Joe Marchese’s New Venture, Attention Capital, Will Invest In Media Brands And Ad Tech

Former Fox executive Joe Marchese is getting ready to kick the tires on some ad tech assets for his new company, Attention Capital.

But first, he needs a few media brands in his portfolio.

On Monday, Attention made its first acquisition, throwing in with Lupa Systems, James Murdoch’s private investment firm, for a controlling stake in Tribeca Enterprises, parent company of the Tribeca Film Festival.

The best way to think about Attention Capital is as a holding company mixed with private equity.

But rather than fixing financials for a turnaround, the idea here is to create a portfolio of premium media brands and then use technology to help them accelerate. Brands need to grab attention and monetize without getting sucked into “tonnage versus quality,” Marchese said.

Marchese has been talking about the notion of attention metrics for years, which is buying based on time spent rather than impressions, or stopping at viewability.

People, he said, need “a curation layer for the internet to find the really good stuff, the brands they can trust, but these brands have trouble operating and monetizing in the current advertising ecosystem.”

“We see a huge opportunity there right now,” Marchese said.

But to capitalize on that opportunity, you’ve got to know how “the ad tech soup actually works and where the real value is,” which are skills Marchese says he picked up at Fox Networks Group, where he spent more than four years as president of advanced advertising, and before that as CEO of true[X], the interactive video ad platform he sold to Fox in 2015.

Take the Tribeca deal. Tribeca is an iconic brand that “has permission” to curate high-quality content for people, Marchese said, but getting scale is a challenge.

“With the right technology, though, and the right operating thesis, there’s so much potential both digitally and geographically,” he said. “There’s the potential to do more with sponsorships, for new business lines and revenue diversification, all while keeping the core brand intact.”

And for that, you need ad tech, which Attention Capital plans to acquire as long as it “advantages high-quality content,” Marchese said.

“We’re looking for things that fit the mold of what I’d call ‘viewer-friendly’ advertising systems,” Marchese said, pointing to true[X] and Oracle-owned viewability vendor Moat as the types of assets Attention Capital would consider.

Stripped down to its core, the Attention Capital approach isn’t all that unique, Marchese said. Find some interesting IP helmed by a strong founder, add in some expertise and then scale it.

“What is unique is the current environment,” Marchese said. “Every company that wants to reach consumers needs advertising, and most brands rely on it one way or another, but the ecosystem is broken. Our advantage is that we know how and why.”

Although Attention Capital is hiring, the plan for now is to keep the team relatively lean. Marchese’s co-founders are Nick Bell, Snap’s former VP of content, and Ashlyn Gentry, who recently left Palantir, where she was SVP of commercial growth and business strategy.

Marchese declined to say who is backing Attention Capital.

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