Axel Springer pushes for transparency in its programmatic advertising

programmatic evolution

Big publishers are taking control of their relationship with platform giants Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, said Carsten Schwecke, chief digital officer of Axel Springer’s sales house, Media Impact.

“That fear which used to exist, and where you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, is no longer driving the market,” said Schwecke, speaking to Digiday at AppNexus’ summit in London on Thursday. “Instead, it is the momentum around topics like brand safety, [sites like] Breitbart News, the YouTube issue. … Advertisers are coming back to us saying how much they appreciate the trust they have in our brands.”

Axel Springer plans to capitalize on that momentum by emphasizing to advertisers what Schwecke refers to as the “three T’s” — trust, traffic and technology — which differentiate it from the dominant platforms, he added.

The third T is where Axel Springer has drawn most attention this week, announcing major changes to its ad tech stack by phasing out its two existing ad servers, including Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers. The plan is to migrate its German titles like and to independent ad tech firm AppNexus in 2018 and eventually have the entire Axel Springer portfolio on a single technology platform, according to Schwecke.

Axel Springer chose AppNexus for its products’ strength and transparency, not as an anti-Google play, he said.

That’s going to be critical as Axel Springer takes steps to expand header bidding to all its properties, replacing the waterfall approach.

“We still have a very solid IO business with high CPM levels, so we have not fully killed the waterfall. We currently have Smart ad server and DFP in place, but with this new setup we can fully kill our current waterfall, and in a smart way,” Schwecke added.

AppNexus was the first company to make header-bidding software open source, and this week it revealed it did the same with header bidding’s sequel, server-to-server. Speaking on stage at the summit, AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley said that idea is to make sure everyone can view the bid chain.

“There is no risk; you aren’t handing the keys to someone else, and there is no fee and no taxes for using it. This is the way to make header bidding more transparent,” said O’Kelley.

Another major topic generating more airtime is the European General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into play in 2018. It’s another area where AppNexus and Axel Springer agree, saying it’s important to be ahead of it.

This week, AppNexus revealed the steps it has taken to become GDPR-compliant, and O’Kelley issued a warning for ad tech companies that don’t comply fast enough. “This is an existential crisis,” he told delegates at the summit. “Many companies in this room may not exist a year from now.”

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