Jacobs Joins Omnicom Media Group's Accuen Trading Desk As President

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Accuen JacobsOmnicom Media Group (OMG) has announced that Josh Jacobs is the new President of Accuen, OMG’s answer to the agency trading desk trend that has swept through ad holding companies.

Jacobs previous experience includes executive roles at Glam Media, where he was SVP of Ad Products and Marketing,, and Yahoo!, where he was VP & GM, Advertising Technology Platforms.

He talked about his new role and its implications with AdExchanger.com.

AdExchanger.com: Why is it that Accuen makes sense as a next step for you?

JJ: I have a background in enterprise software and more recently Yahoo and Glam, which involved looking at transactional media buying and leveraging data in those environments. During my tenure, I saw a tremendous convergence between the enterprise software world that I came from and the marketing and media world that I've been in for the last five years. So the opportunity at Accuen with its unbelievable clientele, great technology base that was already in place, and great team was well-timed. And perhaps most importantly an unbelievable amount of support at the senior executive level at Omnicom, for not just wanting to be another ad network but really thinking about how does data‑driven buying change the media business - and wanting to be the change agent in that. The assets, the scale and the convergence of all that made it very attractive.

I'm struck that you're a product guy and now you're coming into the agency environment. So, how does technology meet product development within an agency that may not want to own technology?

My view of a product is, a product isn't just writing code, product is in building solutions and packaging those up so that they can be used multiple times and scaled out. We're not a technology development shop inside of Accuen in terms of writing code. But, we have a product management function whose job it is to understand ‑ what are the big problems that are being solved and cross lots of different clients in the agency? And how can we bring the best of these partners together into solutions that will scale in order to leverage all of these new paradigms, be it electronic trading or data influenced buys?

Product is about packaging things in such a way that you're actually solving a customer problem and we're not just throwing technology at people.

It sounds like you're going to be building out a team. I know there's also been an existing team with Accuen. Can you talk a little bit about both and how they work with your role?

We have a fantastic team in place today, and Matt Spiegel put together an awesome organization. He started it in Chicago and during the first year of operation it made a lot of sense to have everybody in one place and be coming up to speed really quickly. As we've started to scale out Accuen, we're now working with client teams all around the country. And it's becoming more and more important to us to be really part of the daily way that teams are operating. So we're adding people in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Accuen will be a nationwide presence by the end of the year.

In your estimation, what is the competitive set for Accuen? Or, is there one?

I get asked this a lot, and, fundamentally all of the holding companies, when we're doing big reviews, are bringing out their analytics and their trading capabilities as part of the differentiating set. So, of course, to some extent we compete with all of those guys. But there's a tremendous opportunity for us to help our clients do more with data inside of the agency today. So in a lot of ways, whether it's a competition or it's an opportunity, it's the status quo. It's people that have been buying sites as a proxy for audience when they can now buy the audience.

And that's not a competition, that's an education thing. We're here to compliment the efforts of our media teams and give them new tools that they can use to better deliver value for their clients. And to that end we think of it much more as a center of excellence inside the agency.

Moving to your Glam experience, what do you think is particularly relevant from your Glam media experience in this new role?

Glam has put together a phenomenal product for upper funnel marketers. They've got tremendous context and high‑impact advertising units. And one of the things that I take away from Glam is that their marketplaces are very focused from an API and inventory perspective on [Direct Response] types of buys. And we see a much bigger opportunity ultimately as we move, whether it’s video or other kinds of high‑impact placements that a new brand needs. And I think, as an industry right now, we're all recognizing that there is this opportunity. But there's a little bit of a chicken and an egg, of supplies not available to do high‑impact, the platforms don't have the APIs in place to do bidding on high‑impact.

And because there are no liquidity people like their trading desks have an aggregated enough demand to go say, "We're ready to start buying the stuff now."

The opportunity to make that push happen really sits on the buy‑side more than anything else. That we can make a market happen much, much faster by bringing those ideas together and then influencing the platform technology people and the supply‑side to meet those needs.

Let’s get into the tactics. What's your view on a private exchange?

