Havas Ownership But A Memory, AdNetik Rebrands As Digilant

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DigilantIn a move partly intended to play down its history as a unit of Havas, independent trading desk AdNetik has rebranded itself as Digilant.

Simultaneously the company has rolled out two products: AIM Audience Index and AIM Brand Network. The former is a lookalike finder for audience buying, ranking users by "positive and negative relevancy" to a client's target audience. The latter is akin to a private exchange marketplace, where ad buyers can strike independent deals with specific premium publishers and then manage those buys through Digilant.

CEO Edward Montes spoke with AdExchanger about the name change and state of the company.

What was wrong with AdNetik as a brand?  

Edward Montes: Nothing was wrong exactly. It had some history to it, in the way the company started it. The fact we were part of Havas as employees – for some time, there was significant confusion in the marketplace. From our perspective, Havas is a hugely important client. We share an investor. Some of my best friends are managers at Havas. It's hard to distance yourself, especially when you're starting out.

But we were meeting some roadblocks, not just in the U.S. but globally.  In some cases, [the history with Havas] was an excuse to shut the door on us.

The other big reason is that because we started three years ago as one of the first trading desks – we and [Vivaki's] Audience on Demand were founded around the same time – [we wanted to capture the evolving] notion of the trading desk.

On the one hand we build technology. We have tremendous investment we've made both in products and staff. We're launching products. But we also have a commitment to service. We're not walking away from services like some people. We aim to be a new type of company for the ad space that's driven by technology but is not at all afraid of the service aspect.

Who's in your competitive set?

Quite honestly, our competitive set, the way we've build the technology, is Google and Adobe.  The difference is we're completely buy-side focused. There's no sell-side to our business. The other thing is, to date, we've built everything, we haven't bought anything, as Google and Adobe have.

Our positioning against the DSPs is they focus on what we think of as the commodity side of the business.  All along we've said we're not just focused on automated buying, but adding data and planning intelligence. That comes from our agency background.

MDC-owned trading desk Varick Media Management names independent desks such as yourself as close competitors. Any reaction to that?

It's flattering... They assume we came from an agency holding group, which is partially true as individuals but the company is completely independent.

We started off where they're headed, which is building targeting or data solutions that you can then distribute through a DSP. MDC retains some sense of independence [since it's] often not named as a top holding company.

How many agency clients do you have?

We have more than 400 clients worldwide, and 75 to 80 percent of them are agencies.

In some markets, Latin America in particular -- I don't want to say we're the only game in town, but with some of our products there's no comparable. A year ago we launched a product geared toward the U.S. Hispanic audience that doesn't seem to have a lot of competition. A lot of agencies that are buying that audience are using that product.

In what countries does Digilant do most of its business?   

The U.S. is 55 percent of our business today. The balance is expressed pretty evenly between the U.K., Mexico, Spain, and the Netherlands -- Brazil maybe a little less. That's probably a statement on the size of those markets. And in one case that's a statement that we're not as penetrated as we should be, and that's the U.K. In the Latin Countries the growth is unbelievable.

How would you contrast the Mexico market with a European country, say Spain?

The markets are vastly different. They're Latin markets in that they're sharing the same language, but they're very different in how they're buying media.

From an audience buying perspective, in Spain you're in a position where people are really questioning what's going to happen as an outcome of the European privacy directive. There's some reluctance or caution on what it means for them.

Publishers are very wary of Google in particular. Whether it's rational or not, there's a strong emotional response to it. The AIM Brand Network, one of our new products, is really driven by this problem we're having in Spain, which is agencies and clients in Spain wishing to have well identified publishers in the inventory mix, and so we created this product enabling the direct connection between publisher and RTB buyer.

The other thing that distinguishes the Spanish market is there's more restriction with respect to using pixels. In the Mexican market, it's much more open in terms of collecting data and using that data.

What's happened in Mexico, there hasn't been a tremendous amount of focus on the DSP players. They're stuck in an Right Media Exchange environment. Those clients tend to migrate over to AppNexus. In the Mexican world, RMX is still a very primary source of inventory for exchange based buying and AppNexus is starting to grow. It's almost like Mexico's [issue] is a lack of attention from the buyers, not an unwillingness from [the sell side].

Do the Netherlands and U.K. closely track with the privacy issues you're seeing in Spain?

When it comes to privacy, absolutely. The UK obviously has the same privacy directive. Their interpretation of it, they seem to be less focused on the punitive aspects of it from a buying standpoint than some of these other markets.

By Zach Rodgers

Follow Digilant (@adnetik) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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