AdRoll Is Digging To China

adrollchinaIn a bid to capitalize on digital ad growth in China, AdRoll has recruited a new adviser with lots of experience in the country and is developing a go-to-market strategy.

Peter Cheng is Tencent’s former GM for ad platforms and products, as well as the former COO of AdChina (which sold to Alibaba in January 2015).

According to Cheng, the first step in AdRoll’s plan for the region is to help China-based brands, mainly cross-border ecommerce merchants and app developers, find audiences globally. The next phase is to offer AdRoll’s bidding technology in China.

“Programmatic is still very early in China, machine learning isn’t mature and there is strong demand for these capabilities,” Cheng said.

Companies in China, generally more traditional players, have proven willing to spend big on ad tech acquisitions. That explains the recent mega-acquisitions of for $900 million and AppLovin for $1.4 billion, as well as smaller buyouts including those of Smaato (acquired for $148 million) and Native X (acquired for $25 million).

But you can’t roll into China without establishing strong domestic partnerships and good tech.

“Traditionally, the shopper data that’s key to running high performance campaigns has been locked up in the largest companies – Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent [BAT] – [and] most ad inventory has been in the hands of BAT,” Cheng said. “However, with the emergence of programmatic, big players in China are opening up as advertisers demand it.”

AdRoll has also added Toby Gabriner to its advisory board. The former and [x+1] CEO will consult on product strategy. According to CEO Aaron Bell, AdRoll has an opportunity around marketing tech.

“Companies like AdRoll that started out in retargeting have deep relationships with their customers,” Bell said. “We can drive performance and from that we’re able to onboard a lot of data, including cookies, mobile identifiers and deterministic identifiers like email addresses, which are valuable for advertising and for marketing technology.”

AdRoll has a bunch of product announcements coming down the pike that build off of existing offerings, like its data co-op and email retargeting solution.

“I never bought into that ad-tech-is-over story,” Bell said. “At least half of the value of enterprise internet companies comes from advertising – it’s the backbone of the internet and it’s the only business model we’ve found that works. It’s not going anywhere. Most ad dollars today are still spent in an old-fashioned way on TV upfronts, and you know more and more of those dollars are going to move over to digital.”

The last round of funding AdRoll took was a hefty $70 million Series C in 2014. The company has raised a little more than $89 million total since 2006.

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