VivaKi CEO Hecht Talks AdECN Integration, Google/Invite Media, New “Primary” BlueKai Data Partnership And French Cuisine

VivaKi Publicis’ VivaKi Nerve Center CEO Curt Hecht recently discussed some of the latest updates with the Nerve Center. What announcement do you have in regards to inventory partners?

CH: We’re the first holding company to be procuring inventory through AdECN. We were able to make that integration happen via Invite Media.

I was with Microsoft’s Darren Huston last week and he is quite pleased with the quality of advertisers he’s seen come through due to the integration and [the quality] of our brand marketers. We’re excited by that. It’s by no means exclusive and wouldn’t expect it to be. But, it now makes us interoperable with Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. And we’re working hard on AOL which will hopefully happen in the near term.  What kind of inventory do you see through AdECN?

CH: AdECN is focused first on Hotmail. And I think as they understand how performance looks, we’ll expand from there. But, we’ve started with Hotmail.

The other good piece of news about this is the fact that it is through Invite Media, and post‑Google acquisition – [Google] has been very supportive.  Google realizes it’s for the DFA stack, away from media, and they appreciate that it works just like search bid management or serving ads. it’s a good thing for the industry that they’re taking the interoperable view.

You were asking [earlier] how we felt about the Invite Media acquisition. I think it’s great that what you’re seeing is some consistency where Omnicom (Click here for OMG CEO Matt Spiegel’s thoughts) and InterPublic Group (Click here for Cadreon CEO Brendan Moorcroft’s thoughts) – I believe through – they both have come out supportive and positive.

I was with Jonathan Nelson of Omnicom yesterday, and he supported what Matt Spiegel had already said from Omnicom that they think interoperability is key and are supportive on that front.

You also asked if we were clued in on [the Invite Media acquisition]. We’ve been working with Invite Media for a long time, and Publicis Group has had a relationship strategically with Google for a long time as well, so there weren’t any surprises for us with the announcement. We’ve been supportive.

I was at Susan Wojcicki’s and Neal Mohan’s product management offsite  yesterday in California, and they asked me what I thought. And I said, “Listen, just do not slow down. Don’t slow down with Invite Media. Let them continue to innovate.”

I assume they’ll eventually put them on the Google Stack, but for the time being we just want to keep progress going the way that it has been and get [Invite Media] into Europe. We’re using Invite today in the UK. We’ve run about four campaigns. We see continued expansion and we’d like to use them in other parts of Western Europe.   That’s very interesting what you’re saying about Europe. Is this an indication that European advertisers are getting into the idea of audience buying through exchanges?

CH: Yes. It’s part of the reason I’m going over [to Paris] – to develop the market as much as I possibly can with Marco Bertozzi who we recently hired to lead the Nerve Center in Europe.  I look at it as four legs on a stool. First, you need to have the liquidity and inventory. Technically, Google has it in a lot of markets. And Right Media Exchange has it in a lot of markets. With Orange and OpenX, they’re going to be there as well. But, you need to have that technology layer – that’s the bid workflow layer which is just starting to crop up.   Invite Media pre-Google was moving into the market – we had brought Invite Media into the U.K. for VivaKi and have been using them.

Then, the other thing that I’m going to talk about is the data marketplace. You need to have it.  And, obviously, demand via the agencies and the marketers.

And so a bulk of my time will be, basically, making all four legs of the stool come together in Europe. Once again, it’s not going to be exclusive… we just want to be the marketplace leaders in terms of bringing this marketplace to reality, and we think there’s client demand there and addressable media will expand at scale across screens from this development work.  What about ad networks? Will VivaKi use them in the future?

CH: We do see a shift away from ad networks. It is happening right now.

We do believe that there will be some ad networks that still exist, but that model – a black box around data arbitraged on the media side and providing services that we know that folks like VivaKi Nerve Center’s SVP Kurt Unkel’s group provides – we just don’t see a real need for it. There will be pressure on it.  Are ad networks being used in the VivaKi Nerve Center toolkit today? I recognize that you are pushing out your VNC strategy to member agencies. The member agencies may still be using ad network.

CH: The approach we’ve taken is one that’s extremely transparent. The agency client teams which manage their clients’ business have an option. They’ve got to do what is best for their client, at the end of the day. They’ve got to decide if an ad network will deliver what they need or if Audience On Demand will.

Kurt Unkel’s Audience On Demand team are in a position where they need to be competitive on price, on the inventory that they are getting and on the data that they’re leveraging. There’s also an education piece around this internally on why our offering is competitive or why it’s better.

We are not forcing anything on the system or our clients. What we believe is, we can just do a better job – that’s really the approach that we’ve been taking. Because of it, we’re actually looking at taking market share, in terms of using our own platform.

And at the end of the day, it leads to better outcomes for our clients, whether that be through price or sales or whatever metric they think is  important to them.  What’s happening with VivaKi Nerve Center and BlueKai?

CH: [A bit of history on this]: in June 2008, we launched VivaKi – I was in Paris for it – and we also announced Audience on Demand. At the time, it was more of a concept and something that we talked about with Google.

We’re at that two‑year anniversary. We started with liquidity and inventory, which is why we are talking to Google and the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Then, we solved for kind of the bidding piece in the interoperability of it, which was Invite Media.

Now, where we’ve turned is to the data marketplace.

