JiWire Becomes NinthDecimal, Paves Programmatic Paths With WiFi Data

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DavidStaasJiWire, a mobile advertising company most commonly known for serving ads over airport WiFi networks across the US, has rebranded as “NinthDecimal” and launched a mobile audience-targeting tool for pre-roll video ads.

Working with buy-side partner TubeMogul, early beta brand users include L'Oréal Paris, Kraft Foods and Honey Maid. NinthDecimal is ramping up location-based data partnerships, most recently working with Datalogix on a Location Conversion Index – a metric that attributes mobile ad spend to in-store visits and purchases. The company has raised close to $45 million to date, according to CrunchBase.

David Staas, NinthDecimal’s president, spoke to AdExchanger about the rebrand and the company’s further push into programmatic partnerships and data licensing.

AdExchanger: How did JiWire originate?

DAVID STAAS: We began as a WiFi ad network and really were the very first location advertising platform back when the signal was coming off of laptops connected to public WiFi locations. We had built a nationwide network by partnering with 40-50 different WiFi networks and these were places like airports, hotels, cafes. This was an opportunity to create an ad experience when someone was getting connected on a paid airport network. A good example is instead of pulling out my credit card and paying $9 to get connected to WiFi for a session in the airport, I could engage with a brand, watch their video, spend up to a minute plus with that brand and in exchange for that time, my connection was free. It was this great WiFi sponsorship model.

How did you commercialize this?

Every single WiFi hotspot we registered in our database…was a very location-specific type of registration, so whenever somebody connected, we could tell this was a person in a Starbucks in San Francisco or a person in JFK Airport in New York and we began to create the ability to target audiences based off of that location context. Really the only location signal of any scale at the time was a WiFi-connected laptop.

What sort of data were you collecting?

We realized we were seeing all these people connect over time in all these locations, so not only can I create targeting based on where they are, I can create histories of locations and richer audience segments, such as I know they live in LA, but tend to travel to New York twice a month. A few years ago, we finally had app developers as the smartphone and app ecosystem began to reach some scale, who realized they could create apps that used the GPS and location signals coming off these devices, and we had large-scale numbers of location-based apps beginning to enter the marketplace. That created a significant location signal coming off of mobile that allowed us to evolve this technology platform we had built in WiFi and extend it into mobile. We built a mobile network and partner with tens of thousands of apps. The location signal coming off that mobile network allowed us to create a much larger dataset of information to build audiences off of.

What did you develop in terms of an audience platform?

A couple of years ago, we launched the Location Graph, which was the mobile extension of that audience platform, and we continue to invest and build in that platform. We are combining datasets across the ecosystem to create these audience segments that can be entirely customized for each brand and then exposing those audience segments across all sorts of digital formats both in mobile and online. We go to market with services around very advanced one-to-one audience targeting, mobile measurement techniques that go beyond the click so we can track incremental store visits and we can track purchases in store as additional ROI metrics. Even before you run a campaign, we can go into our platform and create all kinds of insights about an audience to influence media planning and strategy.

Why the rebrand?

Mobile makes up over 80% of our revenue today and are doubling that year-over-year. It brought us to profitability in Q4 and we are well ahead of plan to more than double our revenues this year and it’s all fueled by this data intelligence platform built by mobile data and mobile audiences. When we began to look at the company we’ve evolved into and become over the last few years, we realized the JiWire brand was very synonymous with our legacy WiFi business, but didn’t represent the company we are today. Quite simply, as a mobile company with the name “wire” in the name, it’s not the most logical connection.

How does NinthDecimal make its money? What’s your revenue model?

We run a network but we don’t consider ourselves a network in that same sense. We run a network as a way to expose the data out to the marketing world to allow agencies and brands to be able to take advantage of our mobile audience intelligence to build success for their marketing strategies. In that sense, we have a direct sales team that works with the agencies and the brands. We have a publisher network and we sell a complete suite of advertising capabilities and we run campaigns on behalf of brands, which pay us on a CPM basis for the most part and we have revenue share agreements of various types in place with our publishing partners.

You’re sitting on a hotbed of location data. Are you licensing it to third parties?

We’re beginning to do a lot of licensing of our data platform. Our measurement suite, for example, can measure [that] you saw an ad and [whether] that created incremental foot traffic and purchases in store. It is seeing a ton of demand in the marketplace and so we have a lot of other advertising companies licensing that and on their behalf we’ll run the measurement of that campaign and provide the results back to them, in which they can take back to their clients.

In mobile there’s certainly a tremendous move toward programmatic. … [We are] enabl[ing] the agency trading desks to now come and buy our audience segments to enhance their mobile campaigns. These are some of the changes in our business model that go beyond that traditional direct sales approach, where we can license our data in a number of unique ways.

Who are your competitors?

Because we have a direct sales team, certainly companies like Millennial Media. We are in the agency competing for dollars around mobile and we’ve got a pretty robust audience solution and measurement suite, so we compete very well on that front. Over time it’ll be interesting to see how the data strategy begins to grow. I’m sure we’ll begin to compete with some of the data platforms, perhaps some of the online companies as they move into mobile. All of the online data platforms have concerns about what is the future of the cookie in the online space, and we’ve figured out how to take the sophistication of online targeting and audience building and bring it into mobile in a cookie-less environment, so we think we can be a partner for those companies to help them execute an extension into mobile.

How is your dataset differentiated?

We’ve profiled over a billion devices and built these audience segments from over a trillion data points and we add about 120 billion new data points every month in the platform. It’s a very recent and relevant data set. We’re building it from a variety of signals – we use location as a foundational signal and today we combine that with where you go and your offline purchase data, what are the products you are buying, public data, the devices you use, even first party CRM data. We have customers that come to us with their customer and prospect list and say they’d like to combine it with our data sets to create a very unique audience to execute a very specific type of campaign.

What mobile video problem are you tackling with TubeMogul?

The problem with video today is you’re largely buying on a targeting approach that’s built around the content – the pre-roll mobile content such as, “It’s a piece of sports content. Run this type of ad.” Those approaches are very akin to the very early days of online. What we’re doing with TubeMogul is adding the richness of these audience segments – these mobile-derived audiences are now available on mobile video.

What’s your headcount, and what’s next for NinthDecimal?

Our team us north of 50 employees. Because we can integrate our data throughout the entire ecosystem, you’ll see more partnerships like what we’re doing with TubeMogul. You will see a lot of activity on the programmatic ad buying front as we continue to offer our audiences through that channel. There are a lot of very interesting data licensing opportunities to either help companies move into the mobile space as online companies or create new products or services using our platform to go solve various challenges.

For example, you can use our platform to understand market share of store visits between you and your competitors before and after a campaign. Brands are using mobile as a BI tool to inform decisions not only in mobile, but across various forms of media. We can also take our mobile-derived audiences and begin to apply that in non-digital media channels whether it’s out of home or direct mail. We can combine mobile ad formats and digital ad formats, reaching the same exact individual with other channels.

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