BlueKai Data Exchange Buyers Doubling Every Quarter Says CEO Tawakol

BlueKai CEO Omar TawakolOmar Tawakol is CEO of BlueKai, an online advertising data exchange. Can you provide insight on recent momentum at BlueKai? Any observations due to the recent economic slump?

OT: We are seeing some very positive growth trends at BlueKai. The numbers of data buyers and the average spend per buyer in the system is doubling every quarter. In a tightening economy the most important target audience for a marketer is in-market shoppers. We have the largest pool of true intenders across retail, auto, and travel and because of this we have seen marketers shift their spend towards BlueKai data.

Generally speaking, who are your clients – such as any particular vertical silos? Any ad networks or mostly agencies? And, from a prospecting point-of-view, where do you see the opportunity?

BlueKai Data Exchange buyers currently include agencies, ad networks, portals as well as publishers. Anyone who can benefit from data-powered targeting or segment creation can become a buyer in the exchange. BlueKai focuses on delivering intent data in 3 major verticals (auto, travel and retail). We also partner with industry data leaders to provide social graph, geo, purchase propensity and interest data categories via the BlueKai Data Exchange.

From a prospecting point of view, having the ability to identify someone who is in-market to buy is KEY to efficient media buying and targeting. BlueKai gives our data buyers access to the largest database of commercial intent data (i.e. someone searching for Hawaii travel for two on June 15), which is crucial to identifying audiences who are about to buy and provides data points for more targeted messages.

Are you seeing brand awareness marketers buying from BlueKai’s data exchange whether directly or through agencies? How could BlueKai be of value to brands?

Many brands are buying BlueKai data through their agencies. BlueKai data is very valuable to brands, because even brand awareness marketers are looking for targeted advertising and ways to find people who show signs of heading down a specific purchase funnel. We’ve sold data to many auto manufacturers, and top retail and travel brands.

From a very tactical perspective, is it difficult to implement data exchange “data” in a display campaign? What complexities are involved?

Running campaigns using exchange data is easy. It is tactically set up just like a re-targeting campaign except the data source is coming from the exchange and not the advertiser site.

What’s your view on display ad exchanges? -A benefit to the advertiser and publisher?

Display ad exchanges bring important efficiencies into the marketplace. In particular they provide the following:

  • Highest price paid per impression across multiple ad networks
  • Eliminates daisy chaining of networks
  • Provides publishers with a single point of managing dozens of relationships and technical integrations
  • Instant scale for participants who have data but need impressions

What benefits will real-time bidding (RTB) on ad exchanges bring to data exchanges? Will BlueKai exchange data “play” in this RTB space?

Today, BlueKai does offer real-time bidding to its data buyers. We believe this allows the buyers of the data to set the price for the goods (pay more for data that delivers results), while compensating data providers fairly when their data delivers performance to advertisers. We also integrate our data into the various real time ad exchanges. This means that a marketer or ad network can buy BlueKai data and then connect that data to impressions across the various ad exchanges. By doing this, a marketer can standardize their audience definition once – yet, still have access to the ad inventory across the various exchanges.

Curious about attribution metrics and how clients connect the dots to BlueKai data and data exchanges. Any feedback on how clients manage attribution with your exchange’s product? Can BlueKai assist with measurement?

One of the values of separating data from media is that finally, marketers can buy one set of data and apply it across different media outlets. This will enable them to achieve apples-to-apples measurement for their campaigns and adjust media buying over time. For example, if you buy different behavioral segments across 5 different ad networks you won’t know if your performance across those networks was caused by good inventory or good data. By standardizing the data asset across those 5 networks you can now do an apples to apples comparison on which network is providing the better ad product.

Given the tumult caused by recent changes in GroupM’s Ts and Cs, CRO Mark Zagorski commented on your recent ClickZ article saying that “the data ‘ownership’ issue really comes down to a ‘fairness’ discussion.” Can you expand on what he meant?

We have transformed the issue of data ownership into a market issue (rather than a legal debate). Instead of having publishers fight advertisers over having the right to pixel a creative – we have given publishers a tool that turns the discussion into a more fruitful discussion. Now a publisher of data can tell a marketer, you can have access to my audience data as long as you pay me a fair price. BlueKai, unlike other data companies, determines that fair price through an auction where the data is paid for independent of the media. This pure auction approach has allowed the marketplace to determine what a fair price is. Once the data is paid for, the advertiser is free to port that audience to any media source they want.

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