Video Ads Platform Coull Says Data Can Solve Pre-Roll Relevance Problems

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RichardNunnDespite a surge in mobile video consumption, inventory is still constrained. A number of technology companies are looking to diversify pre- or post-roll inventory by adding contextual layers or new formats altogether. One such player is video advertising technology company Coull.

Richard Nunn was recently named chief commercial officer for Coull. He was a digital media and technology equity analyst for Charles Stanley Securities, and managing director, London, for WPP agency Wunderman, prior.

He spoke with AdExchanger about scaling Coull’s UK-based business in the US and APAC, where he anticipates a flood of ad tech M&A.

AdExchanger: What problem do you solve?

RICHARD NUNN:  We are an ad technology platform focused on the context of content. We are also looking at audio and images and how do we monetize those rather than being just a pure video monetization play. Our trajectory as a business is, ultimately, about data. We can provide value-add for the advertiser and therefore can serve up more relevant pre-roll because we have data. Our media format is Vidlinkr, a branded, in-video overlay, which adds context fused out with other first and third party data, which will help drive more contextual pre-roll advertising.

What we’re seeing on pre-roll today is [for example] a L’Oreal ad on an iPhone 5 review and you can justify that it’s audience [they're after], maybe, but there’s no value exchange between the viewer and ad. Perhaps they should be serving up a Samsung pre-roll ad to the iPhone review and infuse that with their own data. What we are seeing at a macro is CPMs are starting to drop on pre-roll because there’s that big relevance question.

What about your inventory?

We now have a video inventory of 1.1 billion videos, which [has risen to about] 3.3 billion [at] the end of March because we’re now bringing on ESPN, Time Inc. and DailyMotion, which has 2.2 billion video [views] a month. We’ve got a huge amount of supply and we’ve got the infrastructure and a DMP to sell that data commercially. We’re integrating with a bunch of demand partners, so we’re integrating with Google AdX, OpenX, Smaato for mobile, because 23% of our inventory is mobile, and there’s a lot happening there.

What technology partners do you work with?

We partnered with LiveRail as our SSP and that gives us the programmatic solution to help scale and sell our inventory globally. Our second core pillar is our DMP provider, which is BlueKai. I think, for us, the benefits were they’re still quite US-centric. But the quid pro quo is our inventory is global and I think they got what we could bring to the party as well as what we were getting from them. I was quite impressed with what they’re trying to do in terms of international expansion.

Describe your efforts to drive efficiencies on the buy side.

From an advertiser perspective, it’s how effective do you want to be and that’s answering, do you want volume and therefore it’s broad (targeting)? Or do you want to be more granular? We just did a big Nike campaign across Europe and for five different sub-brands. We were getting 6 or 7% click through rates, which was massive, but we had to be very [thoughtful]. It had that scale because it’s sport, but it’s about having that transparency.

We’re not about "audience," but in the middle of last year, we brought on Quantcast, and the play there is every single video is tagged by Quantcast, so that gives us a social demographic make up. It’s easy for a buyer if they [want to target, for example] an 18- to 25-year-old male with [an] income of $50,000 or whatever, as an incremental cost of buying an audience of 10 million [sports] players across mobile. We can give them that total package – the context and the audience. We think there is a lack on the publisher side of metrics and real insight, which makes it transparent for the buyer.

Would you say you’re a programmatic solution?

Programmatic is just a way to sell. We have inventory we sell through a programmatic solution. I’d say we have a platform to sell programmatically rather than “We are a programmatic business,” if that makes sense because I think there’s some confusion still there. It’s a platform to sell – no more complicated than that.

What big geographic expansion trends are you following?

All the big trading desks are opening up in Asia, so you’ve got all the DSPs – Videology, Turn, MediaMath now opening up in Singapore, to follow the buy. It’s still early days for us, although we do have a lot of APAC traction. I lived out there in Singapore and Hong Kong, so that is on the roadmap for us. Our programmatic solution will be tied in to the ecosystem, and we are effectively opening up the buy side in Asia, and we’re talking to guys like Baidu out in Asia. It’s massive.

Programmatic players are flocking to APAC, Australia in particular. What will be the next big evolution?

Wearing my banking hat, you’ll see some massive valuation IPOs and [companies] taking out a lot of cash, and then they’ll be buying some major tech businesses in the US over this year. You’re looking at $30-$90 billion IPOs coming out of China [such as Alibaba, with some reports assigning a $150 billion to $200 billion post-IPO valuation to]. I think over the next 18 months you’ll see some big buyers in the East buying Western-based technology businesses. I think the net benefit is confidence [in the region].  Even though [many] agency trading desks are organized [by region, such as Europe, Asia, US]. I think when this M&A happens, they’ll become connected more globally with all the opportunities it will bring with that next big step-change.

How are you funded and what’s your head count?

Currently, we’re privately funded by high net worths. We [have just completed a $4 million round of funding, receiving $12.2 million in funding to date]. Our business value and trajectory is at about $50 million. In terms of structure, it’s more about monetizing the inventory we have. Headcount, I don’t think we’ll be any more than 100 people from where we are now at 33.

 

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