Tim Ogilvie is CEO of AdBuyer.com, an online media buying platform.
AdExchanger.com: What is AdBuyer.com and how did it begin?
TO: AdBuyer.com is a media buying and optimization platform for auction-based media. We provide a full suite of tools to help online marketers understand how their online advertising is performing and what they can do to improve it. We’re integrated with the major search engines and ad exchanges.
We started in 2007 by providing an automated platform for SEM optimization. That includes centralized reporting, bid management and keyword recommendations. We saw display as the next big opportunity to deliver ROI, so we started porting our search algorithms to display about 12 months ago.
Do you consider AdBuyer.com a services business or a technology business?
We’re a technology business. We’re singularly focused on building a platform that delivers the highest ROI for advertisers.
We provide account management and support that helps advertisers become self-sufficient when getting started, but that team is constantly challenged with identifying how we build technology to make our platform easier to use and more automated.
How do you differentiate from other buying platforms and services such as those provided by MediaMath and Invite Media?
- We’re a holistic platform across both search and ad exchange buying. This allows for better attribution, smarter media allocation decisions, and creates a data asset that we help marketers exploit.
- We’re an automated platform, allowing us to service advertisers of all sizes. Like some of our competition, we provide the power tools to help larger advertisers exploit the ad exchange opportunity. But we’re also helping more typical search advertisers succeed: they can start with a credit card, customize pre-built creative templates, and get access to the same high-end analytics that deliver significant improvements in performance.
What is your revenue model?
We receive a percentage of the media spend.
Why should marketers combine search & display campaigns into one platform?
There are three major benefits that marketers achieve:
- Attribution: We help marketers get a clear view into which placements are driving results across both search & display. This helps advertisers understand when a search conversion may have been helped by a display impression, and vice-versa.
- Improved ROI: As marketers increasingly think about their display and search spend as an investment, it becomes important to optimize the overall portfolio. It’s crazy to lose money in search marketing if there’s a highly profitable opportunity in display (or vice-versa), but we see this all the time because budgeting decisions are being made in silos. We help marketers understand their overall marketing portfolio and manage it profitably.
- Data opportunities: Many of the advertisers we work with have very powerful “data assets” in their existing search campaigns. This can be their own re-targeting data, information on what creative & landing pages work with various customer segments, etc. We help them understand and unlock these opportunities through the exchanges.
Who do you see as your key competitors?
On one hand, there are many competitors who provide similar services or substitutes across pieces of what we do, including SEM firms, ad exchange optimization firms, and ad networks. On the other, I’m not aware of anyone else who’s helping advertisers pull together search and ad exchange buying in a single platform.
Given the size of the opportunity, we expect others will enter the market. We’re always excited to put our algorithms head-to-head against competitors and let the results speak for themselves.
Given your IAC experience, what are some of the key takeaways that you’re bringing to AdBuyer.com?
I helped build two very large marketing platforms under the IAC umbrella. The first was for the IAC search toolbar business, a large display buyer that predated the ad exchanges. I then helped build Pronto.com from nothing to one of the largest comparison shopping engines in less than two years. Pronto is now among the top search buyers.
My key takeaway from those experiences was to focus on actionable data. Successful online marketing is about building lots of 5% and 10% improvements into a commanding lead. Most marketers that we talk to are drowning in data, but can’t act on that data because they’re overwhelmed or the data lives in different silos. We’ve built a platform that puts all the data in one place, makes it easy to identify improvement opportunities and just as easy to act on them.
Will exchange traders be able to buy AND sell media with your trading software?
No. We’re focused exclusively on helping marketers take advantage of buying opportunities.
What exchanges and networks is AdBuyer.com hooked up to today? Will it make sense to buy inventory direct from publishers and go around exchanges?
We’re currently integrated with Google, Yahoo & MSN in search, and Right Media, OpenX, APT from Yahoo!, and AppNexus on the ad exchange side. Right Media is fully integrated into our platform, while the other partners are largely reserved for larger spenders. We’ve built an open platform that takes in new inventory providers easily, so we’ll add folks like DoubleClick and others in the near future as they ready their APIs.
We don’t try to circumvent the exchanges by going directly to publishers. We think exchanges play an important role connecting buyers and sellers and that our buyers benefit from the auction-based pricing and centralized liquidity.
Do you think it’s possible to optimize creative, behavioral/demo and contextual/semantic targeting data simultaneously today? If not, how far are we from turning a dial to optimize interactive campaigns broadly and effectively?
It’s definitely possible and our predictive models facilitate large chunks of this today. We’re beta-testing a product we call Audience Finder that gives advertisers a single dial they can use to cut through the sea of targeting options and zero in on their target audience through the exchanges. We assign an Audience Score to each impression and allow our advertisers to buy only impressions that meet a minimum threshold. This allows marketers to get the benefits of site, demographic, behavioral and contextual targeting and measure them through a single metric: the advertiser’s goals. We can then help put the right price on that impression.
We’re not done. We think marketers need help in three areas: audience, price, and messaging. We’ve got great solutions for audience and price, and will continue to enhance those based on client feedback. We also expect to deliver significant improvements around creative optimization in late 2009.
If you were a publisher right now, how would you consider leveraging advances in ad technology?
There are currently too many sellers with too many impressions, which will continue to push down prices on “standard” inventory and reduce the historical premium for reach. As a publisher, I would look to create scarcity to differentiate my inventory.
Every publisher will have a slightly different strategy on how to create scarcity, but it can be through data, through outstanding performance for advertisers, or a unified sales strategy. I think the ad exchanges offer great opportunities to use and accumulate data that will pay dividends for smart publishers and command a long-lasting premium.
How do you think the agency and ad network models will be playing out? Will one disintermediate the other?
I expect the distinctions between agencies and ad networks will continue to blur, but I don’t know that I can pick winners & losers. That said, I’m fairly confident there will be a major wave of consolidation as the winners and losers start to emerge.