AdSlot Publisher Tackling Direct Sales Inefficiencies Says CEO Ian Lowe

AdSlotIan Lowe is CEO of AdSlot, formerly Webfirm Group Limited, based in Australia.

Recently, his company launched the AdSlot platform in North America and Europe. According to the release, AdSlot was created by the founders of Hitwise, Andrew Barlow and Adrian Giles, and Adslot Publisher is “a direct sales platform” that currently includes several properties in Australia. Read more.

Lowe recently discussed AdSlot, which echoes strategies coming from a range of publisher-focused companies looking to make direct sales more efficient and automated –  and to address inventory before it hits real-time bidded channels.

AdExchanger: What problem is AdSlot solving today?

IAN LOWE:  Our technology helps redress two things for publishers, specifically.  The first is about efficiency.  There is a cost for them to support premium model styles either through a sales force or otherwise.  That is prohibitive and unscalable.

The second is that by virtue of automating a lot of these otherwise manual processes, it allows the publisher to focus on the quality of the conversation that they are having with their customers.

In other words, rather than relinquishing any inventory that cannot be sold under a premium model into a black box of sell-side platforms (SSP), demand-side platforms (DSP) and the real-time bidding that underpins it, having a sales channel that is a direct-to-advertiser model that allows them to tap into demand through a self-service platform – we think that makes a great deal of sense.

Our technology speaks to a revenue-growth and revenue-yield opportunity for publishers. One dimension to our technology is efficiency at reducing cost of sale and offering scalability at an operational level to publishers. The second part is revenue growth.

Tell us about your move into the US?  What were some of the triggers for that move?

We believe we are solving a problem and the US is where that problem is greatest in scale.  Thus, the value of our solution is potentially optimal in a market of this size.

There is another aspect of that as well. A lot of the innovation that we are seeing is coming out of the U.S. market, and the U.S. market has enough scale and sophistication to underwrite innovation.  Given that we are innovating, we want to be in a market that is culturally open to innovation.

How about your target clients?  Can you drill down on that?

Obviously we are targeting the publishing community.  If you think about those two very propositions around efficiency and revenue-growth, it really opens us up to quite a broad range of potential clients.

The first is a large publisher that has scale, that is supporting a potentially equally large sales operation.  That sales operation is getting bogged down in a lot of processes to support the transaction.  By automating a lot of the work that goes in around trading, we can free that sales team to do what they do best which is to build quality conversations with advertisers.

But then, equally, what we are doing for the mid-tier publishers is we are opening up new sales channels for them that may or may not currently exist. They won’t have to turn back advertisers because they can’t support lower minimum spends profitably.  We have a direct sales channel that will enable them to do business with those advertisers.

Equally, because we have a platform that integrates with a publisher toolset – I’m talking here about first-party ad servers and sales management systems – we can offer efficiencies for advertisers that are currently being serviced directly – again by large publishers.

Can you provide a granular use case for a typical client?

First, through our platform they can migrate ad revenues that are currently expensive to service, into a direct to advertiser do-it-yourself model. They would identify for example, that there might be a subset of their client base that is prohibitive to growth and contributes to other scalability of their sales team model. What we can do is migrate that business onto our platform and allow the advertisers to search for the advertising opportunities that appeal to them.  And effectively book that directly through our platform in a way that integrates with the publisher ad serving system, the management of those files and all the other components.

That’s one way – a migration.

The second way is through the same direct-to-advertiser platform.  Typically these are going to be medium-sized or smaller advertisers who have an interest in advertising on a medium-sized or large publisher but may find those barriers significant enough not to take advantage of the opportunity.

In that particular case, again, a do-it-yourself, direct-to-advertiser platform can be marketed by the publisher to lower the barrier to access for advertisers.

Looking at your background, you come from the “workflow world” with Facilitate.  Are there any key learnings from your Facilitate experiences that you are bringing to Webfirm and AdSlot?

Sure. There is a real opportunity to drive structural-level efficiencies through the industry. The dollars that filter through the industry don’t coagulate with agencies, they coagulate with publishers. Publishers have a unique opportunity to influence the future of the industry by virtue of that and can do it in a way that is entirely aligned with the future commercial interests of the agency community and the advertisers themselves.

Can you talk a little bit more about the connection with Webfirm, where you’re CEO — since you’re also CEO at Adslot?

The distinction between the two is a little misleading.  The brand we are running with here in the U.S. is Adslot.  That is the brand that effectively describes everything that we are talking about.

It says on your website that Webfirm, and I assume this is inclusive of Adslot, too, is 60 people in Australia. What are your staffing plans over the next year? 

Yes.  We are at about 60 people at the moment.  Our footprint encompasses APAC out of Australia, North America out of San Francisco and Europe out of London.  We are building our team quite aggressively and so the expansion into those three territories will continue at a rapid clip. You’re going to see this company grow quite dramatically over the next 12 to 18 months.

Finally, what are a few key differences between what you see in Australia and what you see in the US?

The biggest difference is really scale.  The scale of the US market allows all of the participants in this market to operate at a speed that is unique globally.  It is the difference as it relates to the US and Australia, but it is a difference between the US and the rest of the world, too.

And, that means that speed-to-market is just that much faster in the US.  But, the sophistication and the appetite is exactly the same as Australia.

Follow AdSlot (@adslot) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.


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