure branding effects, context and size of ads versus viewability – not just viewability in isolation. If you run a massive full screen takeover, is 90% viewability on that really equal to 90% of a small rectangle banner?

There’s a larger conversation around digital and branding that needs to happen in future.

“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.

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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.