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.

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.

Daniel Ahlbert