Speaking to Digiday, the Guardian's chief revenue officer discusses quality context, ad tech tax and measuring ad success beyond click-through rates.
Having joined the Guardian last summer, Nicklin introduced a new commercial team structure centred on unified client-facing teams. These work closely with advertisers to get audiences to respond to ads in ways the Guardian can measure and quantify, beyond click through rates.
The performance targets, which are applied to branded content, programmatic, print and digital display, will be built into commercial packages and encompass whether: a reader has taken notice, changed their mind about something, like the brand or product they buy from, go somewhere or buy something. As Nicklin puts it: "The idea of bombarding people with ads for the sake of scale, at cheap costs, is a bit rubbish. It doesn't work for advertisers or consumers, or publishers. We've forgotten what really matters, which is getting people to do something."
Underlining the importance of quality content and context, Nicklin says that "if all you’re looking for is a pair of eyeballs, as cheaply as you can find them, then the Guardian isn't the place for you to put your ad".
To take this value into account, he believes that ad tech vendors need to build in signals to detect how much production has gone into a piece of content: "We spend hours figuring out the best page layouts and designs, and where to embed ads. We could find ways to feed in signals to show how many collaborators worked on a piece of content. There are loads of different signals of quality that an algorithm can digest... But agencies and advertisers need to demand it."
Expanding on programmatic, Nicklin says: "We want our vendors to give us audit rights, show us full transparency, so we can be more on top of what's happening and see what's going on in the bid train."
A relatively recent convert to the Guardian – "I started reading the Guardian via the mobile app and haven't looked back" – the former Google director believes in the goals that the newsbrand is working to achieve. As Digiday explains: "When it comes to accessing what companies and roles will suit him, [Nicklin] considers two factors: what's that company's purpose and what's its map for progress. As long as he can identify and believe in both, then he'll throw everything into it."
This is the case at the Guardian, with Nicklin both citing his belief in its purpose and embracing its potential for change: "Unless we progress, we're not going to be in a position we want to be in… We have to change, shape and adapt, and that, I love."
by Jessie Sampson