In 2013, expect to see more ad tech companies provide some automation of guaranteed sales. Among the entities working on that idea is Legolas Media, which just hired digital sell-side veteran Jonathon Shaevitz as its new CEO.
Shaevitz joins Legolas from sell-side pricing and inventory manager Maxifier, where as CEO over the past two years, he secured partnerships with major ad agency holding companies WPP and Dentsu, and positioned Maxifier as the dominant provider of campaign optimization. Last month, Maxifier promoted COO Antony Katsur as Shaevitz' successor. At Legolas, Shaevitz replaces co-founder Yoav Arnstein at the head of the company.
In a conversation, Shaevitz emphasized that working in programmatic premium was much more than simply building private exchanges. For one thing, private exchanges are merely a more comfortable, clearer way for publishers to agree on general price floors and ceilings around specific inventory placed for bidding.
Legolas will offer private exchanges. But it mainly wants to focus on particular placements and combining the kind of efficiencies associated with RTB and the transparency of direct sales between a select seller and buyer -- all without bidding.
"The reason that programmatic premium, in my eyes, is becoming more important, is that for the last few years, inventory wasn’t being monetized very effectively," Shaevitz said. "Things that were trading in the $25-50 CPM range weren’t being served very well. You take that top inventory, which is generally estimated to represent 20 percent of publisher's total ad volume and 60 percent of their revenue, and then you take that bottom tier that has previously been monetized through networks and now through RTB."
One of the things holding back the growth of programmatic and RTB is that audience outside of context is less valuable, Shaevitz argued. Though he wanted to do something about that for a while, it wasn't until three-year-old Legolas started working with Maxifier "to figure out what inventory is valuable for publishers," that he believed it could be solved sooner rather than later. "Legolas has allowed buyers and sellers to connect without a lot of friction," he said. "The goal now is about unlocking that valuable inventory that previously was reserved for direct sales."
As Shaevitz gets settled into his new post, he plans to focus on building up the sales and marketing team. He also wants to concentrate on international expansion in the second half of the year.
And after all that is accomplished, will he still stick around?
"As long as it stays interesting and entrepreneurial," Shaevitz said. "There aren’t a lot of great CEO gigs in the ad tech space, but there’s no set time for me to do this job. Incidentally, I’m still on the board of Maxifier, which I will retain because it’s going to be a great play. As for Legolas, I'm looking forward to meeting the challenge."