Platform161 COO Marco Kloots on the State of Programmatic in the Nordics

Following our joint Nordic RTB event in September, we spoke to Marco Kloots, COO & Founder of Platform161, about the state of programmatic in the Nordics, the advertiser perspective on mobile, ad blocking and what’s coming next:

Can you give us a little background on Platform161?

We’re headquartered in Amsterdam, with 60 staff based all over Europe. We work only on the buy side, and in a very specific niche. Obviously the DSP space is a very competitive one, so we like to approach it differently, in two specific ways – through innovation and customisation.

We ran the first programmatic digital out of home campaign in Europe, all the way back in December 2014 – and we have a number of other innovations under our belt, including an open and programmable algorithm, but also in terms of data management and fraud protection.

in terms of customisation – this applies in a number of ways, but to take one example – we work with companies that have a very specific or demanding set of privacy or security requirements - so finance and insurance clients feature heavily for us. We also work with a number of independent agencies, helping them to make the most of a customised business model or access to specific types of data.

What is the state of programmatic adoption in the Nordics?

It’s an interesting question, because on the one hand the Nordic people are very innovation focused, but obviously with programmatic there are also market dynamics in play. What we have is a number of relatively small countries with the very strong presence of just a few big publishers dominating the market – and they have the power to keep the door closed.

Three years ago it was mainly just US domains with Nordic IPs, then came deal ID and private deals, but not a true programmatic market in the sense of a performance-led open market. But more recently this has also opened up, and SSPs such as Netric have of course helped with this – both in educating and making it worth the publishers’ while to embrace programmatic fully.

Fraud on Netric/Rubicon Project’s platform is especially low – and it’s a leader in terms of quality.

Has there been a big adoption of private marketplaces? And are publishers trading with first party data?

Private marketplaces are definitely a growth area. And the data element is becoming more of a feature in those deals. In years past, all the big agencies cared about was delivery - just getting budget away. We were one of the first in the industry to address the fraud issue three to four years ago, as it was still a young market at that stage. But more recently as the topic has gotten more and more press coverage, people have obviously started to take more serious measures to stamp it out. A willingness to pay more for private deals goes hand in hand with that, to some extent.

What’s the latest thinking from the buyer perspective regarding mobile programmatic?

Obviously from a consumer perspective, it’s where everybody is spending time right now – the issue for advertisers is trackability – to see what’s happening with impressions and how to measure conversions. Effectively, advertisers don’t know how to rate impressions on mobile, and to some extent have to run blind – therefore it’s hard for them to truly understand the benefits of mobile to their campaigns.

This is why we ran a research project with Screen 6 looking at cross-device insights, and showing the impact of mobile on the entire customer journey. So effectively, advertisers have the proof they needed for first time. Obviously cross-device tracking involves trying to match cookies and logs, so it was important that as a partner, Screen 6 adhered closely to our privacy guidelines.

How do you view the challenges around ad blocking?

Personally, we find the problem is not quite as big as publicised. That said, obviously publishers have to get paid for publishing content, or the market will die.

In terms of it being caused by over-intrusive formats, or indiscriminate retargeting, all of those things have probably contributed to the problem.

The solution is to find a balance – publishers need to get better at understanding where an ad has the most impact for the advertiser, instead of just slapping more placements on the page.

What role will automated guaranteed play in future?

We believe in it: where with the open auction, from the publisher’s view there’s an element of risk – for instance, around demand and seasonality – automated guaranteed is a win-win. We believe it will bridge the gap between programmatic and direct, and bring even more exciting formats and campaigns to this channel.

What is the state of fraud in programmatic – especially in the Nordics?

This is an area we look at religiously for our clients. Fraud on Netric/Rubicon Project’s platform is especially low – and it’s a leader in terms of quality. For others in this space, we’ve seen more than 40% of inventory as fraud. We don’t think it’s on purpose, but rather because people don’t know, or don’t want to know. For us, it’s obviously a huge positive if we know where we can buy fraud-free inventory. And we have been fighting fraud very effectively since all the way back in 2011.

What will be the most important developments over the next year in this space?

In general, I believe there are two things that will figure heavily: the privacy discussion is not going away anytime soon, especially with Google and Facebook under scrutiny in Europe. The other thing I think is that competition in this space is only going to increase. Three years ago, everyone was happy just to have this shiny new SSP or DSP.

We’re now well into the next phase. And you will have to do something pretty special on both sides to deliver bigger and better results than the competition. As an advertiser this might be through custom data or algorithms tailored to your business. The next phase of programmatic will be all about that tailored approach.

Daniel Ahlbert