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Axel Springer just struck a deal with AppNexus that could see it turn its back on Google’s DoubleClick

Axel Springer just struck a deal with AppNexus that could see it turn its back on Google’s Doubleclick.

Business Insider-owner Axel Springer will stop using Google’s ad server to generate advertising revenue and switch to one built by adtech outfit AppNexus as part of a wider partnership.

The transition will start from next year when the publisher’s brands such as BILD.de, welt.de, bz-berlin.de, meinestadt.de, finanzen.net, and businessinsider.de, among others will gradually adopt AppNexus’ technologies including its ad server.

Some of those titles are already plugged into parts of the AppNexus platform such as Yieldex (the adtech outfit's forecasting tool), though the latest update means all of them will eventually use its technology when it comes to monetization. It spans both desktop and mobile inventory across display, video and native formats that can be sold either guaranteed, or programmatic.

While AppNexus declined to comment on Axel Springer’s motivations for the move now, it did stress the “open and programmable” characteristics of the technology platform at the heart of the union. Consequently, the publisher’s brands will be able to inter-link their inventory with one another as well as link to “external customer processes,” claimed the adtech business.

Securing a deal of such scope is a coup for the independent adtech firm, which would have been awarded it following a head-to-head face off with Google. Other publishers have wanted to make the same decision but the sheer complexity of onboarding a new ad server has left many unable to ditch Google DFP and consequently fuelled the rise of header bidding. However, AppNexus’ previous successes at switching ad servers for some of Europe’s biggest publishers would have likely convinced the Germany-based publisher that now is the time to turn its back on a deal that started in 2013.

“We are seeing great potential from a more intense collaboration between Axel Springer’s many digital offerings,” said Andreas Wiele, president of marketing and classified ad models at Axel Springer. “With AppNexus’ technology, we create the technological base for this which will be particularly beneficial to our digital marketing.”

The announcement is as intriguing for the wider market as it was inevitable for Axel Springer’s given the tempestuous relationship between it and the world’s largest online media owner. Since the union between the two was first struck in 2013, Axel Springer has steadily widened its European footprint. Yet it has felt hampered by a Google it believes it had become too dependent on to the point where it published an open letter in 2014. In it Axel Springer’s chief executive Mathias Döpfner told the then Google chairman Eric Schmidt that the relationship between the two companies was "schizophrenic".

It went on to read: "We know of no alternative which could offer even partially comparable technological prerequisites for the automated marketing of advertising. And we cannot afford to give up this source of revenue because we desperately need the money for technological investments in the future. Which is why other publishers are increasingly doing the same. We also know of no alternative search engine which could maintain or increase our online reach. A large proportion of high quality journalistic media receives its traffic primarily via Google."

Axel Springer’s switch from Google DFP to AppNexus is the latest in a string of instances whereby publishers are turning to independent partners that can help them acquire, engage and monetise audiences across the open web.

Trinity Mirror’s former adtech boss Amir Malik has been a vocal champion of header bidding’s ability to reveal what he has called the “secret margins” that Google makes on ad sales.

It’s a view shared by other publishers amid growing calls for a more simplified and democratised market following concerns about media transparency and the need to boost yields.

But Google isn’t prepared to let all that revenue go without a fight, and is currently testing whether it should relinquish the so-called ‘last look’ its own DoubleClick AdExchange had on auctions that mean it is able to bid on every impression and consequently always outbid others.

Additional reporting by Ronan Shields

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Seb Joseph

Hi, I'm the news editor at The Drum. Give me a shout if you have any questions about our news coverage or would like to pitch in a story.

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