Janneke Niessen is CEO of Improve Digital, a publisher yield optimization firm based in the United Kingdom.
AdExchanger.com: How did Improve Digital begin?
Publishers are facing a shift in the online advertising ecosystem where performance campaigns, ad networks and exchanges are playing a more and more dominant role. In 2007, over 40 percent of the UK online advertising budget was spent through ad networks and exchanges - few people would argue with us if we stated that this number is higher today. Having worked for many large publishers in yield management and with extensive experience in ad operations, we were looking for an efficient way for publishers to manage these multiple revenue sources and create their optimal monetization mix. PubMatic’s ad revenue optimization technology combined with Improve Digital’s premium yield optimization technology (in beta) provides the answer, lifting revenues between 60 percent and 300 percent.
Today, 90 percent of our customers are in the premium segment, and include the largest newspaper and magazine publishers of the world. Our goals are closely aligned with those of publishers: increasing revenues from premium sales, ad networks, exchanges and performance campaigns while protecting the publisher’s brand and reducing efforts. Our typical client is looking to balance increasing revenues from discretionary inventory in harmony with growing revenues from their direct premium sales strategy.
What were the challenges in starting the business?
As we were the first to offer ad network optimization in Europe, our initial role was one of educating the market. However, publishers quickly recognized the benefits it offered them and embraced the concept, and ad networks optimization is now is an established practice.
So do you resell PubMatic's yield optimization services? How does that relationship work? Seems to make sense that Improve Digital would be bought by PubMatic in the future.
Improve Digital represents PubMatic’s ad revenue optimization platform exclusively in Europe, and has its own premium yield optimization technology in beta. The two technologies complement each other, enabling Improve Digital to offer premium publishers a full yield optimization solution. The two companies have a strong partnership, enabling them to work closely as a global team. Europe is a complex and fragmented market that requires in-depth local understanding of each region and this is a key element that Improve Digital brings to the table. At this point our focus is to extend our successful company into more markets .
What's your company's target market? Is it geographical?
Our target market are the premium publishers. In Europe, 90 percent of our publishers are premium ones that are seeking to monetize unsold ad space and balance this with their premium direct sales strategies. When it comes to ad network optimization, PubMatic and Improve Digital operate as one global company servicing the top publishers around the globe. Publishers benefit from local sales and service staff in Palo Alto, New York, London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, and India. Our service team speaks over ten languages and we monetize ad space in over 275 different countries. For our premium yield optimization technology, we do not work with resellers and focus instead on providing our services directly and expanding our geographical reach.
Do you have any sense about the differences between U.S. and European publishers? Is the ad network more palatable to larger European pubs, for example?
The biggest challenge of working in Europe is probably that the markets are so diverse and the audience is highly fragmented. In each region different players are important and the attitude towards networks and exchanges varies enormously. In general the fragmentation of Europe has led to fewer ad networks of a certain volume in each market than there is in the US, however Europe is catching up rapidly. The differences in Europe are cultural, and servicing the resulting needs goes way beyond speaking the local language. Global or pan-European publishers might have central management, but the crux of their success lies with their regional offices, each of whom works with local partners to meet the needs specific to their local market. Each geographic region, each publisher, each website and each placement requires a different mix of networks. Only best-of-breed automated optimization combined with local service and market knowledge can make that happen. That’s why we’re very excited about our unique strategy with PubMatic, where we combine the leading global technology platform with the best of local sales and service across Europe. No other solution provider can match that. As an example, PubMatic recently rolled out a global currency release that allows it to integrate into ad networks that report in any currency worldwide, convert that currency on the fly for optimization purposes, and then customize reporting to whatever currency the publisher prefers.
Does the yield optimization model eventually turn into an ad exchange? How do you see the model evolving?
We work with over 350 relevant networks and thousands of publishers, so we’re already among the largest global advertising platforms in the world. However, our key mission is to help publisher’s monetize their inventory by maximizing their yield and revenues. This makes us the number one partner for premium publishers in the industry. Exchanges are trading platforms, but publishers require significant service to help them with creative controls, brand management, billing, reconciliations with networks, etc. PubMatic provides world-class service and technology.
What’s your value proposition for ad networks? Why wouldn’t ad networks go direct to the publishers?
We are able to connect networks instantly to a large pool of premium publishers in multiple markets in an efficient way. Our dynamic default technology ensures that networks no longer receive impressions they cannot, or do not want to monetize, resulting in higher CPM’s and happier publishers and networks.
How do you see the demand-side buying platforms affecting Improve Digital? At some point do you see agency buying platforms buying directly from Improve Digital?
The publisher decides which networks / platforms are able to buy their inventory. Our platform is agnostic in this sense and is able to connect to any platform or network. Sometimes connecting to these platforms can be highly beneficial, but at other times it is not, and that is a decision that in the end only the publisher can make. The objective is to create efficiencies for both the network and the publishers, and growing revenues for both parties.
What's your view on ad exchanges? What's the European perception? Are there still challenges around "brand safety" for example?
Brand safety is a huge issue in Europe and something that we help publishers to protect. With open exchanges it can sometimes be more challenging, but with our creative control technology, it is easy to manage – and eliminate - bad creatives. We recently launched a white paper to share our experience with the industry, and offer the do’s and don’ts to protect brand image.
Are you using PubMatic’s real-time bidding (RTB) offering on behalf of clients? Will RTB play an important role in Improve Digital’s future? Why or why not?
Real time bidding plays a key role in enabling a more efficient and dynamic advertising market and increases the revenues for both networks and publishers, but the decision to enable this always lies with the publisher.
For us real time bidding plays an important role in the future as there are great benefits for all parties involved – better ad quality for users, which improves the overall user experience, higher ROI for advertisers making them increase the budgets, and increased revenues and higher CPM’s for publishers.
Where's the larger part of additional revenue for publishers when working with a yield optimization company: workflow consolidation or getting paid the highest price possible by a collection of ad networks?
We bring publishers more money, because our real time self-learning technology is able to match the right view with the right network and campaign in a much more efficient way than any other system. Every 15 milliseconds the mix of ad networks is adjusted for that exact moment and placement. It will adjust for spikes and ebbs during the day or the week and it also finds the ideal network mix per placement. As a result, we see increases in revenue of between 60 percent and 300 percent. Straight-forward, central, multi-currency reporting and automated integration with over 350 local and international networks also generates an increase in revenues and saves publishers time and effort. The efficiencies in managing all parties involved also allows publishers to increase their focus on their premium sales.