Seed And mediaQuark Merge To Provide Audience Data In Southeast Asia

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Tom Simpson mediaQuarkOne challenge of programmatic buying in the Asia-Pacific region is lack of data. Two Singapore-based companies, Seed and mediaQuark, are joining forces to provide more audience data solutions to Southeast Asia.

The merger, announced today, brings together audience development from Seed and media trading technology from mediaQuark. The new company, simply called mediaQuark, to provide audience data for clients in a number of ways, said Tom Simpson, the founder and CEO of Seed who will serve as the CEO of the new company.

"Mikko [Kotila, former CEO and now chairman of the new mediaQuark] and I started working in a strategic partnership and eventually it made sense to pull our investors together, pull the businesses together and start a new business," Simpson told AdExchanger. "The new mediaQuark has a much more defined product list and we brought the third-party audience data into play as well."

Seed and mediaQuark, both founded in Singapore in 2013, each secured one previous round of investment and the team is together going back to their initial, private investors for another round post-merger, Simpson added. The company's headcount is now 10 employees.

AdExchanger spoke to Simpson about the goals for the new company, FBX's role in programmatic buying in Southeast Asia, and the reasons why data is so lacking in Southeast Asia and APAC.

AdExchanger: As the founder Seed, why did you decide to make this move and merge with mediaQuark?

TOM SIMPSON: When you're trying to create audience data in markets such as Southeast Asia, a lot of the content and data you're looking to process is in local language. For local languages like Vietnamese, Indonesian and Thai, there is no technology out there that processes it. mediaQuark was starting to develop the technology that could actually help us process the audiences we needed for these local markets.

You mentioned the new mediaQuark has a more defined product list.  

Really simply, we have three key products that we're pushing. First of all, we have a fast-growing audience of over 200 million active users profiled for interest, intent and demographic. We have audience data that covers the entire Southeast Asian market, and we're pushing that into the DSPs and DMPs right now.

The second product is a data-enrichment solution that works with all the regional languages and we're just refining to work with all global languages. We've made big moves over the past six to eight months and we've moved beyond just being able to process these Southeast Asian local languages. As a result of trying to solve that problem, we've actually solved a much bigger problem, which is of processing all global languages.

And the third product that we've developed is a media planning tool for programmatic trading that pulls in all inventory sources. It's designed to work with all trading desks.

What is it about the APAC region that makes it difficult to get data for programmatic buying and online advertising?

There are a couple practical points and one overarching thing. The overarching thing is that it's very early stage. Headcount at DSPs and trading desks is still very low. The entire scene is very early stage, but there is massive potential and we're starting to see interesting projections for growth over the next few years.

One core technical point is that it's difficult to process local languages. If you want to build behavioral targeting, you have to understand which webpages users are consuming and what those webpages represent in terms of interest. Without being able to process local languages, you can't build behavioral profiles. That's one big aspect.

Another thing is that Southeast Asia and APAC are quite fragmented. We talk about APAC as a region, but it's a number of different countries at different stages of development and with different relationships needed. It's difficult to push into all the different countries and pull together an offering that makes sense right now.

How do you see programmatic buying growing in APAC, in Singapore and Southeast Asia specifically?

Digital hasn't really scaled in Southeast Asia yet. If you look at some of the local markets, a majority of the buying is still done by buying a display banner on the homepage of the largest local publisher. This new age of data-driven marketing and programmatic buying, from a US/UK perspective, looks like 2003 or 2004. It's very interesting to see the clash of a very old world with a very new world. Potentially, old school digital buying will disappear quicker because programmatic will eliminate the I/O much more quickly. My take on it is that there's an opportunity for a much bigger jump than we saw in more developed markets.

Social sites, like Facebook, can play a role in Southeast Asia, as opposed to China. What role is Facebook playing in the programmatic space there?

Facebook is a massive part of the programmatic scene over here. FBX has huge volumes of inventory. Facebook just opened an office in Indonesia, which is its fourth-largest market. But there are still issues around Facebook. Vietnam is a fast-growing market of 19 million people and is projected to have one of the fastest-growing middle classes globally over 10 years. Facebook is still problematic with the Vietnamese government. So you have a funny situation where it plays a massive part in the scene, but it's uncertain whether you're actually going to be able to secure Facebook inventory, because of the nature of the relationship with the government.

What goals do you have for the next year to 18 months?

Right now, our focus is very much on Southeast Asia. We work with Singapore-based trading desks and DSPs, but we have cracked global languages and will be looking to roll that over the remainder of 2014.

Beyond that, the programmatic tool that we have, the media planner, we look at that as a comScore for programmatic, and I don't think anyone has nailed that yet. It will be interesting to see how we can integrate with the DSPs and technology providers to deliver that.

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