YuMe CRO McLernon Says Company's Brand Security Initiative Helps Set It Apart From Video Ad Platform Competitors

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YuMeScot McLernon is Chief Revenue Officer of YuMe, a video ad platform and network.

Looking at your experience with CBS Marketwatch and CBS Interactive, what key learnings are you bringing to YuMe?

It certainly feels as though I’ve seen this movie before. In 2000, when I was at CBS MarketWatch, we were breaking new ground with marketers and evangelizing a new advertising medium: online. We had to demonstrate the value of online advertising to marketers, provide them with guidance, and ultimately help them find ways to engage with their customers. Now brands are present on the web, but they’re still looking for guidance around new media. Our team at YuMe is fluent in video advertising – we do this every day – but it’s up to us to sell marketers on online video advertising. My experience in helping advertisers successfully explore new media is something I’m bringing to bear at YuMe.

What problem does YuMe solve?

Advertisers spend $70B each year on TV advertising, but as consumers spend more and more time online or interacting with mobile devices, an “online-only” audience is being formed that isn’t exposed to TV ads. As such, it is becoming harder for major brand advertisers to reach the national-scale audiences they need to sell their products. YuMe helps these advertisers round out their TV buys. Our video advertising technology allows brands to efficiently buy national-sized audiences at scale. Moreover, we can repurpose marketers’ existing assets, giving them an easy, effective way to either augment their TV advertising or reach the audience that they are currently missing.

How does YuMe differentiate in comparison to a varied, competitive field such as Tremor Media, Joost, Auditude, Adap.TV and others?

Most video ad networks operate by purchasing inventory from publishers at one price and selling it to advertisers at a mark-up, without having any deeper technology relationship with their publishers. By comparison, YuMe has invested heavily in our ACE technology platform, creating ad operations tools that help publishers take control of their video inventory. As a result, a tremendous number of publishers – including some of the biggest brands in media – have chosen to equip their video players with ACE technology. Because we have deep technology integrations with our publishers, we are able to offer advertisers a variety of capabilities that standard networks can’t. These capabilities include the new brand security initiative that we announced today, along with real-time campaign optimization, advanced targeting, and high-impact ad units that can help set a brand apart. For instance, we recently launched an ad unit called the Triple Play, which pairs a short pre-roll with an end slate that features a menu of options for viewers to engage with the advertiser’s brand. Advertisers can use the end slate to let users watch additional videos, learn about promotional offers, or even interact with the brand through social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.

We understand that marketers want their ads to be associated with brand safe content. That’s why our network is exclusively focused on high quality publishers, like NBC, MSN, and Hearst Interactive Media. It’s why we regularly audit our publishers’ sites and syndication domains to make sure they meet our high content standards. And it’s why we’re investing in proactive technology to keep brands even more secure, such as the technologies we announced today, which include domain detection and blacklisting for syndicated players, to prevent ads from running in undesirable syndicated environments. We are constantly investing in the technology and manpower we need to deliver the most comprehensive safeguards and greatest performance available to advertisers for online video campaigns.

What's your view on the ad network model? What do ad networks need to do to survive?

In order to survive, ad networks need to be either the first mover in their space, the best at what they do, or the only available option. Video advertising is a rapidly maturing space with a lot of competition, so we are focused on being the best. We think our technology is innovative and is making the process of buying and selling online video inventory more efficient. Our ACE technology platform enables advertisers to start buying national audiences at scale in online video with the same efficiency and brand security they get from TV. By creating technologies that make it easier for advertisers to move portions of their multi-billion dollar TV budgets into online video, we are also helping to make online distribution of premium quality video content profitable for publishers.

Will YuMe participate in the demand-side platform world where a buyer can map a single cookie across the multiple digital channels in any ad campaign? If so, how?

We are certainly evaluating our options. Since so many publishers have chosen to equip their video players with our ACE technology, we are in a unique position to help advertisers and publishers find deeper, more effective ways to connect with each other.

What key traits are you looking for in a digital ad salesperson today? How does this differ from, say, 5 or 10 years ago?

There are a lot of similarities between my ideal digital ad salesperson in 2010 and my ideal from 2000. I am building a world-class customer service and sales organization at YuMe, so as I did back at CBS, I am looking for service-oriented salespeople who consistently strive to ensure that our advertisers are happy. The biggest difference, of course, lies in the details of what they need to know to conduct that customer service. The world of online video is very dynamic, and our team is entrenched in this space, so it is easy for us to take our knowledge for granted. But some of the most sophisticated buyers out there don’t understand video – yet. It is our job to make sure that they do going forward.

How will YuMe encourage brand marketers to spend their brand awareness dollars through YuMe products?

This is something we are already working on. As it stands, there is a lot of research showing that brands’ ad dollars will work harder in online video than in TV alone. For instance, recent research by Nielsen showed that the combination of advertising through both TV and online video improved brand recall from 26% to 44% and message recall from 19% to 39%. We find that to be a compelling story for advertisers to augment their TV advertising through online video. And as I mentioned previously, we have developed a strong competitive advantage through our sophisticated technology, our innovative ad units, our focus on premium publishers, and our commitment to brand security. So we are actively communicating those messages to brand marketers, and steadily encouraging them to spend more money through YuMe products.

Are advertisers asking you and your team to help with attribution across all their digital marketing channels?

That’s not something we’re hearing from advertisers yet, but it is something that we think about here, both in terms of conducting research and determining how we can best leverage our broad publisher technology distribution.

What's the hardest part about leading a sales team?

For me, the biggest challenge is managing each of the different parts of the customer service and sales organization – that and needing to be in three other places in addition to being engaged wherever I am on any given day.

What milestones would you like YuMe to accomplish a year from now?

This time next year, we hope to be the best possible partner to our advertiser and agency clients; be a point of pride (and revenue) to our publishing partners; and always be the first call from our advertising clients when they have problems, additional budget, or just need to talk to an expert about how they can get the most out of their video advertising efforts.

Follow YuMe (@yumevideo) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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