The new digital ad ecosystem relies on these 5 components

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


The advertising landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. And as change continues, publishers need to understand how the advertising client’s journey has changed, how the publisher’s role has changed, and how that needs to help create a new ecosystem.  

During Wednesday’s INMA Webinar, Casper Andersen, head of programmatic advertising, at Berlingske Media walked members through the new world order.

He explained that the traditional format involved a publisher and advertiser agreeing on terms and running a digital campaign. But that changed when more systems and automation features became available, allowing publishers to reach a wide range of advertisers.

“That’s where programmatic real-time building set the foundation for that time of media buying,” Andersen said. The relationship became tech-driven and as that changed, media companies relied on help from outside parties and platforms.

However, the more intermediaries a publisher used to reach advertisers, the more complex the system became and the more slices of the pie had to be shared. Andersen cited a study that showed how much value was lost along the way as fees had to be paid.

The digital advertising ecosystem has changed and continues to evolve.
The digital advertising ecosystem has changed and continues to evolve.

“As in most examples, 50% of the value of the campaign was spent on technology,” he said. “So we actually need to have a pretty good performance — a 100% better performance — to just break even on your return of investments. And in many cases, I think this is also the case.”

Pros and cons of programmatic

Programmatic campaigns offered some clear advantages, Andersen pointed out, such as massively scaled media buying, the ability to optimise delivery based on real-time results, and the opportunity to glean detailed insights on what supply and demand behaviour looks like.

“But at the same time, you also put a lot of distance between the publisher and advertiser,” he said. “Everything was just fixed by a tech vendor or an algorithm platform. So there wasn’t really a need for this close relationship.”

That led to some distinct disadvantages, such as losing the traditional publisher/advertiser relationship, a more complex setup, and a lack of transparency in the supply chain.

Now, with the impending crumbling of the third-party cookie and new tech regulatory initiatives, publishers face a challenging situation: “It’s difficult to reach the target audience, it’s difficult to measure the true effect of the media buy … and we also see that some well-established frameworks are being challenged [to see] if they’re even legal.”

Programmatic has its advantages as well as its downsides.
Programmatic has its advantages as well as its downsides.

The consent framework from IAB “is pretty much holding the open programmatic buying up” and that creates an uncertain future, he said. However, Andersen outlined a path going forward.

Where to go next

“I think what’s most important is we need a very strong relationship from media and the buy side,” he said. “You have to know the traits, at least, of who you want to reach out to.”

The publisher’s role now includes establishing an engaged user base and activating them — something that was done by an ad tech vendor in the past.

“[You also] need to know how to communicate with your audience. And if you know who you’re talking to, how do you communicate with them? And this is one of the strengths of the publisher, that we can build quite impactful formats and products that will do that.”

That can include developing audio products, leveraging new formats, or finding other ways to appeal to new markets. However, he said this means relying on relationships with customers, not on ad tech.

“Most of these things are difficult to achieve in an automated, programmatic way,” he said. “You need to have a closer relationship and discuss how to facilitate this best.”

The same is true of measuring the success of a strategy: “If you want to do a brand-building awareness campaign on your native product, perhaps measuring on return of investment or clicks might not be the best guideline. The publisher also needs to facilitate metrics around media outcomes, more than business outcomes.”

In the current ecosystem, news media companies will have to create metrics focused around branding and must also look at how to meet advertisers’ needs in this changing ecosystem, he said.

“You also need to look very critically at the sales channel and determine what kind of sales channel can actually achieve this, because a lot of things cannot be adopted so easily for the full chain. And perhaps you need some sales channels for different parts of a strategy.”

Overall, he said, collaboration and understanding what is needed is the way forward.

Building a sustainable ecosystem

To create a sustainable ecosystem, Andersen said publishers “need to have an idea to cover the whole media plan.” He introduced five important components to building that ecosystem:

  • Sales channels. These channels are the highways on which all things run, and publishers must rely on transparency to know what kind of fees they are paying as well as seeing what is working.
  • Formats. How content is delivered is critical and must bring uniqueness to each publication. “This is where the publisher can build a lot of things. It can be native, it can be audio, it can be high-impact formats surrounding your sites. These things will do a lot, but it also needs to be executed properly.”  
  • Audience. “You need to build a first-party audience base and you get that easiest with an engaged user.” Andersen said clear consent is crucial to make sure they understand what they’re signing up for and publishers should look at privacy trends and ensure they are protecting users’ information.
  • Quality. “Take advantage of the rich content you have as a publisher. You need to really talk with your editorial department to know how to tailor or customise your site to make the best quality [environment] for your ads.”
  • Measure effect. “You need to find a way to measure the media outcomes for the whole marketing funnel.” That will follow customers from awareness to sales and it could require creating new metrics, such as attention and brand lift.
These five components are crucial to building a sustainable ecosystem.
These five components are crucial to building a sustainable ecosystem.

Rather than looking at this new ecosystem as a walled garden, Andersen said he views it as a private garden — a place where they find solutions for advertisers. Everything within that garden must be tailored around privacy for it to succeed:

“If we dont do that, I dont think we can build long-term or sustainable solutions on scale,” he said. “It has to be open and transparent. And we really need to focus on reflecting the true value of media through bigger, better products, and formats on the measurements that actually measures in the right way.”

About Paula Felps

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