Advertising New Publishing Tech
4 mins read

Q&A: Smart AdServer, helping publishers “own a corner of the room”

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Headquartered in Paris, Smart AdServer was created within a premium publisher looking to develop its own ad server to have full control of its business. The company works directly with over 1,000 publishers and broadcasters, delivering display, video, native, and rich-media ads to over 50,000 sites and apps. WNIP caught up with Pierce Cook-Anderson, UK & Netherlands Country Manager to find out more…

Can you give us further background about your company?

Our company was founded in 2001 and has evolved to become a vertically integrated platform with 100% transparent ad serving, SSP, and DSP capabilities. We became independent in 2015, and now have 250 employees working with over 1,000 publishers, across 12 offices worldwide.

Reaching valuable audiences is more critical than ever before. Programmatic advances have created short-term gains, but for publishers and buyers, sticking with the programmatic status quo jeopardises long-term success. It’s Smart’s mission to help tomorrow’s leaders shift to a radically different ad tech model and take back control through a shared interest business approach.

What business problem is your company addressing?

We’ve reached a tipping point. The majority of digital spend is programmatic, yet there is a value erosion crisis that only gets worse as ad spend increases – eMarketer predicts that, by 2021 programmatic will account for 68.6% of digital display spend in the UK. The increase in programmatic monetisation in recent years has unfortunately led to a decrease in the perceived value added by publishers, and created frustration surrounding the lack of transparency and trust in the buying model. This feeling has been further heightened by the recent report from ISBA/PwC, which found that only half of the advertisers’ spend is making it to publishers and 15% of that spend is an ‘unknown delta’.

Moreover, the duopoly still has control over the lion’s share of the industry. Despite the pandemic affecting their profitability – the two internet giants together could see a loss of more than $44 billion in worldwide ad revenue – Facebook and Google will command nearly 65% of the UK online ad market by 2021. But while they can offer publishers a certain amount of comfort, their help comes at a price – namely a loss of freedom and a lack of control.

What is your core product addressing this problem?

As the world’s most powerful ad server and natively integrated SSP, our independent full-stack technology offers a genuine alternative to the industry walled gardens. We enable publishers, broadcasters and brands, across all formats and channels, to unlock the true value of inventory and create a genuine value exchange with their customers, on their terms.

Smart’s holistic yield management approach offers a unified auction, which is clear and transparent, and our tech solutions are designed to give publishers control over their data and online advertising revenues. By providing the tech for publishers to build their own proprietary ad monetisation platforms, we are encouraging them to maintain their independence, and build their own Private Gardens.

We provide this tech under a shared-interest business approach. Both the supply-side and the buy-side can maximise value with a full understanding of how investments are spent, how they perform, along with control of variables to create the right blend of transaction models, channels and formats to reach audiences.

Can you give examples of publishers successfully using your solutions?

An example of a successful partnership includes our work with Venatus Media, which started nine months ago. Over this time, we have helped them to considerably increase their advertising revenues across video, mobile app and display. We have also had a similar global video success story this year with Taboola.

We are proud to provide our fullstack ad-serving capabilities to a growing roster of new partners in the UK such as, At The Races, GSMA and Union Media, along with long-term strategic clients like Sublime.


We offer a transparent and fixed-fee, tiered business model for our enterprise ad server. For standalone programmatic monetisation using Smart SSP we offer a transparent, fixed-percentage revenue share.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

Publishers have found themselves overly reliant on the duopoly, particularly their dominance within the ad tech industry, and ultimately face reduced control over their own monetisation potential. It can be easy to see why the duopoly offering is compelling, with strong data and access to premium inventory, but for publishers to survive, they must ‘own a corner of the room’ and differentiate themselves by both protecting and activating their unique audience data.   

Publishers need to work with partners they trust and clearly understand the value received in exchange for ad inventory, particularly with ad revenue diminished as a result of COVID-19. By emulating the bigger players, and having more control over their data, publishers can create private gardens to capitalise on a specific audience with a niche interest or exclusive inventory, and make themselves even more valuable to advertisers. Smart AdServer’s strategy to create a vertically-integrated DSP/SSP that is 100% transparent and inherently more efficient for both buyers and sellers will create fair opportunities for publishers looking to survive.

How do you view the future?

This is a very exciting time for Smart AdServer as a company, and particularly for the UK office as we complete a successful first year trading. We have invested significantly in our addressable TV offering to complement our ad server and SSP business and enhanced our transparent and low-fee buyer platform following the acquisition of LiquidM DSP in December 2019. We see great opportunities to further challenge the status quo and help publishers take back control of their digital businesses, creating real value for their partners and supporting sustainable business practices.

Thank you.