CEO Cimino Says Brilig Is An Audience Commerce Platform With An Open Transaction Marketplace

BriligPaul Cimino is CEO of Brilig, which formally announced its audience commerce platform today. Read the release.

How has Brilig’s model pivoted since last we spoke a year ago?

PC: The basic concept of our audience commerce platform and open marketplace hasn’t changed but the ecosystem around us has. A year ago the agencies we were talking to were concerned about reach, not using data to better target their ads to increase ROI. To achieve this they needed audience sizes that matched the media reach – meaning segments needed to be in excess of 5 million. The problem was that there were very few segments around with that scale. The emergence of DSPs and smarter data-enabled, performance driven ad networks changed the game.

These new buy side companies helped them see the value of optimizing media with real time bidding and audience data. This changed the market 180 degrees from a broadcast mentality to a targeting approach. So, the real change for Brilig is who our buy side partners are.

The sell side has also evolved. A year ago the concept of selling non-PII data to an ad network was a tough sell because of fear that data leakage would cannibalize publisher’s premium ad space. But they’ve come to see that the economic upside outweighs the risk. So, just about every publisher has or is developing a strategy to sell and buy audience data.

It’s been an exciting year, to say the least.

Please share what you’ve seen in your Alpha stage (prior to this public beta).  Any trends on the buy or sell side?  Anything surprise you?

A big surprise for us has been that the sell side is often also the buy side. Large publishers, with greater than 10 UVMs, are acting like mini ad networks and are buying data to strengthen and protect their premium ad space. In concert, media buyers now expect targeting from them, because they are able to get it from traditional ad networks.

I’m also amazed at the emergence and success of the DSPs and the emergence of DSP specialization, like what we’re seeing with search DSPs who combine search data with other targeting data to optimize display or retargeted ads.

An interesting trend is the shifting of supply side platforms from optimization of below the fold non-guaranteed inventory, to optimization of above the fold, premium inventory. This is a positive development for the overall market as it brings more premium inventory into the larger optimization supply chain.

One frustration that is finally being addressed is the ability to do creative optimization using data. This is big because no matter how “smart” the buy is, if the ad unit is “dumb”, meaning a one-to-many style creative, money is being wasted.

I touched on this already, but publishers have been hesitant to sell data because of potential cannibalization of premium inventory. Brilig solves this because we enable their data to be combined into segmentation models that leverage dozens of sources, creating new segments that naturally protect the integrity of the individual publisher’s data.

Finally, in the highly interconnected world we live in, it was hard to grasp just how unbelievably huge and fragmented the data market is.

Marketers just want to put their ads in front of the right people, and they want the data to do so. But wanting the data and being able to get the data are two completely different notions, because the non-PII data to enable this is scattered across the web and in thousands of offline databases – not to mention the issue of data formatting.  This is one of the most vexing problems that Brilig is out to solve. Our mission is to provide marketers with a common view of this data, tools to mine the data, and a free and fair market to transact audience data commerce.

DSP, ad network, data exchange, creative optimizer, etc… how would you classify Brilig in two or three words and why?

Brilig is an audience commerce platform with an open transaction marketplace. If you look at other successful marketplaces like eBay or the NYSE – the purpose of these marketplaces is to facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers, create liquidity opportunities, and to ensure a reliable mechanism for settlement. We believed that a fair and open marketplace for data that provides transparency and oversight was inevitable in digital advertising – that’s why we created Brilig.

In terms of differentiation from other competitors in the space, how do you make the case for Brilig?

There are several points of differentiation. First, Brilig is the only company that is focused on the “digital data laundry” – by that I mean the sourcing and normalizing all available data instead of creating the data or reselling the data. Our competitors stick to a limited set or type of data they’ve aggregated or created which means they can’t access the vast array of data sources we can. Because of this our competitors could become some of our biggest customers by acquiring data to expand their offerings, rather than gathering it from scratch.

Second, unlike data exchanges, Brilig oversees but does not participate in the marketplace. By taking on a organizing and oversight role, rather than being a data reseller, Brilig has no inherent conflicts of interest with data sellers or segment makers. The Brilig transaction marketplace is an open, transparent and predictable audience data “shopping center” for buyers and sellers.

Third is our focus. If you think about it, there are three steps involved in serving relevant advertising. Doing the “digital data laundry,” segmentation modeling and ad serving. We focus on the first steps and have built tools for people who make segments.  Specialization is important in supply chains and we feel that the focus on data and tools will make us successful.

What about funding? Will Brilig seek a round of funding from the venture or angel community?

We just closed a pre-A round in the spring and have begun discussions with investors for our next round which will close in the fall.

How important is the concept of “real time” to Brilig’s offering?

Real time is central to Brilig because audience assessment and matching it to every ad event is the heart of what we do. This goes for both the sell side relationships as well as the buy side. On the sell side data refresh is dictated by the type of data. For example, in many cases search data is worthless if it’s not mined immediately, so our platform is set up to “crawl” search data providers in a nearly real time manner. For our buy side partners we have the ability to provide answers to real time audience data queries.

What is the target market for Brilig? How does one get “in” the public beta? Any caveats with this beta?

Our market is comprised of sellers (websites, retailers and data companies), buyers (ad networks and DSPs) and segment makers (buy side or independent analysts). We are working on an online registration function, but for now companies just need to contact us at to participate into the public beta.  The only caveat is that we are not charging any fees during the beta, through September 1st.

How will Brilig drive revenue for itself with this model?

Brilig makes money when other people make money. We are starting with a transaction fee which will be a cost-per-thousand-targeted fee, or CPMT. This is a fee charged to sellers based on the number of times their data is utilized in targeting events by buy side partners. As the year goes on we will release more tools and transaction types.

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