Tim Finn is the newly appointed head of EMEA at StrikeAd. Here he discusses his recent appointment, the latest round of funding and the Japanese partnership.
You’ve just joined StrikeAd. What were you doing before and why did you join them?
Prior to joining StrikeAd I was one of the founding team at contextual ad network Vibrant Media. Having spent the last five years building that business in New York, I was able to experience first hand the advances in exchange and Real Time Bidding (RTB) technologies and the profound impact they were having on both the buy and sell sides. When I met the StrikeAd team and they articulated their vision for the programmatic buying of mobile inventory on a global basis it seemed like an opportunity too good to miss.
You’ve just done a new round of funding. Can you give some details on the raise – and what we are likely to see from StrikeAd over the coming months?
We are delighted to have just closed our second round of funding of $3.2m from DFJ Esprit. We plan to use these funds to continue to develop our proprietary DSP technology, and to help drive our expansion into new geographies throughout Europe and Asia. The USA and EMEA are key growth areas for StrikeAd and, following the recent opening of our NY office, we will be opening an office in Dusseldorf later this quarter and building out our strategic partnerships in Asia. The funding will also help us increase service levels that we can currently offer to our existing clients who make up the majority of the UK agency landscape and their respective trading desks.
StrikeAd would have a good overview of the mobile ad space. Is the mobile ad market still underperforming in terms of growth compared to other channels?
It’s been well documented that mobile is the fastest growing media channel! According to the IAB UK mobile spend experienced a staggering 116% growth in 2010 and eMarketer estimate that UK mobile spend will continue to grow at over 50% annually through 2015. It does come from a small base but, as all the research shows, mobile’s share will grow rapidly year on year. On the StrikeAd platform we see significant supply from both app and mobile web sources and we believe that the benefits of our RTB approach and the media efficiencies it can deliver will help agencies continue to commit spend to the channel. At StrikeAd we can clearly see mobile spend very quickly catching up to digital display levels.
Is the lack of a standardised ad server and cookie inhibiting the growth of the channel? Are agencies and brands still reluctant to commit significant budget to the channel?
Internal research conducted by StrikeAd last year illustrated these as being the main contributing factors given by the buy side for their reluctance to increase mobile budgets. This was one of the key drivers to the development of the StrikeAd platform and we have endeavored to build a platform that can act as a universal Ad Server, integrate seamlessly with 3rd party Ad Servers, provide a universal cookie-based tracking solution and advanced, precise app download attribution SDK and reporting. As a result, we have seen our budgets increase significantly and a real appetite for our DSP solution from all the main agency groups.
Do you think RTB in mobile will address some of the inefficiencies in the market – attracting more spend in the process?
To answer your question directly: Yes. RTB is no longer a buzz word but a tangible & proven way to drive media efficiencies across mobile plans and affords agencies the control and transparency they require to increase their spends with confidence. Whether that be a click to call, App download or a traffic driving campaign, planners can now clearly see the benefits of aligning an RTB buy with a mobile DSP that is built to optimise through the whole purchase funnel, no matter how complex. As a result, the trading desks that now use StrikeAd are increasingly migrating more of their spend to RTB as part of their overall mobile media mix.
Is StrikeAd allowing its clients to buy in real-time? Is there enough liquidity in the current market – or we still at the early stages?
Yes absolutely. StrikeAd listens to over 20BN RTB enabled ad requests every month from the multiple Ad Exchanges / SSP’s / Ad Networks that we are integrated with. Whilst this number is meaningful today, we are still very much at the early stages. The availability of RTB enabled mobile supply will increase dramatically as mobile publishers experience first-hand the yield improvements from inventory traded programmatically. We will also see RTB supply stimulated by the growth of private exchanges from companies such as Nexage & Admeld, who provide publishers with tangible yield management and higher mobile sell through rates.
How will StrikeAd address the issues around brand safety and policing the mobile RTB ecosystem?
We see brand safety and content verification as critical capabilities of the StrikeAd platform. Although the number of verification partners in the mobile space is still limited we have been proactive in partnering with mobile verification specialists such as the NYC based uKnow. uKnow integrate directly with the exchange and verify content at source as a trusted third party to vet the incoming impressions before they get into our system. We will continue to be proactive on this front and I would expect StrikeAd to actively participate in any industry initiatives aimed at policing the mobile RTB ecosystem.
How will HTML5 change the eco-system – and can it offer a branding experience? Is this something StrikeAd is working on?
Historically, the efficiencies offered by RTB have generally been leveraged by DR clients. That said, StrikeAd is now working with a number of 3rd party vendors such as Celtra to build HTML5 rich formats for our clients that can then be delivered and procured using RTB.
The result? Brand engagement that can drive uplift in the form of a bespoke game, film trailer, interactive competition that can be worked back to a DR metric such as click/expansion/play and all accommodated from a standard HTML5 enabled MMA ad slot and traded on a CPC basis.
Although liquidity is limited, our partner exchanges such as Nexage are driving growth as they enable ORMMA/MRAID-based rich media and VAST-based video ads to be loaded by publishers and procured on an RTB basis in scale.
Given the proliferation of brand-focused apps in mobile do you think the channel will be more attractive to brands?
Undoubtedly brands will continue to embrace mobile over time and as an industry we need to play our part by helping educate and navigate brand managers through what is a very complex mobile ecosystem. Innovations in creative execution, audience targeting, tracking and reporting will help bring big brand dollars into the channel. The trend is to go mobile and brands will certainly want to benefit from what is a very intimate and personalised form of customer engagement.
You recently announced a deal with mediba Inc in Japan. Can you give some insight into this new partnership in Japan – and how it will affect the business growth in the APAC region?
Yes and we are delighted by this endorsement of our mobile solution from one of Japan’s most sophisticated digital advertising organisations, mediba. With over 125 million mobile telephone users and an advanced MCommerce industry, Japan is a prime market for StrikeAd’s advanced technology, and a key part of our international strategy is to partner with leading players in the growing Asia Pacific marketplace. We plan to have a strong presence in the APAC region and have StrikeAd become synonymous with mobile advertising in the very near future. Expect to hear more from StrikeAd about our Asian expansion over the upcoming months.
What are we going to see from StrikeAd over the coming 12 months?
Growth and lots of it. We’ll be announcing a number of important developments of StrikeAd Fusion, our mobile DSP, as we continue to develop ground breaking technologies for programmatic buying, tracking, reporting and optimization of mobile display campaigns. Expect to hear more about increases in our global RTB enabled supply and expansion of the company’s operations across US, Europe and Asia with further licensing agreements by both traditional & mobile specialist agency trading desks. In particular we will be releasing the first version of our proprietary mobile retargeting solution later this year which clients are eagerly anticipating.
All in all it will be a busy and exciting year for everyone at StrikeAd.ExchangeWire