Q&A: Netric New Business Director Ludwig Ekström on Header Bidding, Transparency & True Innovation
With a background in industrial engineering and economics, we’re happy to announce Ludwig Ekström joining us as New Business Director at Netric.
Ludwig previously worked in finance and as a management consultant, specialising in operational efficiency projects. All of which sets him up well for a role in media and advertising right now. We caught up with him to get his views on the Nordic ad market, header bidding, transparency and more:
What’s your view on the current state of the Nordic advertising market?
Don’t get me wrong, the Nordic ad market has evolved a great deal over the past year. But I would argue we are still a bit behind around header bidding adoption – I believe around 70% of publishers currently have some sort of solution in place.
Of course, it’s anything but a single, unified market. Prior to 2017, Denmark was quite IO heavy, but then agencies rapidly switched spend to programmatic - and publishers adapted quickly. More recently, the trend there was to adopt as many header bidding partners as possible. Since then, CPMs in Denmark have definitely come down. Whereas in Sweden and Norway, alongside header bidding, I still see a stronger focus around data-led private marketplaces. Finland overall still feels more cautious in its adoption of ad tech.
What are the biggest opportunities for publishers here over the next year?
I’m surprised that programmatic video is not bigger in Nordics – I believe that percentage-wise it’s higher in other markets – and if we can increase demand from agencies, many more publishers will in turn make extra inventory available.
I also think our implementation of GDPR, ads.txt and better fraud prevention will add more demand for video in the open marketplace – it’s an area that traditionally has been affected by fraud.
Programmatic guaranteed is another topic some have been talking about more since GDPR, and on a related note, we have heard talk of a couple of tech savvy publishers trying to eliminate the ad server completely. Apparently, they are interested in guaranteed as a substitute for the IO, in this case facilitating direct bookings via the RTB protocol.
Where does header bidding go from here - will it be as important in future?
A lot of the discussion around where header bidding goes next have centred around moving to server-to-server, and assuming that will be the way everything ultimately moves towards.
I can see the latency argument here, definitely, although that is something you can also manage in the header with the right tools. And bigger publishers are really starting to take more control of the header, as well as realising all the ways we can learn from analysing that information. For instance, when looking at data in real-time, after the fact, from a/b testing etc – or around the impact of other elements of your site on revenue – publishers will realize the tremendous potential. Initially though, most may need help doing that.
What’s your take on the state of brand safety and transparency right now, and where does the industry need to improve?
In my view, transparency is ultimately a human-driven phenomenon. In the past, for instance, operating as a black box was a way for agencies to maintain higher margins. And since it’s the different layers between end user and brand doing the withholding, advertisers hold the key here. And their understanding of the end product they are getting is definitely improving.
Tech fees and rate card for DSPs are still very complex and hard to understand. From an advertiser perspective, there’s still no substitute for the ‘spend $100 and follow the money’ test. Cross-checking all the fees on measurement, viewability, data, contextual targeting etc should be par for the course.
On the plus side, as an industry we’re firmly in the consolidation stage right now, and more AT&T-Appnexus deals await, even this year. Also, in the aftermath of GDPR, it’s still likely we will see a further shakeout of sub-par vendors. In fact, that’s a trend that has already been ongoing for a while.
What’s next for media and advertising in the Nordics? What do you see as the next major trends?
Short term, I think we’ll see the shift to video reflected in better products for publishers to monetise it, including smarter, more interactive formats.
Industry-wide, I believe apart from being in the process of consolidation, we’re also in midst of a competence shift. A little like what we saw in the finance industry 15 years ago, with everyone hiring lots of engineers and computational physics guys. Just having a yield manager playing around in an SSP interface will no longer suffice.
Every time there is a new development or technique that is successful, a lot of people will realise the data opportunity there, and how you can manipulate it. But I think what we should actually be doing is using that technical expertise to overcome inefficiencies in the market, improving the ecosystem for all concerned. That is true innovation.
Why did you join Netric?
What I’ve seen is that Netric is a strategic advisor to a lot of clients. So even if, say via prebid, they work with five different exchanges, they still tend to listen to what the team here has to say. Even working with other parties, they seek out Netric’s advice on what to do in different situations, and from what I can see usually act on it too.
I greatly admire what Daniel and the team have done over past 10 years, so it’s an honour to join them.
In terms of its partnership with Rubicon Project, from all I can see, no other exchange takes the audit process more seriously. Brand safety is a costly but great competitive advantage. Rubicon's efforts in this area definitely plays to our advantage, as well as to our clients and all buyers.
Also, their acquisition of nToggle is a $40m investment in a more efficient ecosystem for the future. We look forward to its EU launch this Autumn.