Netric Sales Engineer Thomas Nikitin on New Opportunities in Header Bidding, ads.txt & Transparency

My role will be making customisation more available, and simpler for publishers.

With customised adserver setups, header bidding and SPO all growing ever more popular, we felt it was time to add more dedicated technical expertise to the Netric team.

So we welcome Thomas Nikitin as our latest recruit, and first Sales Engineer. Previously he was VP of Engineering at Stardoll. Among other things in his new role at Netric, he will be responsible for custom integrations and header setups for publishers.

We interviewed him to get his view on the state of programmatic in the Nordics, new opportunities in header bidding, ads.txt & transparency:

What is your view on the current state of the advertising & programmatic market in the Nordics?

Coming from being a VP of Engineering at a publisher – one that was working closely with its ad team - I would say the Nordics are now in a really advanced position.

There was a time a few years ago where we were operating in a bit of a bubble. But that has changed so much since, we’re almost unrecognisable from where we were back then. If you don’t believe me, just look at the speed publishers here have adopted ads.txt, or how quickly they’ve moved to using prebid header bidding setups.

I also think the Nordic markets are getting a lot smarter in general about what they bring in house, and where they work with trusted third parties to hit targets and keep improving their service.

Sometimes, the ad industry can be a slow moving one unless there’s someone pushing right from the top. But ultimately, buyers will use those less transparent services less and less.

Where would you say are the biggest opportunities now for publishers to grow revenue, or otherwise benefit more from programmatic right now?

Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk (maybe even hype) over the past year about header bidding. But it's something that people are justifiably excited about I think, because after a few false starts in the past, it is genuinely getting us very close to ‘holistic yield management’. In other words, the holy grail for ad operations and ad server setups.

The speed it came to the Nordic market means that it wouldn’t be completely without bumps in the road. But especially now with the open source prebid setup getting more and more adoption, we have a sustainable, industry standard, transparent way forward.

Unfortunately, sometimes what publishers have had to grapple with is a trade-off between performance on your own sites and apps, and your monetary performance from your advertisers. I worked for a publisher that was especially focused on the site performance side – loading times and cutting latency. And to that end I think we all know server-to-server solutions are the future, but there are also still challenges for cookie syncing and therefore ultimately publisher revenues.

That said, we know that Google and Amazon are fully behind server-based header bidding, so I’m sure they will have the answers to these challenges before too long.

Obviously, lots is also happening around privacy, GDPR, do not track functionality, Google Chrome and the Coalition for Better Ads. Overall, and especially in the longer term, this is positive for all genuine, legitimate companies across the entire market.

What about for brands and agencies - what would you say are the biggest opportunities there?

For brands, I think Ads.txt is definitely a massive step forward. And should be a great help in terms of enforcing transparency – where there are still some less well-established ad tech companies that are not working in either publishers’ or brands’ best interests.

Also, I believe header bidding can be a genuine opportunity for buyers – because again, it can mean a more transparent marketplace. Of course, the advantage so far has been enjoyed most by the quickest to adapt – but also, Netric has been very proactive with buyers in this area, helping them navigate and understand how it all works.

Ultimately, our partner Rubicon Project is leading the way here - telling buyers what type of auction they’re dealing with in the bidstream. It’s worth remembering that there have been examples of exchanges not doing this in a transparent way - Rubicon has shown the way forward. Sometimes, the ad industry can be a slow moving one unless there’s someone pushing right from the top.  But ultimately, buyers will use those less transparent services less and less.

Finally, what made you decide to join Netric?

The advertising business has always been interesting to me. And there is so much happening right now, both on the business side and the tech side, so it seemed like the perfect time to join.

I also like the area Netric is operating in, to be more strategic - more about providing the right insights and advice - as well as the tools.

As a publisher, I experienced working with Netric as a customer. And I thought they were professional. They have lot of clients, but every one of them gets the proper attention and support.

There’s a lot of competence in house, which I’m looking forward to tapping into and learning from.

My role will be making customisation more available, and simpler for publishers. I think that's a must, as the market gets more crowded, and ever more competitive.

Daniel Ahlbert