ROY ZHOU: We’re about 200 people, with our headquarters in Beijing. We also have branch offices in Shanghai and in Guangzhou. Our clients include more than 300 top brands, including basically all the automobile companies like Mercedes, BMW, Ford and GM. We also have some bigger local companies, some electronic companies like Lenovo and Haier, plus some consumer CPG companies like P&G.
And how long has the company been around and have you always been focused on programmatic buying?
The company actually has been around for about six years. Yoyi was originally focused as a behavior targeting ad network. But we made a strategic change for the company in late 2011: we prepared for RTB and then we launched the first DSP in China. We launched the first RTB-based campaign with Volvo in China back in April of 2012.
In 2013, we launched the programmatic buying platform in China, which integrated the search ads with the display ads, and that platform also included video, mobile and display in one unified system.
DSPs in China often try to incorporate all different services related to programmatic buying and RTB into their business. Are there risks involved with that?
I have talked to a lot of clients and one thing is very clear: advertisers want to unify the platform. They don’t want to have one platform for video DSP, one platform for a mobile DSP, display DSP, and an ad network. They wanted to just have simply one unified platform that can handle all the things they want or can help them to reach the different inventory from the different screens, from different channels. In this case I don’t see the risks.
Data does seem to be a challenge for programmatic buying in China. How are companies responding to this data challenge?
It's two things. One is they must find good data sources. The second is that they must have the capability to handle and to mine the right data. Yoyi is really good on the second one because since the company was founded, it has been really focused on the data and the technology.
As far as data sources, there are three kinds of data in China. The first one, the really valuable one, is purchasing data. Many companies, like TaoBao or other ecommerce sites, they are not willing to share that data with you due to privacy or trust issues. The second is the search data and search behavior data, and this is controlled by Google, Baidu and 360. Again, the same thing, they are not willing to share the data with you.
The third type of data is more like serving data online, interest data and others. Companies like Yoyi have this data, and iPinYou and AdChina. To be honest with you, cookie data has a value, but it can only have certain value. From the cookie data, you don’t know the demographic information, the gender, the income, their purchasing power, and other stuff.
From Yoyi's perspective, we have thought about this for half a year and then in December 2013, we launched our first data product we call Data Bank.
What is Data Bank? Is it going to be a DMP product in China?
The purpose of the Data Bank, and we provide this for free to some of our bigger clients, is to help them to collect the first party data from all their different campaigns and then view it in a dedicated Data Bank. The beta version launched in December 2013, with two bigger clients using it, and it will be officially launched after the Chinese New Year.
We basically track the whole funnel. For example, we can help these advertisers track 40 million people who see their ads, 2 million people who click the ads, 1 million people who reach the website and a half million who register or even like purchase.
This is step one. Once we have that data, then we can use a security mechanism so we can marry this first party data with our third party, second party and cookie data. Once we work with bigger brands and build some successful cases on the data usage, then we can enrich our data and eventually launch a DMP, a BlueKai-like DMP system in China. That’s our direction and vision on the data use area.
Can you talk a little bit about Yoyi's funding and financial situation right now?
We have done three rounds so far. The first round, Series A, was invested by Disney’s investor arm, Steamboat, and Gobi Partners. The second round was Oak Investment Partners, which is very, very strong in the ad tech space. Our Series C was closed in the middle of 2012, and the new investor was Fidelity.
What plans does Yoyi have for growth or acquisitions over the next year to 18 months?
One of the key focus areas for Yoyi in 2014 is on the mobile side. We are considering acquisitions; we’re looking for some M&A target on the mobile space, like a small mobile DSP or mobile ad tech company. That's my top priority for M&A. I think 2014 will be a big year for mobile. I foresee more mobile inventory shifting over to programmatic buying and more advertisers buying mobile through programmatic.