Q&A with Martin van der Meij of De Telegraaf

Recently profiled in Mediapost, Martin van der Meij is Business Development Manager for Automated Trading at Telegraaf Media Groep in the Netherlands.

As a worldwide leading publisher in RTB adoption, we caught up with Martin to discuss TMG’s RTB strategy, future developments and advice for other publishers on maximising online revenues:

Can you give an overview of De Telegraaf’s RTB strategy and what your aims have been in implementing it?

It all started with ad network yield optimisation in 2009 – we saw the networks selling CPC campaigns and said ‘Why can’t we do that?’ So we effectively started up a publisher network to sell CPC campaigns ourselves.

Our mantra was to learn this game, you should act as a network yourself – it’s also the easiest way to educate your sales force.

It was a progressive move, as we effectively became a buyer as well as seller, but it was also a matter of basic economics: if you want to influence price in a market and don’t influence supply, you should make sure there’s a growth in demand.

We became our own largest buyer within a month – how? Advertisers using 3rd party networks preferred the direct deal, buying directly through us – and the knowledge of where their buy would show up.

By the end of 2009 we started hearing rumours about RTB – that impression-by-impression buying could be the next big thing. In January 2010 we brought all the Dutch networks and our buying partners together in one room, with two goals in mind:

  • For the buyers to see the competition
  • For everyone to have the same level of education on RTB at an early stage.

During the same year, we saw that we could start supporting RTB, by the Summer we had switched on our DSP solution too.

By the end of 2011, we understood the true benefits of RTB – it’s not about yield optimisation, but sales efficiency – with lower overheads.

Next we recognised the need to do a few things differently – to have different tech to other parties in the Netherlands who were all running on AppNexus for a start – so we switched to a white-labelled DSP – a customised version of Platform 161 and saw a huge uplift as a result.

Ultimately, we understood from the start there are too many intermediaries in this market – and the only solution is to move up the chain. We did this first by becoming a buyer as well as a seller, but also more recently by developing our own retargeting pixel, which we believe is even more effective than those available from the DSPs.

What advice would you provide for other publishers to maximise their online ad revenues through RTB?

The best feedback we ever had from an agency was why have a conversation with a sales person each month on how to increase the volume of spend? This will leave you open to market mechanics (and ever decreasing yields) – from ‘should we lower our price’ you need to move the conversation on to ‘how can we help you achieve ROI’ or how to add extra value to your impressions – with a focus on a shared outcome.

To be an effective player in any market, you need to control both supply and demand – ultimately therefore, private marketplaces aren’t necessarily the be all and end all. It’s our belief their use could be short-sighted in certain cases, since you are artificially maximising CPMs instead of revenues.

Instead, our approach is to allow buyers the option to run every campaign through our automated channel, and take advantages of the increased efficiency and lower overheads that come along with it – this is a part of a solution which people are calling ‘holistic ad serving’. We’re actually optimising every impression there is. There is no hard boundary between premium and performance.

How do you see this market developing in future?

We’re currently testing rich media formats within RTB – once these are integrated we should be able to fulfil even more direct deals through RTB.

Other than that, we expect automated will lift up in 2013, with the Facebook Exchange acting as a game changer, though many publishers seem to still be in denial about that.

My hope is that publisher marketplaces – rather than private marketplaces will be a growing trend.  However, the national publisher co-ops we have seen so far still don’t go far enough, and I believe we need to start seeing them on an international rather than national level.

Who owns the access to brand safe publishers will be the big question. It’s my belief that advertisers will start paying more attention to brand safe environments, and publishers will have more power than they think they have.

The question is how many Davids you need to defeat Goliath: it will be a struggle, but at the end publishers will realise they don’t have a choice – as soon as they see direct revenues really start to drift into the audience space.

This is especially true during the crisis – the current economic climate in Europe is not a big motivator for increasing ad spend – all the more reason we need to make online ad buying more economic and easier than ever.