Varick Releases ‘Alveo’ For Agnostic Campaign Management

CarusoVarick Media Management, agency holding group MDC Partners’ audience and media-buying arm, has released Alveo – a planning, buying and reporting platform.

Operating originally as more of an internal trading desk, Alveo can now be used by Varick’s clients to manage and visualize data as well as access reports across multiple campaigns.

Alveo is available as a managed service “with all of the access and data of a self-service offering,” described Jim Caruso, SVP of product and client strategy at Varick.

While agency trading desks aren’t renowned for open access and transparency, Caruso said Alveo was designed to be agnostic across media channels, DSPs and inventory sources.

Similarly, Publicis agency VivaKi recently launched a new tool, Quality Index, to streamline inventory sources and wrangle disparate campaign KPIs to cut down on campaign discrepancies.

“In the historical trading desk model, a lot of the aggregation of data across multiple platforms was managed in Excel,” Caruso said. “We started to think about a couple of trends in the marketplace – people demanding more transparency, simpler execution, being able to access a smaller subset of vendors that gives you access to more capabilities with less overhead.”

Those factors – along with Varick’s in-house data-management platform – led to Alveo’s eventual development.

Although Varick didn’t specify exactly what resources it’s allocated to Alveo, a dozen reps are actively selling the platform, and a UK sales org was also set up to help scale the unit. 

Varick differentiates Alveo on the quality of its data, as Alveo has API integrations to about 40 different demand-side platforms across mobile, video and standard display.

For every bid it wins, Caruso said, its platform ingests typically between 40 and 60 different data points about a particular impression. This type of log-level data is then fed into its or its client’s data management platform to help with planning.

“Being able to plug into all of these third-party DSPs is super important because those guys have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, collectively building out best-in-class bidders and data-processing,” Caruso said.

He noted, however, that Alveo also includes a brand-new bidder built by Varick, which, when running in concert with other DSPs, determines where and when to place a buy. Caruso said advertisers would benefit from its bidder’s direct relationships with suppliers.

Alveo also houses a creative tool called Pictor, which can be used to create responsive cross-screen units.

The platform already has a few beta clients, including midsize Boston media agency Norbella, a Varick client for three years. Norbella views Alveo as an alternative to the overhead and challenges associated with building a “DIY” stack.

“We’re at the size now where, from a cost benefits standpoint, yes, we’re doing programmatic. But it doesn’t make sense for us at this point to build out a trading desk like some of the large agencies, because it requires a big investment in talent and technology,” said Bob Deininger, media director at Norbella.

While Norbella might decide one day to dedicate more resources to in-house programmatic, Deininger prefers working with a partner like Varick on a managed basis – so long as he has transparency and access to data.

One of the most labor-intensive aspects of building out a programmatic practice is vetting and testing multiple platforms and DSPs. Additionally, it’s time-consuming to train planners on individual platforms with no guarantee of long-term usage.

“There’s a lot of time and commitment involved up front, particularly ensuring you’re meeting [platform] minimums and then figuring out how different DSPs and partners you’ve chosen can live together,” said Sandie Milberg, SVP of platform sales for Varick Media. “From what we’ve seen, a lot of midsize companies don’t have the opportunity or staff to read through all the data that’s available.”

So for Norbella, it doesn’t make business sense to standardize on a single self-serve DSP at this point in its programmatic journey.

Norbella is buying programmatically now for a couple of clients to drive some of their goals, but Deininger noted the issue around the margins that agencies receive and demand for more data access.

“We feel like Varick helps us provide greater transparency into reporting,” Deininger added. “We specialize in media strategy and [have outsourced] creative development for the most part, so Pictor is also something we’re really interested in.”

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