Three APAC digital media firms merge to provide 'holistic' programmatic services

Three companies in the Asia-Pacific digital marketing space have merged to form a single entity that they say will offer "holistic" programmatic services and drive the need for more transparency in the industry--something which its top executive repeatedly notes is sorely lacking.

Programmatic trading platform AdzCentral, ad tech distribution company Asia Digital Ventures, and digital advertising services provider Better Digital Solutions jointly announced on Tuesday the formation of a new entity aimed at addressing marketers' growing need to execute programmatic and digital marketing plans.

CtrlShift chairman Reza Behnam

CtrlShift's executive chairman Reza Behnam

Called CtrlShift, the company is headquartered in Singapore and is betting on its merged capabilities to be a key market differentiator, offering an integrated range of services that include real-time media trading, systems integration, ad tech, analytics, data, and marketing strategy consulting.

No cash was exchanged in the merger and none of the three companies has majority share, so each stakeholder has "equal say and voice on major company decisions", said Reza Behnam, who is executive chairman of the new company. He was CEO and founder of AdzCentral.

The existing regional presence from the three companies will give CtrlShift immediate headcount of 130 in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Behnam told ExchangeWire. He added that Southeast Asia will remain its main growth focus, but noted plans to expand into other Asian markets.

Together, the companies have skillsets that include programmatic media placement in mobile, video, search, and social, as well as big data analytics and ad tech platforms. Their clientele includes Allianz, Carlson Hotels, and Hong Leong Bank.

CtrlShift is betting on its merged capabilities to be its key market differentiator, offering an integrated range of services that include media buying, systems integration, ad tech, analytics, data, and marketing strategy consulting.

"Furthermore, we do it a transparent, independent way. While we have proprietary technology, we are not about pushing any flavor of product or technology down our client's throat," he proclaimed.

Market lacks transparency

Behman suggested that more efforts should be invested in the industry to drive transparency and knowledge sharing, to ensure a balance of information between clients and market players.

In addition, he noted a lack of familiarity with programmatic among brands and marketers in the Asia-Pacific region. "Other challenges include the lack of transparency and a number of quality-related issues that are often not addressed by their incumbent programmatic provider," he reiterated, pointing again to the apparent lack of market transparency.

He said awareness about programmatic will increase as automation becomes the default mechanism for media buying. "In many developing markets, ad tech can provide a way to leapfrog legacy digital practices. This will help publishers and advertisers adopt Programmatic 2.0 concepts and catch up with the developed digital advertising markets.

"However, developing markets require a different approach than developed markets. Product-centric approaches--while touted as 'scalable' in the tech world--are not necessarily scalable in developing markets unless they are part of a more holistic solution," he said, touting CtrlShift the "best-of-breed" provider of ad tech products and services.

According to Behman, the company is still exploring plans to make further acquisitions, but he did not elaborate on what these might be or the market segments in which the targeted companies play.

"Our plan is to be the number one independent programmatic, ad tech execution and consulting partner for advertisers across Asia," said Behnam. "Innovation in the data-driven, automated marketing space is moving at breakneck speed and brands need to be nimble and work with trusted partners to achieve their goals of increased revenue and market share."

Formerly the CEO of Better, Rene Menezes will assume his new role as CEO of CtrlShift and continue to be based out of Malaysia. Peter Yoong, partner at Asia Digital Ventres, will be the new company's president.