I think everybody, both on the publisher side and on the buy‑side, are looking for ways to build strategic advantage for their businesses. And on the supply side, does it make sense to say if you have the strength of brand or strength of content to cut relationships that give you more predictability on your inventory, lock‑in rates or whatever else? Does that make sense for you to pursue? It does. And from our perspective, if we have publishers for whom we know inventory is highly performing or that they index really well for the audiences that we're trying to reach. Does it make sense for us to try to structure relationships that let us bid on that inventory before it goes into the open marketplace? I think it does make sense.

Operationally, I think, everyone is still working through what exactly is a private marketplace then. Is it really just a guaranteed deal? Is it a pass‑back? Are there going to be standards for how we cherry‑pick inventory? I don't think anybody has all the answers there.

So when you hear everyone's experimenting with it, we're all trying to figure out the best models that work to get inventory that we know will perform for us.

What can you say about the commitment you're seeing at the holding company level here that makes a guy like you want to be here?

So it was a big part of the questions that I asked in the process, and what became very clear is that the leadership at OMG and at Omnicom are committed to the idea that electronic marketplaces and data‑driven buying are going to be transformative in the industry, and that rather than having that happen outside of the agency, they wanted to have a seat at the table and be able to influence that direction and learn quickly. What I've seen top to bottom is that there is tremendous support at the Omnicom level for the idea that Accuen should be a change agent, operated entrepreneurially and trying to think about what an agency of the future looks like.

What might be some milestones that you’d like to see the Accuen team accomplish under your guidance?

Clearly, growth of the team is important and we're making a huge bet as a company that having great people who really know the technology is going to be a differentiator for us, and so we're making huge investments today in working with our partners as well as with our own team to build out tremendous training programs. So, one milestone for me would be a year from now people would say, "Those guys know what they're doing, and that the touch points with us a sort of exhibit the smartness of the people." I think that's an important area.

I also think being a part of how the rest of the agency does business is important.  So part of that is expanding geographically, part of that is the way in which we work with the client teams such that we're becoming a part of and an extension of how they work rather than a separate entity that, you know, I think we feel like today.

The third area is we think we're in a tremendous position to use technology to spend more efficiently and more accountably, as well as to make process more efficient throughout the agency.

And I would love to see a suite of offerings out there that are widely adopted by our client teams where people are really seeing great results from leveraging the trading desk and the technology that we're bringing to bear as a material part of how they're doing they're planning and buying.

How do you think it's going to play out  a year from now with Omnicom member agencies? Will they be allowed to use ad networks other than the Accuen trading desk?

There are a couple of things. First, we don’t think of ourselves as an ad network and we will continue to work with anybody who is providing something of value that our clients need to have access to. We believe we're here to add value, not replace people in the media chain. And what that means is that we can and do work with lots of networks today and will continue to do so, as well as with SSPs and exchanges, and publishers directly. The goal here is to find the best media that performs the best for our clients and to bring the best technology to bear in putting together those solutions, and that doesn't preclude working with anybody.

But on the media agency side, the idea here is that they'll be coming exclusively to Accuen to do what they had used to do directly with the ad network. Is there or should there be “a mandate”?

I haven't seen that, so I reject the term. Look, "You got to win the business." And what I've told my people is, "You've got to win the business." And with that said, I think it's fair to say that when we look at the space and we see that a lot of people are bidding on the exact same media and that we're getting to the same thing, my message to ‑ and this was true at Glam, this was true at Yahoo, it's true here ‑ my message to everybody is that you need to be creating differentiation. And if all you are is a channel to commodity media, it's going to be very, very hard to sustain your position in the market. And the same thing is true of me. I don't have any special advantage there over anybody else. I have to do things different and better than with what is available everywhere else to win.

Last question – what’s surprising you in digital right now?

It’s hard to read AdExchanger every day and not have your jaw drop almost on an hourly basis. I mean Yahoo's been amazing this week with the news there. I think the response to...or the lack of response in some ways to what Twitter's doing with advertising has been really interesting.

I think for the most part, though, I love how many companies there are in the space. It creates a great opportunity for me in that we're really trying to serve as a "center of excellence" for the agency.

There's a tremendous amount of great stuff being done right now, and it feels like there's a relatively small community of people who all know each other, who are all working hard to figure out things that we can do together. Yet, it still feels very early in what is a massive transformation of an almost trillion dollar business globally.

Follow Accuen (@accuen) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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