Gal Trifon is CEO and Co-founder of Eyeblaster, a campaign management and advertising technology company.
GT: That's a tricky question -- the efficiencies of an exchange are relevant for videos, but there is still the brand vs. direct-response divide. Brand media buying is still to a large extent relationship driven and will remain so for some time. But, exchanges promise efficiencies that brand marketers - the typical video buyers - are interested in. Initially, exchanges may be relevant for video placement on social sites. We'll then start seeing Exchanges on media plans, as a complementary component at first. Our customers think players like Eyeblaster can play an enabling role in expediting this transition.
What is your view on ad exchanges and demand-side buying platforms such as those announced by the major agency holding companies? Good for the marketplace and Eyeblaster?
GT: The opportunity for us is to help our clients optimize ROI when bidding through exchanges by leveraging historical and current performance and cost data. If ad exchanges can increase relevancy and the overall consumer experience, that is good for all involved. Exchanges were created to optimize inventory yield for publishers. The opportunity is for demand-side players to finally get some economies of scale and bring real value to their clients. Eyeblaster, as the component in the center of the actual campaign, will be able to leverage performance data, creative optimization to bring Exchanges to the mainstream of brand advertisers. Exchanges are really not designed with the campaign in mind. To a large extent, they're designed to serve ad networks. We’ll be looking to bring Exchanges to the mainstream of large scale campaigns. That is the role of solutions like ours - to harmonize multiple channels and inventory sources. This will allow clients to optimize ROI when bidding by leveraging the data we aggregate on their performance and costs.
What momentum - and lack thereof - are you seeing in 2009 in the marketplace and at Eyeblaster?
In 2009, we're certainly seeing continued investment in digital media, however with a greater focus on accountability and ROI. Some agencies and advertisers have actually taken the recession as an opportunity to streamline processes and leverage technology in new ways. At Eyeblaster we're encouraged to see year-on-year growth both in terms of volume and in terms of advertisers served. We’re seeing increased attention to the inefficiencies introduced by obsolete infrastructure tools. We’ve just unveiled MediaMind, the first buy-side ad serving solution built from the ground up for today’s cross-channel campaigns. It is unique in combining actionable analytics, streamlined ad serving and an open workflow approach.
How is Eyeblaster helping clients with cross-channel attribution?
Cross channel attribution is one of the fastest growing capabilities among Eyeblaster customers. We call our approach Channel Connect, which means we can analyze the channel even if you happen to be using someone else's tool for it. Channel Connect for Search, for instance, analyzes Search & Display path to conversion, as well as cross channel impact. But with any other tool, to achieve that you must adopt a specific proprietary SEM tool. If you don’t happen to be using DART Search or the Atlas tool - tough luck. In reality, sometimes the search budget is with another department or another agency. Channel Connect makes cross-channel attribution much more realistic for advertisers to adopt, because it is SEM agnostic.
How do you see display advertising evolving in the future? Will it all be rich media - as in video?
In the future Display will become more data driven and effectively coupled with targeting capabilities. Additionally, advertisers will be able to tailor 'story telling' media scenarios that use the optimal mix of standard and rich impressions to individual users. You will be able to say - show this user a rich media experience, then two reminders via standard banners, then another 3 rich media experiences. It’s not going to be about either/or - each tools has its strengths – but it’s about what's the smartest way to deploy display advertising.
When will Eyeblaster take its learning to digital TV?
Our vision is to connect channels into a holistic campaign platform, and we continue to look closely at the digital TV opportunity. Already last year we announced collaboration with NDS, a key player in the set-top space. We certainly consider it strategically part of our target market.
What are your thoughts regarding engagement and the way in which the purchase funnel can be addressed with display advertising?
In the past, marketers had two roadblocks in understanding the funnel - little transparency to the path-to-conversion, and ineffective metrics for top-of-funnel. New technologies today address both of these points, and marketers must keep in mind that there is not going to be a magic number for all brands and industries. However, they can now very easily learn their own audience and optimize the balance of spend.
What are key points of differentiation between yourselves and rich media companies like Eyewonder and Pointroll?
Unlike rich media niche players, we've enhanced a complete platform that includes standard display, search integration, mobile and powerful analytics tools. On the other hand, unlike the legacy ad servers, we are independent of sell-side priorities. Also, these platforms are over 15 years old and no longer reflect today's need. They’re too hard to operate and leave agencies no time for strategic work.
Any plans to get into the creative optimization space that Tumri and Teracent have jumped into?
Creative optimization has a great impact on campaign performance as well as production costs. We recently announced Smart Versioning (see case study here), a powerful tool for optimizing any aspect in the creative. As Eyeblaster is already involved in the creative and tracking processes, an integrated optimization tool is the most natural choice.
Any trends you're seeing on the client side in 2009? Are they concentrated in particular verticals, budgets smaller but more numerous, ROI-focused, are they using data exchanges, etc.?
We are definitely noticing a stronger data and ROI orientation through every campaign. In certain verticals like entertainment and CPG, it seems that migration to digital from traditional channels was accelerated in 2009. We also see strong focus on operational efficiency and profitability amongst agencies, and a desire to maintain innovation and creativity. We saw agencies demonstrate profitability by maintaining focus on hi-yield activities at the account of operational overhead.
If you were a big media publisher today, what steps would you be taking to ensure a profitable future?
GT: Smart publishers should go back to their core strengths: innovation, audience insights, and cross-inventory integration. As an example, we worked earlier this year with MSN on servicing the Chanel 5 brand. It was great to see MSN and Chanel use technology in a way that is so meaningful for consumers. The format was innovative - homepage takeover with long video, all MSN properties around the world were engaged in an integrated campaign that 'followed the sun' around the globe. These kinds of propositions really help differentiate and strengthen client relationships. And technology is there to make it happen and help to ensure a profitable future.