Adfonic Founders Discuss Shift From Mobile Ad Net To DSP

adfonicUK-based Adfonic used to be known as a mobile ad network, but after launching its mobile demand-side platform, Madison, last year, it has focused development there. The company has worked with brands like NBC, Samsung, Tesco and eBay.

AdExchanger spoke with Adfonic’s co-founders, Victor Malachard and Wesley Biggs, who are also the company’s CEO and CTO, respectively.

How do you describe Adfonic and what problem does the company solve?

VICTOR MALACHARD: We’re a mobile DSP—a pure-play buying platform and we just entered our fifth year last week. We’re providing the ability to buy intelligently in the mobile programmatic space. The challenge, of course, is that mobile is largely cookieless, so one of the things we’re focusing on is how do you identify, track and and target users across mobile without cookies? We have about 75 people and we’ve raised $20 million in funding. Our headquarters is in the UK, and we also have offices in New York, San Francisco, Paris, Singapore and other cities.

How do you track users?

WESLEY BIGGS: We’ve developed a unique mobile identifier and we’re able to bridge the different types of identifiers and tracking solutions that exist in the market so we have a persistent way to track interactions for individuals on mobile devices.

We also work closely with TRUSTe and provide an opt-out option. We’re not using any PIIs [personally identifiable information]. This is about taking the device identifiers and other cookie alternatives in mobile and creating a solution that works across mobile, app and Web inventories.

How do the privacy regulations in Europe compare to North America?

WB: The principles are broadly similar and organizations like the IAB and MMA are working with regulators to create a common set of values that we can all subscribe to. When you get to country levels there are some cultural and regulatory differences in terms of the types of data that can be used. Germany, for example, does not allow you to use full IP addresses for retargeting and so we’ve built our platform with these various regulations in mind.

Last year you reported that you had received more mobile RTB requests than non-RTB requests, with RTB requests at 60% in October. What are you seeing a year later?

VM: The trend is continuing. About 80% of the traffic that we have now is through mobile RTB requests. Also, most of the RTB inventory used to come from pure mobile exchanges, but we’re now seeing a lot more from the online guys as they begin to take mobile more seriously. This isn’t just Web traffic that happens to be accessed from a mobile device, either; they [advertisers and agencies] are actively targeting pure-play mobile publishers on apps.

About a year ago you also launched your mobile DSP, Madison. How has it developed since then?

VM: Madison is an extension of what we’ve been doing and the recognition that RTB and algorithmic bidding was becoming more vital to what we do as a business. We provide the tools to build campaigns, but with the growth of RTB, we’ve been investing in more algorithms and data and continuing to extend our reach.

What are your thoughts on reports that several mobile ad networks are struggling to stay afloat and the argument that mobile-specific companies will lose out to companies that support multiple platforms and channels?   

VM: Well, it’s true that the mobile ad networks are struggling and will continue to struggle as programmatic continues to grow. There’s also a lot of noise around being able to track and target users across various digital platforms like mobile, desktop and smart TVs. We’re all trying to figure out how to do that in a scalable fashion so I don’t think anyone has found a perfect solution yet.

What’s on your roadmap?

WB: There’s still a lot to be done in clearly defining the value around a mobile audience so we’re working on that. We’re also seeing more growth in m-commerce. The ability to do transactions beyond the app store environment is coming to the mobile space and we’re looking at cross-platform opportunities, too. Another thing is video is starting to show signs of traction in the mobile space and that is also a clear part of our roadmap.

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