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.

Daniel Ahlbert