4 April 2013 in ExchangeWire EMEA 3 Comments

Erich Wasserman, Co-Founder, GM EMEA & APAC, MediaMath, Discusses Recent Acquisitions & The Evolution Of The Platform

Erich_Wasserman_200x230Erich Wasserman is Co-Founder and General Manager EMEA & APAC for MediaMath. Here he sits down with ExchangeWire to breakdown their acquisition developments and what this means for their expanding platform offering.

How do you think the recent acquisitions by MediaMath, in video, mobile, and data solutions, have changed MediaMath’s position in the market?

MediaMath’s vision is to be the operating system for digital marketers. By analogy, we are the OS that runs the device you are using to read this Q&A: That device provides a software environment and runs first-party applications (Apple iOS and Safari, for example.) It further provides an environment on which to use other third-party applications (Chrome, for example). The OS needs to be flexible and interoperable to ensure it remains central to how you communicate with the world.

MediaMath’s OS will continue to grow in breadth and depth, enabling marketers to manage and optimise more digital channels centrally and seamlessly, resulting in outsized returns on more ad spend. In pursuit of this vision, MediaMath builds, acquires and partners with best-of-breed data and technology assets.

In December, MediaMath acquired leading-edge capabilities in mobile and video via Tap.Me to accelerate growth of these burgeoning markets. In this development, you see the vision playing out as we expand further into these exciting channels.

In January, we accelerated our Data Management Platform services with the acquisition of Akamai’s data platform. In this development, you see focus on addressing how marketers seek to use increasingly varied and rich data segmentations in even more media channels.

This is, of course, in addition to voracious product development by our own star product team and technology and engineering organisations. MediaMath has 260 talented and wonderful people who are all singularly focused on accelerating MediaMath’s position as the largest and greatest advertising technology organisation in the world.

What was the significance of the Akamai ADS acquisition? What exactly does ADS do – and how does it help existing MediaMath customers?

The capabilities that Akamai brings to the platform now define new standards for what data management means and how it benefits marketers.

Data-rich marketers will continue the trend of looking inward to extract, learn from, target and optimise on their rich data sets. They will then seek to combine these assets with external data sets to produce yet richer and more scalable applications of this data. This acquisition will bring new data products to the platform and enable seamless targeting across all media channels.

The acquisition also brings with it very practical and powerful features such as pixelless targeting. Anyone who has participated in pixel placement workflow will appreciate deeply that the days of wrangling with pixels are now thankfully over. With the acquisition, MediaMath’s technology platform is now ‘one’ with the pipes that serve a website, which means we can see and target any event across a marketer’s online presence – 100% of audience interactions and not the two or three pages that are tagged with standard pixels.

This capability is exclusive to MediaMath and will initially be available to advertisers whose websites are powered by Akamai (roughly 45% of the internet globally) in the US, Canada and the UK, with more markets to come.

Does the fact you have access to a CDN through this acquisition mean that the company has a ‘hedge’ against more stringent legislation around ad-personalisation by the US and EU governments?

Observance of privacy legislation, regulation and industry best practices respecting how consumers interact with online data remains central to how our business operates. We are, and must continue to be, thought leaders who inform well-articulated rules, and we must abide by established directives. Access to more data via any means, including a CDN, does not change that.

Marketers will increasingly have more direct control of data usage themselves, as opposed to relying on third parties. It will continue to be important for marketers to make their data usage policies prominent and to clearly notify customers regarding data usage, which isn’t different to what best practices currently call for today.

MediaMath has been one of the leading DSPs since the term was coined in New York several years ago. How do you think the DSP offering has changed, and are we now at a fork in the road in terms of its development and capabilities?

There are many dimensions of comparison between a multitude of players in the market. Some of these are feature- and product-based, and thus RFP-able. To my mind, the real battlelines are drawn around the business model. How a DSP makes money has extraordinary consequences on results and opportunity costs for users of the technology. The DSP’s raison d’etre is to maximise marketer returns in clear and transparent ways. Many DSPs manipulate or otherwise create ambiguity around this simple proposition.

Here are the two things I think about:

First, when the DSP affirmatively, and by business model, yields inventory for publishers, or operates its own network, this is not just a conflict of interest; I would argue it is misrepresentation and fraud. The invisible tax on transactions in those systems means that marketers’ results are depressed – the supply chain is artificially influenced and what you’re left with is a biddable ad network with a self-service user interface layered on top. I’ve seen competitors actually pitch this as a feature (e.g. “We have demand functionality and we control the supply. Seamless!”), which is fine if you’d like to pay needless and opaquely-inflated prices to the SSP/DSP.

Second, is a corollary to the business model, which is the product itself and concerns actual usability of the technology. Managing portfolios of advertisers and campaigns is hard work, made more difficult when a product organisation creates products that actually work toward opposing business ends. Is the user of the technology an agency trading specialist or an ad network yield manager? These are two very different personas that require different products engineered for different business goals. Choosing the wrong product for your team is a very costly proposition.

There does seem to be a trend in the market to be more of a platform play with open APIs to build customised functionality – and a point of difference to avoid perceived commoditisation. Will we see more of an app strategy from MediaMath going forward? What plans do you have?

MediaMath has built a global consolidated marketing platform (the OS) and the ways in which the platform is accessed – the system’s presentation, if you like – is certainly diversifying in new and exciting ways. There is a spectrum, indeed:

Clients may seek to manage data, campaigns, and optimisation within our UI. Clients may seek to import or export a data set (to a bespoke reporting UI, for example) and this may well be done via API or a simple feed. Clients (and partners) may seek to create applications on top of the platform and they would use our APIs to do so. Clients may want to build their own UIs and reporting environments via our APIs. And of course MediaMath continually creates new products on the platform, which may present as core functionality or apps. MediaMath’s Open partnership development strategies continue to expand the hundreds of technologies operating in our platform.

Will we see more expansion in the APAC region – like Japan, Korea and China?

We are thrilled and fortunate to see MediaMath’s global footprint expand, and we will continue to put into place the technical infrastructure and business resources necessary to meet the demands of our clients. We have seen tremendous growth in APAC during the last year, and our market presence in both Japan and Australia has grown remarkably. We continue to win clients across the major media markets in APAC, and expect more business development and growth in markets like Korea, China, Japan, Indonesia, India and Australia. It’s a very exciting time for us all.

  • Dan

    I was particularly interested by the prospect of a pixel-less world. They have often been the bane of my life. However, is there not potentially a conflict of interest whether it be between other platforms (DSPs / SSPs) or possibly the sites themselves (who sit on Akamai’s servers again whether they realise or not) that a source of user data is being drained from their sites pipes, to use the Q&As terminology? At least with pixels I as the client or my agency are aware of their existence and proliferation and what is being collated. Or will this be addressed by the data being exclusive to the agency / advertiser?

  • Erich Wasserman

    Hi Dan- Great question. Advertisers’ websites do need to opt in to enable their sites to use the pixel-less technology (in much the same way that they need to allow pixels to be placed on site). Further and to your point, like the data derived from pixels, it is for exclusive use by the platform’s licensee and not other parties (including MediaMath itself).

  • http://www.facebook.com/BennyBrada Bence Bathi

    Dan – a quasi pixel-less world already exists. A certain Tag Management System provider can not only control your pixels in one platform (more efficently than an ad server’s container tag feature) and make the pixel loads disappear by a server to server integration between the TMS and an ad tech partner, like MediaMath.