Nordic Publishing Group Schibsted Makes A Programmatic Push

johansson-schibstedSchibsted Media Group, a Norwegian publisher in Sweden, has lately come to market with a unified programmatic offering.

Media agency executive Robert Johansson joined Aftonbladet, the group’s largest Swedish tabloid, in August 2013 as yield manager to work on its RTB offering. Six months later, Schibsted decided to combine and centralize data from across its properties. Those properties include Blocket (the country’s largest classified site), (a local news site for business professionals), Priskjakt (a price comparison site) and more than two dozen other properties.

Johansson was promoted to a newly created role as RTB and programmatic manager for the group.

In a discussion with AdExchanger, Johansson described Schibsted’s efforts to build a private marketplace offering, its first-party data strategy and his role in converting internal sales teams to a more data-driven way of thinking.

AdExchanger: What is your role?

ROBERT JOHANSSON: I’m responsible to come up with the direction for programmatic. The strategy is to centralize the product offerings on Aftonbladet, Blocket,, Priskjakt and 25 other sites within the group – and train all the sales people and sales chiefs internally.

We have a head of technical for programmatic in my team. She’s the first contact to all the DSPs and tech vendors out there. Another colleague is responsible to set up big training sessions for all the sites internally and help sales understand and be comfortable talking about programmatic to clients.

I have a broad role that includes working with AppNexus to produce new products and set different solutions in Schibsted’s private marketplace.

Do you see programmatic cannibalize your direct sales?

Programmatic is another way of transacting media. So for us, how can we give buyers a good experience? We don’t see it as competitor; if we don’t give it the way [buyers] want us to, then someone else will. It’s up to us to adapt. We see it as complementary.

A typical booking would include direct bookings for guaranteed inventory with rich media, video or big takeovers that complement with an always-on strategy with programmatic. We started this offering when I started my role and have good collaboration with agencies and clients. All the trading desks from the agencies are now buying from us with an always-on strategy and the biggest clients are buying on a small scale from time to time.

How do advertisers buy programmatic on Schibsted?

Schibsted is a private marketplace. It’s invite-only and we’re focusing on media agencies and direct clients. We don’t work with other sales companies that want to resell our inventory.

When they’re invited, there’ll be a hard floor price so they could buy media from us and get our network product from remnant inventory. They won’t know if their ad is on Aftonbladet or on the other Schibsted sites or the other 60 to 80 Swedish external partners that we work with.

This offering made sense when programmatic first started in Sweden as requests mostly came from performance budget buys via RTB three years ago. When branding budgets started shifting over, we realized the need for a more premium offering. That’s when we launched premium programmatic. We let agencies and clients access our premium formats so it’s not all just remnant inventories. They can buy site-specific from Schibsted Group like a spot on Aftonbladet or Blocket cars with bigger formats and higher priority.

Another option that’s a little higher-priced than our network product allows buyers to target Schibsted sites only.

We have three different layers because we want to target different budgets. If it’s performance budgets, often a lower floor price is important and lower scale of inventory from web traffic. For branding budgets with premium formats and higher priority we have premium programmatic, which is site-specific. A lot of campaigns could also be somewhere in between. Buyers that want to have branding and performance or they want brand-safe inventory and not care where the ad would end up as long as the site is good would have the in-between offering, which is Schibsted run-of-network.

Which tech provider do you use for your private marketplace?

AppNexus is a very important partner for us and we work closely with them to enable programmatic for the different layers in our private marketplace. It’s our secondary ad server today and we’re seeing a lot of our inventory, even traditional campaigns, are booked via AppNexus.

What is your first-party data strategy?

We’re partnering with nPario and have started to collect logged-in data, search and behavioral data. For example, we can lift out data on those that have searched for cars or are trying to sell their cars on Blocket or those that have read articles about cars on Aftonbladet and go to Prisjakt to compare car prices. We approach car clients that want to buy programmatic from us and tell them these are deal IDs you could use to target Aftonbladet or from the whole Schibsted group targeting people that are really interested in buying cars. This is going really well and something clients are asking for.

From a data perspective, we’re focused on getting visitors to log in. For instance, we’ll be able to gather their age and gender that will offer more precise targeting for buyers and use the data to provide a better experience for visitors. Instead of relying on cookies, we’re using unique identification technology that makes it possible for us to do cross-device targeting. This is something we’ll continue to explore in the future to offer a better product to the market and also for visitors.

What is Schibsted’s focus for programmatic in 2015?

First, education internally and externally. We focus on best practices and issues to standardize and move the market forward in Sweden. For example, if I say DMP, do you also refer to the same thing? We focus on understanding one another and bring up all the issues that are not good for the business.

Second, DSP certification. We are working with seven to 10 DSPs to look at how they target our inventory and what we can combine as well as how buyers could apply different targeting and how it performs for each inventory to help the market mature.

Third, the use of data is key. We’re sharing our first-party data in deals to clients and continue to focus on our private marketplace within Schibsted group and have more data behind our ads.

What are the programmatic trends in Sweden?

More branding budgets from bigger clients are going into programmatic buying and all the middlemen would take a cut and that’s a challenge for us. We want advertisers to buy directly from us, which is why Schibsted wants to own our own technology in the future in order to be competitive. We still need all the middlemen to enable the technologies but they can’t be taking more shares that would take away the benefits of a programmatic campaign and that won’t scale anything. The market needs to be more mature so it’s beneficial for everyone.

Fraud is another big challenge. For example, a small website might claim it’s Aftonbladet and put it out to an SSP and buyers would target Aftonbladet and buy that site – but it’s not Aftonbladet. Fraud becomes a problem for the whole market because buyers can’t rely on the reports they get from DSPs. Another example could be click fraud. If someone is optimizing their clicks and another user has their click on the inventory, the DSP would buy that user every time but it could be a robot that clicked on the ads. It’s a problem in the whole business. That’s why we have a private marketplace and we talk to clients a lot to keep them safe.

We’re also seeing a big trend this year as bigger clients like Unilever are pushing their trading desks from the U.S. to London and Sweden to buy programmatic for themselves. In the future, we want to have strategic partnerships with buyers to collaborate and combine our data in the long run.

What is your learning from selling programmatic in the past year?

  1. It’s new for the whole business in Sweden so it takes a while before all tech companies will work together as they should.
  1. People tend to use a lot of settings to buy programmatic. This is good in theory but doesn’t work in practice. For example, a buyer might want to retarget visitors on a Monday between 8 and 10. In the beginning, a lot of clients in Sweden did too much targeting at the same time and couldn’t scale their campaigns.
  1. The biggest learning for us is it’s really important to have different products to attract all budgets.

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