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CEO & Co-Founder | Programmatic

The New Alternative for Digital Publishers – A Conversation with Improve Digital’s CEO Joelle Frijters

Eight years after co-founding Improve Digital with Janneke Niessen, CEO Joelle Frijters looks back on the ever-changing real-time advertising industry her company helped create and shares her vision of full transparency and control for media owners. Improve Digital’s new 360 Polaris platform is the full-stack solution for publishers looking to ditch the lack of transparency from giant exchanges.


Digital Boom

A veteran in the world of digital ad-selling, Frijters has witnessed the industry’s fast-pace growth and change, even in the last few years alone. ‘When we started Improve Digital, the digital advertising world looked a lot like the traditional advertising world’, she recalls. ‘When online revenue became increasingly important, publishers literally just translated their rate cards to the digital landscape.”

In no time, the digital ad industry was here to stay. Recognising the system was ready for change, Frijters and Niessen founded Improve Digital. ‘Since then, we’re on a mission to use technology to enable publishers to earn maximum revenue from their inventory and audience, both short- and long-term’, says Frijters.


American Giants

Today, smart use of data is one of the main challenges publishers face. ‘As programmatic advertising became more mainstream,’ explains Frijters, ‘the publishing industry became much more technical, data-driven and analytical. Nowadays, data analysis and technology are at the forefront of operations.’

This push towards data and technology has allowed a handful of key players to emerge in the world of data-based advertising. Yet Frijters sees how these huge exchanges continually fail to provide media owners with the data transparency and control that they so desperately need.

It’s as if they operate from within a ‘black box’, she says. “Whenever data is involved and technology is important, and you don’t have the necessary technology of your own, there’s always an increased risk of nontransparency,”, says Frijters.


Going Mobile

‘If you look at the future of advertising, it’s completely heading towards mobile. Everything is happening in real time’, Frijters says.

‘We’re on a mission to use technology to enable publishers to earn maximum revenue from their inventory and audience, both short- and long-term’

The future of advertising poses new challenges for media owners. They must reach specific individuals using specific media and devices at precisely the right time and place. In this new reality, relying strictly on non-transparent, one-size solutions will never work. ‘What we recommend is that you take advantage of what large exchanges can offer, but use them strategically: as a part of a broader revenue and monetisation mix. At Improve Digital, we simplify things for our publishing clients by providing a single platform that fulfils all their needs in today’s tough market. Media owners still need multiple platforms to sell their inventory. What they truly need, is an alternative that is European and independent. We are ready to position ourselves as that neutral alternative.’


The transparent Alternative

To achieve Frijters’ and Niessen’s vision of a transparent alternative, Improve Digital has just launched 360 Polaris, an independent, publisher-focused platform that revolutionizes ad-selling through programmatic trading methods that benefit publishers the most. With a whole new platform comes a new philosophy. ‘With our holistic approach to programmatic buying,’ says Frijters, ‘whether you’re buying over the phone, via programmatic technologies, or via email, the purchase is booked in the ad server and guaranteed. For every individual ad placement and impression, you want to find out who’s the best fit for that specific ad view. You can invest more in the ad system that propels revenue for publishers, who are already having a tough time.’

360 Polaris also brings simplicity and oversight to controlling multimedia advertising. ‘Publishers are really frustrated that they have to use one technology for video, a different one for mobile, and yet a different one for apps’, says Frijters. ‘They want a single, holistic setup. That’s exactly what we’ve set out to do with 360 Polaris, our new platform.”

Publishers benefit greatly because finally they have an open and private marketplace where all bids compete in a single system. ‘We heard from publishers that over the last year they felt they had no alternative to the giant exchanges. But since 360 Polaris came out, we’ve had publishers telling us: “Wow, this is great! It finally gives us the complete toolset we’ve been waiting for.” It’s a truly holistic setup that tracks all bids on the same level in the auction. Publishers are thrilled to finally have a full-stack solution that delivers exactly what they need. If you look at the other full-stack solutions available on the market, none of them are transparent. If you use those, before you know it, you’re the product, not the customer.’

Joelle is CEO and co-founder of Improve Digital. Since its founding in 2008, Joelle has led the company through a period of tremendous growth, seeing it emerge as a market leader in programmatic advertising.   Joelle is a thought leader within the technology and online advertising industry, sought after as a speaker and commentator on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, digital marketing technology, and media revenue strategies. She is a guest lecturer on the MBA Entrepreneurship course at IESE Business School, and is also an active board and committee member, affiliated with regional and global organisations such as Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).   Prior to Improve Digital Joelle spent many years as a director at Microsoft, where she launched and oversaw Microsoft’s private advertising network in the EMEA region. Prior to Microsoft, with support from Nickelodeon and Isobar, Joelle initiated one of the very first social media start-ups, which was later sold to media giant Sanoma. Very early in her career, she worked with KLM, and it was here that her passion for yield and revenue management was born.