It’s been nearly a year since ad sales workflow systems provider Mediaocean was given the regulatory green light to form the merger of Mediabank and Donovan Data Systems. While Mediaocean picked up the mantle of both entities' attempts to bring online media buying methods to traditional TV, Mediaocean CEO Bill Wise tells AdExchanger that the company is preparing to fully rollout its rebuilt system, starting with a display ad sales tool dubbed Prisma and then circling back around to include all media buying.
AdExchanger: How has Mediaocean’s strategy evolved since the merger?
BILL WISE: When we first announced the merger back in September of 2011, we were very grand about discussing our strategy – we wanted to be “the app store for advertising,” taking on Google, and as the only alternative in terms of ad tech plumbing.
Then, what you saw was us being quiet for the last eight or nine months. That’s been on purpose, because we had a lot of integration work to do. We completely reorganized the business, completely realigned our resources, created three separate divisions within the company, and we internally rebranded all of our products.
In the next couple of weeks we're going to actually launch the new brands externally. We had five different digital technologies between DDS and Mediabank. We’re completing the entire rewrite and integration of all of those five products into one new digital product, starting with display advertising, called Prisma.
After focusing primarily on traditional media buying workflow solutions, why are you circling back to display? And, will Prisma be limited to display, or will it eventually encompass all other media buying categories, like TV and print?
It’s starting with display, but it will expand to those other areas as well over time. What we realized is that the dynamics of the advertising business are changing. There are set-top boxes, IPTV, connected TV, video-on-demand, online video. All these things will become the “new TV,” so is it worthwhile for us to integrate the Mediabank TV system with the Donovan TV system? We decided against that.
So we want to start over with digital and build from the ground up. The plan is to rebrand the existing products, take a look at the best in breed for both, have separate roadmaps. But more importantly, we want to create a strategy that allows our new platform to handle TV buying in the future.
We went live with this new system over a month ago. We have one holding company in the U.S. signed on and we have agreements with four others to come on board, so we're making huge progress.
How is this new system different from what’s already out there in terms of display media buying platforms?
Both the Mediabank digital system, and the DDS digital system, which was iDesk, were essentially traditional media buying workflow systems tweaked for digital. That is very different from a digital system in its own right. We’ve built a fully digital system on an entirely new infrastructure that doesn’t leverage DDS’s old one. That’s what Prisma is, essentially.
Another difference with linear versus digital has to do, firstly, with the various levels of connectivity — you just don’t have levels of interoperability when it comes to print or out-of-home or radio, that you need for digital. We've embraced some of those things, and I'll talk about that in more detail in a second.
Yet another difference is that within digital systems, you need to be able to plan, buy, and optimize, all on the same platform. With traditional systems, there are planning systems over to one side, there are buying systems in the middle, and then there’s kind of post campaign – what was the effectiveness of my TV campaign that’s measured over time? None of those systems for TV talk to each other.
In digital, all those parts need to talk to each other seamlessly. We started with automating the RFP process, which is kind of a pre-buying system as opposed to full planning. That’s actually a product we call smart RFP.
Smart RFP has a vendor-facing side to it, so now all of a sudden we have a digital product that actually has an interface to the supply side of the universe. That’s also new. We never built products that publishers would log into for digital before. Now, publishers can respond to RFPs electronically.
Planning is the next step. I think the biggest DNA change is thinking about leveraging third-party data and technology in ways that we never thought of before. So we have built not only an operating system layer, but also an advanced API layer on top of and into this new display system.
The idea of a one-stop shop for all kinds of media buying, starting with display, makes sense. But what’s the ultimate value that you’re promising, apart from creating an all-in-one workflow system for media?
We fundamentally believe that too much margin has gone into the intermediary part of the business, and not enough value has been created -- for advertisers, their agencies, and publishers. So our goal is to add efficiency to that market back to the principles of the business.
You also mentioned making ad effectiveness as a part of this system. How does that fit into what’s largely a workflow solution?
We start with workflow and then will integrate functions like ad effectiveness, rich media ad serving, mobile ad serving, brand protection companies, creative optimization, as well the use of third party and first party intent data. Because we are a workflow company, we can create the environment by which all those independent niche markets and all the innovation in terms of ad tech and data companies can then integrate into us.
To be clear, we don’t necessarily want to become an ad effectiveness company. We think there are five or six great ad effectiveness solutions out there, and we want to integrate them in.
How do you see Mediaocean’s service profile evolving? How do you want to be seen by buyers and sellers?
If you would have polled sophisticated digital media buyers two years ago and asked them what Mediabank or Donovan was, they would have said, “Aren’t those the TV guys?” Last year, they would’ve said, “Mediaocean is a traditional ad tech company that’s trying to get into digital.” Today, or over the course of this year, what I would love for them to say is, “They're a significant ad tech player across all media types.”
As you look ahead to the rest of 2013, there has been talk about the possibility of Mediaocean purchasing Microsoft Atlas platform. The latest word is that you decided to pass on Atlas. Is there anything you can say about that or just sort of what your needs might be in terms of that kind of platform capability?
There continue to be gaps that we want to fill in. And we will aggressively look to build by partnering to fill those gaps. I'm not going to comment on any of the rumors, but there have been rumors about Yahoo taking a look at us. I would say expect us to be in more rumors, because we're going to be very aggressive. There are too many small companies, and I believe there's going to be consolidation, so we want to be a consolidator.
Do you have a preference for, as you say, “build-by-partnering” or acquisitions or both?
I would say both. Make no mistake about it, Mediabank had a history of growing and becoming more sophisticated through acquisitions. Mediaocean now has that DNA. We will be aggressively looking at acquisitions.
To frame the growth story in a larger way, we're in seven markets today. We need to be in 200 markets within 18 months, so geographic expansion is a big part of our strategy.
Having more digital expertise in-house is another major focus. And we will aggressively hire for that as well as look at acquisitions. We're profitable, and we don’t need any cash, so I don’t see fundraising as part of our future.
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