There’s a lot of complexity in it. Kurt Unkel is meeting with 20 different companies and trying to string it all together. Similar to Invite Media, what I’ve said to him and Sean Kegelman is, “Hey, let’s find a core partner”.

And that partner, while not exclusive, but I would say “primary” will be BlueKai. What we’re doing is developing a two‑tiered approach with them.

One is, obviously, they provide their own marketplace. They go out and license their own data, and we can procure it.

The other way we will work with them is as more of a platform, where we’ll use their technology and actually go out and put together our own data deals with publishers, or work with BlueKai to integrate client data or data that we may have on the VivaKi side – we’ll be licensing their platform.

So, it will be kind of a two‑prong approach with BlueKai. We feel good about their technology and their management team including CEO Omar Tawakol. And, we feel good about the people supporting them such as Chris Moore and Redpoint Ventures, who really have a magic touch.

When you look at all of the components of BlueKai, we feel like they’re a good partner for VivaKi.  Once again, it’s non‑exclusive both ways, but we think it’s the kind of innovative approach that isn’t happening in other places in the market right now.

I don’t necessarily want to go and put capital investment into doing what BlueKai is doing. I’d rather license it, as it’s kind of embryonic, and see how it matures.  In regards to the costs of data and media, is data costing more than media today? How is that breaking out?

CH: It’s hard to give it a percentage. But, what I do hear from the team is that, there is a rising cost in data. In some cases, the data costs more than the media. What I’ve said to them is “Fix it.” The best way to address that is to leverage your scale. Find a common solid partner that we want to get behind, and start to manage the economics that way.

And then, we’ll see where we can take it. It’s more of the strategic approach we’re taking..

It was three or four months ago where I was saying, “Pick one.  Let’s pick a partner.” But, it was too early as VNC’s Kurt Unkel and Sean Kegelman said, “We don’t know. We’re not sure who are the right partners to pick.”

And I said to the guys, “Listen, it’s going to be non‑exclusive but primary. Who are you using the most of today?”

And they kept saying BlueKai. So I said, “By the time you’re close to signature on a partnership, it’s going to be another two or three months. And before we put your name on it, you are going to know if you’re confident.” -And they are, which is why we’re working with BlueKai.

[BlueKai CEO Omar Tawakol] and I were on a stage at the John Batelle event on Tuesday (6/8/10). We didn’t get into the details of it, but we alluded to the fact that we are working closely together.   There’s another big area out there which seems to me to be very important to you, which is around brand safety. Will it make sense at some point for you to partner with another company to provide you that brand safety story and technology that will satisfy what is hopefully brand dollars coming online and your brand marketer clients’ needs?

CH: Absolutely. That’s another area that Kurt Unkel has been working on -in terms of who is going to be [providing that service]. And I think there’s a real need for a verification platform in the space.

We know now after the fact where our ads ran. What we need now is a more preventative layer in terms of knowing before our ads are placed and that it’s going into the right content or adjacent to the right content. So no announcements there, but definitely a focus.

The way that we have been addressing it today is buying on the open exchanges, while knowing where we are running, and then also working with the premium publishers to create a private exchange which we had in AdX 1.0.

We are working on [the private exchange idea] with Google and are addressing it now in the second iteration of AdX to make sure that if we want to work with CBS or NBC, we can trade with them directly, under the general assumption that most of their content is going to be safe for our clients.  Last question for you regarding the timing around David Kenny’s departure and you moving to Paris, is there anything to read from it?

CH: There is no direct correlation as far as I know.  David was the originator of the concept of the Nerve Center. We then worked together in making it a reality for VivaKi with very strong support from Jack Klues.

But my going to Europe was something that was decided with David and Maurice earlier in the year, Maurice decided Paris over London.    I am looking forward to making the move as the job over there is really about Nerve Center expansion as well as a lot of the other things that we’re working on.   Maurice is a huge supporter of the Nerve Center and is particularly close to our relationships with Google and Microsoft and the specifics of AOD and The Pool.

But I am most passionate about this display marketplace -and really, any audience driven marketplace. We are looking to video next. I’ve got the team full bore on video. And we just know that clients are going to want addressable inventory across any screen – that’s the strategy.  Will the video, audience buying strategy relate in any way to The Pool initiative?

CH: Yes. All of these teams are reporting into me, and the goal is to make sure that learning from one team is spread among the others.

And what we’ve seen with The Pool and online video is the client demand and interest. This interest and Ad Selector is going to address the commercial format around it.

VivaKi’s Tracy Sheppach and The Pool team are working very, very closely with Kurt Unkel and the AOD team, so we can cross-pollinate this thinking and bring AOD to video quickly. So, we have staff working on it. We’re talking to our different partners about how they can help enable it, and you’ll see more to come there.

By John Ebbert

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1 Comment

  1. Mr. DSP

    I’m going to be the contrarian. How can this be good for the industry?

    If Google captures the display business, doesn’t that worry anyone? Madison Avenue forfeited the search business to Google because there were no technology visionaries in the advertising ranks but do we want this to happen again to display? It WILL happen.

    Curt, your one of the most well respected guys in the business. VivaKi will be NO more than a strategy shop unless you guys realize how much of a threat Google is to you. The APIs you are building with great ideas like the Pool and AOD will be a moot point.

    Google believes in efficient markets and media buying is far from it; so ready to give that to Google or keep that within VivaKi??