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SIME 2012: Converting digital opportunities into a better world

On November 13 and 14 I had the pleasure of visiting SIME 2012 at the Cirkus in Stockholm to see lots of interesting discussions and people that you don’t normally see on a daily basis like Riz Khan, Spencer Kelly from the tech TV show “Click” and Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify. The full speaker list can be found at:

The founder of SIME, Ola Ahlvarsson, was a great host over the two days leading a packed agenda covering various topics on our digital world today and how future technological and cultural changes might influence each other.

SIME 2012

SIME 2012 at the Cirkus in Stockholm

There were a lot of great quotes from Ola and his guests. The one that resonated with me the most was “Culture will eat strategy for breakfast,” which hits the nail on the head when it comes to big, established companies either trying to change or acquiring startups with completely new ideas. As those new ideas often do not fit with the instilled processes or long-lived culture, a lot of care and experience is needed to enable success. In the same discussion, both Telenor and Electrolux shared their thoughts on how to work with innovation in big companies.

A takeaway for me personally was the fact that having just turned 40 I am already an elderly person. It hurts somewhat but it is absolutely true, as the younger generations have naturally adopted new technologies like touch-screens and social media such as Facebook and Twitter and use these on a daily basis to share and communicate. To support the understanding from a technical perspective, programming and internet mechanics should be a basic topic taught at schools.

Speaking of children, I want to mention one non-profit organization that was at the event called Invisible Friend, which takes care of children who were born in prison by giving toys to them... Can you imagine that there are 1 million such kids? Have a look.

The concept is rather smart; as a parallel part of the SIME event is SIME Non-Profit, a secondary event for non-profit organizations who are offered free entrance to meet and learn about the digital industry and the opportunities and ideas we can bring to them.


On day one I was invited to be part of a discussion “In love with data: Turning data into business” with participants from publisher, advertiser and network perspectives. Our own Johan Kappel was moderator and the opening speech came from Petteri Vainikka from Enreach. To open up the discussion, Petteri made the point that there is a lot of effort within the industry put into using data to for RTB, which might have little impact compared to putting the same focus into branding and premium advertising.

It was a very good discussion with guests hearing that data might be the new currency for online advertising through a comparison with what oil is to the traditional economy. Oil by itself – without being put through different refinement processes – is not very valuable. But turned into gas and diesel it fuels many businesses. If you look at the vast amount of data that publishers and advertisers can collect on a daily basis, it is clear that you make the most of it through analysis, data mining or other methodologies in combination with external data. So-called data management platforms enable understanding of the audience, their behavior and so on. In the context of the oil comparison, these activities are the equivalent of drilling, pumping and refining.

The discussion turned towards RTB with strong positions on the publisher and advertiser sides. From my perspective, RTB is much more than a technology-driven solution for selling remnant inventory on a per-bid basis; it is an additional way of enabling publishers, advertisers and agencies to collaborate more efficiently through operational workflow optimizations, which today involve a lot of manual work and communication through emails or fax. It also opens up new ways of optimizing premium campaigns versus external demand based on revenue-specific options, if the platform used supports this.

RTB is still in its early stages and the opportunities that it presents are yet to be discovered from a business and product perspective in the years to come. This will drive important standards like OpenRTB maintained by the IAB. I can only encourage decision-makers throughout the industry to step in and help to move this forward and make it look like more than a technology-driven solution dumped onto the sell and buy side.

I was asked what I would tell publishers to make sure that RTB should not be looked at from a black-and-white perspective, as it can help the sell side now and potentially even more in the future with new and more advanced appliances. On the data side of the fence, I agree with Petteri’s point to “keep it simple stupid” for now and learn to explore new opportunities with the experience gathered around the audience. It does not always need to be a complex algorithm or the combination with various external data sources to successfully apply data.

So all in all, a very good event that I am looking forward to attending next year as well. Maybe we’ll see each other there!

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Tags: SIME, RTB, Data

Who am I?

Mark Thielen
Mark Thielen
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With eight years as a technology leader in the ad serving industry, my work has centred around leading local and remote sites in Europe and North America to drive product and technology innovation. Covering engineering, architectural and operational aspects of scalable performance system environments, I've been fortunate enough to serve as a business and technology executive since 2007.