Maxifier CEO Discusses New Role, Sheds Light On Expansion Plans

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Denise-ColellaDenise Colella joined sell-side pricing and inventory manager Maxifier two years ago and quickly climbed the ranks from CRO to president before taking on the CEO’s role in October.

Colella replaced Anthony Katsur, who held the post for less than a year and is now an advisor for the programmatic direct marketplace iSocket and Involved Media, a social media agency. AdExchanger sat down with Colella to talk about her new role and her plans to take Maxifier’s services beyond premium publishers.

AdExchanger: Maxifier has gone through several CEOs in the past few years. What’s behind the high turnover rate?

DENISE COLELLA: Jonathan [Shaevitz] was brought on to help launch Maxifier as CEO and was there for almost two years. He mainly helps build teams and then moves on. He hired myself and Anthony Katsur, whom I’ve worked with since we were both at DoubleClick before moving on.

What were your respective roles in the company?

Tony’s background is more engineering and development-focused so he took over the product engineering and consulting services and I was running all the front-end parts of the business. Tony had been the CEO for about 11 months before we decided that we wanted to take a more customer-focused approach. I’m very excited about my new role and so far I’ve been meeting people, making sure the clients are comfortable as well as looking at the organization and deciding how we want to go on.

What problems does Maxifier solve?

Historically we’ve been focused on premium publishers, and by that I mean helping premium publishers like Forbes and The Guardian make the most of their premium ad space. That was an area that was largely neglected because all of the focus has gone into programmatic and exchanges.

We help publishers with delivery optimization because, shockingly, ad servers still aren’t 100% proficient in that. So we would help them deliver multivariate metrics to please advertisers. What was happening was our premium publishers were saying, "This is great optimization that you’re doing for premium, but we want you to look at all of our inventory." So earlier this year we started getting into more performance advertising and we’ve expanded that to also include marketplace optimization. 

How do you accomplish this optimization?

Data activation is a big focus of ours. Clients spend a lot of time and money investing in data, whether it’s viewability, brand engagement or key values through their DMP. Collecting data is like buying running shoes: If you don’t use it, you don’t get the value from it and so we help clients to extract value from the data.

What’s your vision for the company? How will it differ from Tony’s leadership?

We’re going to focus on our core, which are optimization capabilities.

We’re integrated with OAS, ADTECH, DFP and AppNexus and we’ve done some proprietary integrations on behalf of our customers. Our goal is to get the most value possible out of the ad impressions that flow through our system.

What differentiates your services?

We differentiate through our handling of premium inventory. We’re also differentiated in that we can work across platforms. We optimize across display, mobile, tablet and some video. We’re also somewhat channel-agnostic, because as long as the data is coming through the ad server we can optimize against it. So I think that makes us unique.

We’re also white box. For most of the optimization platforms, you flip a switch and just take the results. We provide granular detail into what’s going in the optimization process and let clients manually manipulate the variables and models before they make any changes.

What trends are you watching?

The DSPs and SSPs are creating more premium publisher-friendly environments, like private exchanges. Rubicon has one [a private exchange] and so does Pubmatic. Some DSPs offer it as well, even for publishers. That whole segment of marketplaces is starting to meld, whereas you used to look at the partnerships between the DSPs and SSPs as buy-side and sell-side, but now they’re each going after each other’s clients. They rely on each other for spend and inventory but they’re starting to compete with each other. I think over the next year or two, that’ll become a very interesting space to watch

The market’s also becoming more comfortable with programmatic buying and selling. By having more tools that provide more visibility into what’s happening in the programmatic space, we’ll make publishers more comfortable when it comes to their premium inventory.

How about trends around measurement?

Viewability is the most prevalent metric that we hear about. We thought everyone would have it by now, but that’s not the case. Some of the forward publishers have started selling against that metric, but not many. Engagement, such as for rich media ads, is also a popular metric among publishers.

In addition, I think the CPMs for mobile are still lower than everyone would like and not everyone’s measuring them the same way. Video CPMs, on the other hand are going through the roof. Everyone’s looking at ways to make the most out of video because there’s a shortage of quality inventory, whereas with mobile there’s a plethora of inventory.

Tony mentioned in an interview with AdExchanger last year that the company was going to take a deeper look at inventory and price management. How is that going?

Inventory forecasting is something that’s inherent in our system. It’s something we’ve invested in but it’s not a space we’re actively looking to get into. Yieldex already does a good job of that. Information about ratecards and inventory data also come into our algorithms, but they’re not something we’ll offer as a product.

In the marketplace optimization space, we are working towards pricing recommendations in terms of floor recommendations.  Basically, we’re going to be broadening our position away from just premium publishers, given our focus on data activation and marketplace optimization, so you’ll see that coming out in coming weeks.

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