Video DSP TubeMogul Stakes Future On GRP, Viewability

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Brett Wilson, TubeMogul 2013Many video ad technology players have a sell-side component -- think Tremor Video, YuMe, Videology, BrightRoll, SpotXchange and Adap.tv. TubeMogul is one of the few with an exclusive focus on the buy side.

TubeMogul has staked its claim as a video demand-side platform, and as such its relationship is chiefly with the agency, not the client. But to make its services more valuable, it often partners with some of those aforementioned video ad tech companies' sell-side tools.

"We spend a lot of time with brands, helping them understand the ecosystem," said TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson. "But predominantly, we're going to partner with them through their media agencies. It's unreasonable to think that a brand can embrace a technology like ours by themselves, since they tend not to be staffed in ways that would allow them to take advantage of new tools."

TubeMogul's full time staffers number 179, more than double the 77 employees it had this time last year. And TubeMogul is trying to fill 45 other positions globally, having opened a Beijing office following a $10 million investment in May that was led by SingTel, one of the largest telecoms in Southeast Asia.

GRP Values

A big part of Emeryville, Calif.-based TubeMogul's pitch to agencies and their clients comes down to analytics. The company's recent efforts have focused on two distinct areas – online GRPs (gross ratings points) and viewability.

Specifically, TubeMogul's GRP-related BrandPoint audience-measurement tool is intended to equalize ad values through a GRP model on computers and TVs. Buyers can also choose different demographics and regional areas to buy cross-platform inventory and then assess the accuracy of the purchases by modeling off of Nielsen data.

"[BrandPoint] allows buyers to gauge media costs in real time, coupled with audience delivery, which is a major step for buyers activating within a scatter marketplace," Michael Baliber, SVP and director of media strategy for ID Media, an IPG media agency, told AdExchanger. "Having access to a real-time tool like BrandPoint to project audience delivery will be a game changer for online video buyers … as part of clients’ scatter buys."

The challenge for the ad industry is that online buying based on this kind of "targeted ratings point" translates the practice from TV, a medium that has had 60 years of refinement, into the Wild West of digital advertising. In that Wild West, "everyone is always in beta and perfection is a matter of iterative testing and adaptive optimization," said Robert Brill, SVP of strategy and operations for media buyer Fulcrum5, another BrandPoint launch partner.

Brill offered this qualified praise of BrandPoint: "Whether it is a major advance or a nice step forward depends on the data it uses. As data partners are forced to substantiate their own data TubeMogul becomes a purveyor and curator of data on behalf of its clients. As TubeMogul’s data becomes more refined, the BrandPoint tool becomes more valuable."

TubeMogul, like most platform-based ad companies, charges a percentage of the media spend. BrandPoint embraces a different structure with its "cost-per-point guarantee." In other words, the media buy reaches its target or the company doesn't get paid.

Viewability

TubeMogul has been out in front on the viewability issue. In May, the company gathered fellow video ad tech vendors including BrightRoll, Innovid, LiveRail and SpotXchange to support OpenVV (or Open VideoView), a viewability solution for in-stream video ads. Although it appeared to counter moves by comScore, Double Verify, Tremor and RealVu, which had recently won accreditation for their individual viewability measurements from the Media Ratings Council, Wilson insisted that the group effort was meant to ensure definition behind a single viewability standard, rather than exacerbate the current array of competing metrics.

"There's no competitive advantage to claiming you can provide 'the best viewability,'" Wilson said. "We believe that it's up to the MRC and the Interactive Advertising Bureau to judge what is the standard. But it's up to us and our partners to provide the technology first. And we need to have everyone in the industry on board for that to happen." Since the launch of the consortium, Wilson said companies that have expressed interest in signing on include Turn, DataXu, Extreme Reach, PointRoll and Undertone.

No IPO Plans

Despite having raised over $50 million since opening its doors in 2006, Wilson said there are no ambitions to follow Tremor into the public markets with its own IPO filing.

"It's not that we couldn't file for an IPO – we have the revenue growth and the narrative, but it's not necessary and it's not where we want to focus," Wilson said.

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