Publishers on Programmatic in Finland

According to statistics from earlier this year, programmatic advertising is really taking off in Finland. Looking at ad sales from December 2015, the Association of Finnish Advertisers found that 75% of advertisers engaged in programmatic buying of ads. Sounds like good news for Finnish publishers, who have eventually come together to form an alliance to expand their reach and take control of programmatic transactions: Sanoma Corporation, Alma Media Corporation, Otavamedia, Aller Media Oy, A-lehdet Oy, MTV Oy, KSF Media, Kaleva365 Oy, Improve Media Oy, and Keskisuomalainen Oyj recently launched the Finnish Automated Guaranteed Marketplace.

ExchangeWire spoke with publisher representatives Merja Pyhälä, Alma Media and chairman of the board of the Finnish Publisher Group; Ilkka O. Lavas, CEO and partner at Improve Media Oy; and Pasi Raassina, planning director, MTV.fi, about the programmatic market in Finland, the challenges, and the chances for publisher alliances in other markets.

ExchangeWire: What have been the major trends in the Finnish market over the past 12-24 months?

Ilkka Lavas: Digital advertising has consistently been experiencing double-digit growth in Finland. Cumulative growth for digital has been 13.7% for the first half year of 2016.

Merja Pyhälä: Investments in digital advertising are growing; and about half of them go to large international players in social and search. One area where the Finnish advertising market is very special is that print is still very strong, which comes from a strong newspaper readership connection and subscriber base.

Why was it necessary for all of these Finnish publishers to unite?

Pasi Raassina: International giants are offering attractive products for media buyers. We must match them!

MP: Two to three years ago we came together with other publishers and started the discussions about automated guaranteed. Since then, our vision has been to offer as easy a way as possible for professional buyers to buy digital advertising space. Very quickly we came to the conclusion that we needed to do this together for it to work. Common tools and a common marketplace make it easy and efficient for all parties.

IL: The digital market already has lots of tools; and we did not want buyers to have to add a bunch of additional tools to work with us. We decided, within the market, that it made sense to choose one solution for the market. This allows buyers to have one single easy-to-use tool for buying guaranteed digital campaigns.

What are the major advantages you can now offer to digital ad buyers?

MP: An easy and transparent way to buy guaranteed inventory without middlemen. In this process, buyers sees the availability of the product they want to buy, they can negotiate prices, choose targeting, add creatives etc – all in one tool. We believe using Adform AG saves a lot of time during the buying process.

Do you anticipate improvements to monetisation as a consequence of the alliance?

MP: This is more like improving the process, not so much monetisation. But you can always say, if buying is made easy, it is much more easy to sell – right?

PR: Personally I’m not waiting for any improvements because of the alliance. It’s all about making media buying quicker. The ad products remain the same.

What sort of challenges come with trying to set up this type of alliance?

IL: Media houses have different cultures for naming advertising slots. We had to discuss naming and other media-specific issues when we were discussing how to build a single marketplace. We wanted to avoid a situation where all of the inventory was in the marketplace, but listed differently making it hard to buy across publishers.

MP: The alliance was very easy to build here in Finland. We already had good relationships and everyone wanted to achieve the same goal. Our alliance, or as we call it 'publisher group', is based on trust and common interest. We have not established any common company or done any official agreements together for automated guaranteed. Everyone has their own agreements with Adform, and everyone also has their own products and own prices. We have only decided to be in the same marketplace and offer common tools to the buyers, and done a lot of common development to get this kind of tool, which will well-serve our needs. This has worked well here, but I have no clue how it would work in other markets.

IL: Discussion within the alliance has been very positive and, at the same time, programmatic has been growing and the need for better solutions for buying guaranteed inventory has quickly become obvious.

Do you anticipate other countries following suit? What's your advice to publishers looking to make this happen in other markets?

PR: Most likely. At least in small countries, like Finland, joint projects may be the only possible way to change the market. If publishers start launching their own products, which are not similar to each other, using them may be too difficult for media agencies. They won’t use many new systems.

MP: Our main advice is that you have to have common goals and interests, otherwise this kind of informal and trust-based teamwork does not work. You have it much easier than us, because the ecosystem is already available. We wish you luck and are ready to answer any questions, if needed.

IL: My advice to buyers or sellers in other markets facing similar challenges is to get together and have a candid conversation about how you can streamline the buying and selling process by using exciting new tools and processes like Adform’s Automated Guaranteed.