The company is betting the big three sources of video inventory going forward will be native (by which CEO Ben Legg means inventory sold through a transparent network), Facebook and YouTube. Its AdParlor platform, acquired in 2011, gave Adknowledge the tools to optimize ad placements on Facebook (and Twitter). And its last video-related acquisition in March, Giant Media, runs a publisher and social network across which it seeds branded video content.
“We think we’re in the three areas that are brand safe, have high volume and are trusted,” Legg said. He described conversations he’s had with advertisers and agencies who are “mad keen” to move budget from television to digital video. “TV advertising budgets are around $70 billion,” Legg said. “Digital video advertising is $6 billion.”
That desire to shift budget into digital channels – and digital video in particular – was a recurrent theme at the recent Cannes Lions festival. Wunderman CEO Daniel Morel, for instance, lamented that digital budgets are only 20% even though the channels attract more consumer eyeballs. And Mondelēz exec B. Bonin Bough spoke about his company’s push into digital video.
According to Legg, brands aren’t spending more in digital video for two reasons. The first is scale.
“It’s hard to spend millions online because it’s a fragmented market,” he explained. The second is concerns around brand safety. “There’s a high risk if you work with a network that your ads will appear [haphazardly] all over the place, and it could just be wasted money. A lot of it is fraud, where videos are shown below the fold or as a single pixel.”
Before acquiring TriVu – founded in 2012 with about eight employees – Adknowledge had an API plugin that could use YouTube as an inventory source. But it was limited. While YouTube has the active volume advertisers want, Legg said, its targeting capabilities are based on keywords.
“Let’s say you’re Range Rover with a new ad,” he said. “You want to target classy videos that show rich or outdoorsy people. But if you target cross-country, you might get running trails.”
TriVu, Legg said, found a way to crawl based on keywords and organize YouTube videos to help advertisers buy appropriate inventory. It then pulls together a list of appropriate videos and asks its clients if they want to purchase the inventory.
“They get the volume with YouTube but without the risk of inappropriateness,” Legg said.
At this point, TriVu’s process isn’t fully automated – and Legg knows that automation will need to increase in order to add scale. The company has around 30 customers, “but the quality of customer is phenomenal,” Legg said, adding that one of the reasons the company wanted to work with Adknowledge is to be part of a greater organization that can help it scale and expand internationally. Still, Legg acknowledged that an element of human judgment will always factor into TriVu’s process.
While TriVu, AdParlor and Giant Media all maintain their own brands, Legg intends to integrate the platforms, hopefully in two years time. "Building a perfectly integrated platform is hard, because you’ve got to manage it,” he said. “But advertisers and their agencies want a single platform.”
More acquisitions might be coming. While Adknowledge evaluates whether to build or buy functionality, if a small tech provider that already has that functionality rolls around, Adknowledge is happy to snap it up.
“We’ve got a sweet spot,” Legg said. “We love buying 1- to 3-year-old companies with 10-30 employees. They’ve done something no one else has worked out, but need help scaling, with talent management and with going international.”
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