Ramsey McGrory Returns As Clearspring CEO, Discusses New Role

Clearspring CEO Ramsey McGroryFormer Yahoo! and Right Media Exchange executive Ramsey McGrory has re-emerged since his departure only a couple of weeks ago to become the new CEO of Clearspring, a web content sharing tools and ad targeting data provider. Read the release. The company’s former CEO and founder, Hooman Radfar, will become Executive Chairman at the company.

McGrory discussed his latest move, Clearspring’s opportunity and the data ecosystem.

AdExchanger.com: What are some of the key learnings that you will bring from Right Media to Clearspring?

RM: I have an understanding of where the ad tech and data spaces are in their evolutions and what buyers and sellers need to run their businesses successfully.  I also have an appreciation of the complexity of the current market and the need for simplicity and service.  Also, I have seen firsthand the difference that effectively using data can have.  When used correctly and appropriately, data can be leveraged to create huge advantages for buyers and sellers in media buying and content distribution.  For buyers, data can and should be used for more than simply targeting.  For sellers, data should be better leveraged to drive what content a user sees.  Lastly and most importantly, real innovation comes when you stay very close to the market.  Early innovations like dCPM and the RMX itself came from just listening to the market, responding and iterating.

AdExchanger.com: So, why Clearspring?

My father was an Episcopal minister and all good things came in threes, so three reasons:

  1. People – from the board to senior leaders to individual contributors I was and continue to be impressed with the caliber of the people and the culture. This was the biggest selling point for me.
  2. Product – Clearspring is a clear leader in the content sharing space and has been growing its full service advertising and licensing business.  There is a big competitive advantage to reaching over 1 billion users and being able to process all this data in real-time to generate value.  We will use this advantage to build better publisher tools, the efficiency of our advertising offerings and our analytics capabilities for the benefit of our clients.
  3. Market – With the largest players consolidating media (Google, Yahoo/MSFT/AOL, MediaBank/Donovan), what’s important is who has what data, what are they doing with it and how are they doing it.  All within the guardrails of privacy and good business practices, data is a differentiator that can drive better engagement for publishers and more effective and efficient advertising for agencies and advertisers.  What’s very interesting is how sites like Facebook are changing the way people engage with content and with each other.

Clearspring is on the edge of this innovation, and for these three reasons I couldn’t think of a better place to be.

Where are we in the use of data media today versus what you see a year or two from now?

I think it’s very early on several fronts – regulatory, standards, business model and consumer habits. All these angles make for an incredibly interesting and dynamic market.   In advertising, we are still in the Data 1.0 world, where advertising platforms are using raw data such as search, social and behavioral to drive a result.  We are at the beginning of Data 2.0 world, where all data types are munged and then applied more broadly to research, campaign planning, targeting, measurement and content distribution.   As we get more sophisticated about the use of data, we are also getting access to richer and more personal data as consumers engage directly.  As Facebook defines the social web, there is a shift towards individual and personalized experiences.   In the advertising world, we have been pushing an anonymous and aggregate viewpoint to protect privacy.  These approaches are colliding and it’s a big opportunity for Clearspring.

At some point, can you see Clearsping getting into the data exchange business? What are some of the areas you look forward to growing at Clearspring?

Clearspring is positioning itself to enable an open data ecosystem to drive a more personal and social web experience.   We started by building broad access to data via AddThis and creating the ability to process this data.  Recently, we began to bring the value of this data to advertisers via our Audience Platform.   The trick for us will be to continue to innovate for advertisers as we bring the value of this huge data set back to publishers.   While we pursue that vision we will build, buy and partner around technologies that enable this vision.

How will you partner with Hooman Radfar who had been the CEO, and is the Founder, and is now moving to the role of Chairman?

One thing I learned at Right Media was how important depth in the executive ranks was when we were scaling.  We’re going to have a lot of opportunities in front of us and having Hooman’s depth of knowledge for strategy, product and marketing will be key to our success.  We’re in a data and social market that’s evolving quickly on many fronts.  We need to be nimble, responsive and continue growing.  Hooman and I will partner very closely to do that.

Finally, where will you be based?

My family and I are staying in NY, but I will spend a fair amount of time in McLean where our headquarters is.  Clearspring has grown a lot over the last year and our clients are heavily New York and West Coast based, so we’ll continue building out our VA, NY and other offices to be where our clients are.

By John Ebbert

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