Andy Cocker, co-Founder and Managing Partner of UK-based, Infectious Media Ltd, a media agency, discussed the company’s momentum in the media trading space – and the company’s Impression Desk media buying platform – with AdExchanger.com.
AdExchanger.com: Please define Infectious Media‘s value proposition.
AC: We are a media buying services company, specializing in data driven display trading across ad exchanges. We’ve purpose built our infrastructure and service offering to give advertisers better value and control from their display campaigns. There’s a lot of jargon and hype in this space right now, and we, ourselves are guilty of overcomplicating things sometimes. The bottom line is we make display advertising work harder. This is what advertisers and agencies are interested in; the ‘under the hood detail’, whilst critical for execution is secondary.
What is The Impression Desk? And, what are the differentiators?
Impression Desk is our multi-exchange trading ‘engine’. It’s more than just a ‘DSP’. It’s a combination of core DSP technologies with additional proprietary data, technology and service layers on top. We’ve developed it based on our requirements and experience of serving UK and European focussed advertisers. This is a big differentiator. The UK and European markets are different to the US in many ways. Scale of audience, liquidity of quality inventory, liquidity of 3rd party data, and advertiser ‘brand safety’ requirements are just a few of the nuances that we have tailored Impression Desk to deal with. In particular, we’re working on some interesting data integrations and a bespoke ‘brand safe’ inventory classification programme, which we will be launching soon.
In terms of competitive set, we don’t believe there are many business around that offer the combination of service, data and tech layers with the UK and European experience that we have. We are often compared performance wise by advertisers and agencies against ad-networks, here in the UK. Interestingly we are starting to compete against some of the large holding group offerings, although many of them are choosing to work with us too, because of our agility, experience and 100% focus.
The allusion to the financial markets is apparent. Why is the financial markets analogy relevant in your opinion? What do you clients think about it?
We never made a conscious decision to market ourselves in that way. Whilst i think there are some similarities with financial trading, there are plenty of things that are totally different. For me, the biggest macro analogy which helps clients understand the revolution taking place, is to compare it to the ‘Big Bang’ which took place in the City of London in 1986. This was the year when financial trading started to switch from ‘over the phone’ to ‘screen based’, high frequency, algorithmically assisted trading. This is where the analogy ends i think.
How much educating are you doing right now? Is this an important part of the business?
We’re doing a LOT of educating right now. There is such an interest in this space, and at the same time, so much hype and confusion around what is and isn’t possible, and who does what in the increasingly complexed eco system. We spend a lot of time de-mystifying this space and trying to communicate the benefits to advertisers in a clear and simple way. We will be announcing details of an industry event focussing on this very soon, so watch this space.
Any buying trends you can report?
The main trends/ issues right now in the UK and Europe surround RTB liquidity and Brand Safety. RTB liquidity is ramping slowly, but there is still a shortage of named ‘brand safe’ supply. We’re also definitely seeing an increase in clearing prices in the UK, as demand grows and buyers better recognize the value of what they are buying. We are certainly bidding above average on inventory with recognized value to our advertisers. This is good news for publishers as it proves that this model can work for them too, not just the buy side.
And, are you selling inventory yet? It seems like media participants are either buying or selling in the exchange world but not both. When do you see true trading taking place?
No we’re not selling, nor do we currently have plans to. Our primary focus at the moment is getting the buy side proposition right. Ultimately, any trading operation like ours, needs to be very clear on which side they are primarily serving. The only way a ‘buy side’ service could legitimately sell inventory as well, is when it is absolutely sure that the inventory has no value to the advertisers it represents, but that would make us more like a network, which we are not. As a next generation media buying operation, our aim is to ONLY bid on inventory that is of value to our advertisers., and not to pick up any excess ‘waste’. The ‘true trading’ you mention is something that ad networks have been doing for some time now, but that means they can’t truly represent the best interests of advertisers.
Finally, how big is Infectious Media today in terms of employees and how are you sustaining the business? Any thoughts on seeking venture funding, for example?
We are currently 11, and growing rapidly based on purely organic growth. Our plan is to double in size by this time next year. and we’re currently recruiting in the areas of account management and analytics.. Infectious Media is an independent business, which has given us the freedom and agility to follow our instincts, but we have ambitious plans and recognize that the competitive landscape is intensifying. We always keep an open mind to funding, and are currently exploring all our options.