VP Dax Hamman Of Hearst's iCrossing Discusses Display, DataXu Partnership And The Expression Of Intent

iCrossing and DataXuDataXu announced earlier this week that Hearst digital marketing agency iCrossing had chosen DataXu for demand-side platform services. Read the release.

iCrossing VP Dax Hamman discussed the deal as well as iCrossing’s view on DSPs and “intent” media.

AdExchanger.com: What are the triggers for choosing to include a demand-side platform in your business model in general?

DH: The pendulum of media has swung so much during the last 18 months from a primarily premium buying CPM model to a performance based exchange-based model that any serious media agency must have a strategy for the exchanges and RTB.

For iCrossing, our heritage is 13 years in search, and that is a tremendous amount of knowledge with regards to biddable media strategy and execution. In many ways it puts us in the best possible place to offer performance display campaigns using the exchange environments.
In addition, our search business generates a significant amount of data and, by having a DSP relationship, we can leverage that data and turn it into real value for our clients.

Please drill down on the discovery process that led to iCrossing picking DataXu. What were some of the criterion by which you judged each DSP and eventually chose DataXu? And, will you use DataXu exclusively as your DSP?

We have been using other solutions for a period of time and have also been buying exchange media indirectly by packaging it in combination with the data. Any site retargeting buy with networks like Yahoo and MMN are in part an exchange buy; the execution happens to be in someone else’s hands.

The consideration process for a partner has been purposefully long. Just two years ago, DSP technology was some of the hottest code to have. However, the market became commoditized quickly when companies began offering a DSP (lite) tool for free when buying their data -. We felt it was important to wait and monitor both the evolution of the exchanges and the DSP technologies during this timeframe – and so we used that timeframe to trial several technologies and learn what was right for us.

There were some major considerations that were critical for us:

  • Above and beyond anything else – people; the folks at DataXu share many of our philosophies towards media and data and the direction of the industry, and both parties demonstrated a real desire to be partners with each other
  • Experience in the executive and senior management team – innovation is critical and we want a partner that is ahead of the curve
  • Solutions for all types of buying, including RTB and premium
  • Ability to self-serve – we have the smartest and most experienced SEM team and we want to leverage those people and that knowledge in our display buying
  • Ability to integrate the iCrossing data for the benefit of our display media buying
  • Solid reporting and optimization solutions

Can you discuss what you meant in the release by “talking to ‘the individual expressing intent’ rather than ‘simply shouting at the crowd'”? For the marketer, how is that a scalable strategy?

‘Individuals with intent’ is the mantra that we built the iCrossing display media practice on – we have clients who can chant it back to us in meetings!

The phrase is designed to briefly explain what has been a fundamental shift in media planning. The idea of shouting at the crowd refers to an old school methodology, a reliance on homepage takeovers, big and long term commitments, a lack of flexibility, demographic network buying etc.

All of these methods often have tremendous waste built into them and as such are not as effective at achieving a brand’s objectives. We commonly see media plans from the biggest media agencies where it seems they just cannot move past a premium CPM world.

And we don’t need to focus on those types of models anymore.

In today’s world of biddable media and the exchanges, we can be laser focused on individuals who are doing what we want them to be doing, not merely hoping a few people in a crowd will be doing so coincidentally.

We find those individuals by using intent data – have they searched for a term we care about, have they visited the website, have they bought on another site, have they read an advertorial etc.

Is it scalable? Absolutely! There is data all around us. Arguably it is best for a client to create their own data with techniques like site retargeting, and that in isolation is limited in spend based on the site’s traffic volume. There are however, many techniques for creating and obtaining data that prove themselves to be very valuable.

Looking back since the beginning of the year in digital ad tech, what has surprised you most?

I love digital – I have spent most of my career in it and that is primarily because of the speed at which it changes; and it is that sheer speed that is always a pleasant surprise. Right now, watching the separation of media and data is fascinating, and it will lead to further consolidation in the industry, but also an increased amount of evolution.

By John Ebbert

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