Jonathan Shaevitz is CEO of Maxifier, an online advertising technology company, and recently spoke to AdExchanger. His company provides yield management solutions for sell-side companies and recently announced Economic Router which Shaevitz says provides a holistic look across guaranteed and non-guaranteed display media. Read the release.
AdExchanger: Do you consider yourselves a sell‑side platform (SSP)?
JS: The way SSP has been defined today talks about remnant inventory and bidding. We don't do either of those things. We're not a real‑time engine and, although we look at how remnant performs. And that's what the announcement about Economic Router is, we're not trying to create the smart pipe that's then linking in with the exchange or the DSP. If you think about what the terminology "sell‑side platform" is ‑‑ which is a platform that helps the sell side ‑‑ then the answer is yes, we’re an SSP. But, the current definition in the marketplace leads you to PubMatic, Rubicon, AdMeld and maybe Metamarkets and some others. That's not the market we're in.
What problem is it that Maxifier solves?
Maxifier solves the ability to effectively maximize the value of the sell-side’s inventory – that’s for publishers and networks. My one qualification to that is people always equate value with margin or with revenue. For many publishers, that's certainly an important part of the component, but there are other things that they're dealing with in terms of relationships. Simpler things like renewal or "I know that this advertiser has an RFP out for another million dollars."
So when we deliver a recommendation set to our clients, we know that they know more than we do. We're dealing with data and we're dealing with extraordinarily large data sets that are difficult to organize and manipulate, and then to derive actual recommendations out of.
We do that well, but we also know that there are certain things that you're never going to be able to get out of the data. We're trying to empower the publishers and the networks to be able to effectively manage and maximize value, with "value" being a broad term, not just money.
Can you talk about the clients and the target market for Maxifier?
Most of our clients have, at a minimum, a couple hundred million impressions a month. Although we have some clients that are at 100 million - and we deliver good value to them - typically the larger the better. With more data, more complexity, we provide more simplicity.
The other target market derives from the fact that we are on the sell side. Our clients are large publishers, media companies and networks, and the delineation between those is collapsing. We have publishers who are regularly buying inventory on the open markets to do reach‑extension sales. We have networks that own proprietary sites.
Our clients are the sell side, and they're typically people that have some amount of their inventory pre‑sold. A client that's just capturing some performance inventory and selling it on a CPC basis, and all automated, would not be a client of ours. These are clients that are thinking about how they structure and organize their strategy, their inventory and their content, in order to deliver to all of their constituents – readers, advertisers, employees and everyone else ‑‑ the values that they're trying to promote.
In terms of the product set, is it more about guaranteed or non‑guaranteed?
Historically, it's been only about guaranteed. Over the last six months, we have been working with specific clients to better monetize their non‑guaranteed. With the announcement of the Economic Router, we're looking at all of their inventory. We think about this as predictive inventory allocation. Typically, as we're moving away from premium into the “tier two” ‑‑ or the remnant ‑‑ we're looking at both yield optimization across multiple “tier two” platforms.
Our clients are not saying, "We signed up with Rubicon and that's our only channel." They're saying, "We have multiple partners that are distribution platforms for us."
“Guaranteed” is our largest distribution platform, but we have multiple others, and those can include traditional exchanges, networks and SSPs. Also, one of the big challenges that our publishers and networks have been dealing with is the number of tags that they're being asked to manage and to drop onto these different impressions. Our system is a tagless solution. We're integrated with the ad server, so we have all the data that you could derive from the tag, and we can feed that back to these demand platforms without forcing our clients to be in a constant, tag management business. They set up a tag once.
The second piece of that is the idea of this being “push‑button.” Namely, you can set thresholds that the system will automatically reallocate inventory, or you can have as much or as little of those recommendations presented to your ad operations team, and they'll look at what the implications are, and apply them.
They hit "Apply," and it then feeds back into your ad server and any other systems that are required, in order for those changes to occur.
What would you say is a typical use case for a Maxifier client?
I'll give you historically, and then today. Historically, it was premium publishers saying, "We know we're selling on CPMs, but we're being evaluated on some level of performance, and we need to understand our performance across campaigns and deliver better performance." So a specific example is - I received a call in the middle of the night saying, "We're about to lose an advertiser because our click‑through rates are terrible. Can you help us?" This was a premium publisher, who's selling $30‑plus CPMs. This is the dichotomy between, "I sell on brand, but I'm being evaluated on performance." That has been the traditional use case for us.
Today, it's, "My inventory structure is a series of waterfalls, in which it goes from first tag to second tag to third tag, looking at what I can deliver. I'm looking at things on a linear basis, but I'm operating in a dynamic environment. The technology that I'm deploying doesn't actually match the distribution channels that are available to me."
We're giving them this command module that allows them to look at things on this dynamic basis, across all distribution channels. We say, "Don't think of these hierarchically. Think of these based upon what your objectives are in terms of yield, price, performance, revenue, and any other metrics. We will optimize based upon what you set your criteria to be."
I haven't heard you say the phrase "real‑time" very much. How important is real‑time to your product set? And your clients’ needs?
To us, “real‑time” is a channel that takes available inventory, but the decision to make which inventories available to which channel is not done on a real-time basis today. Today clients that we're delivering the Economic Router solution to at best are doing inventory allocation once a week. Typically they're doing it maybe bi-weekly or once a month. So while there's a real‑time engine that's grabbing that inventory, the allocation of which inventory that engine sees is only done on a periodic basis. So, we're doing the allocation on a daily or intra‑daily basis, but we typically don't get enough new price and demand information to allocate more than once or twice a day.
Real‑time is critical in that it's a frictionless delivery vehicle. But we are very sensitive to the fact that you still need to decide what goes into that vehicle.
So the short answer is real‑time's really important, but we're not a real‑time engine. We're looking at the real‑time data in order to help them make better decisions and to give them actionable insight.
So, you're doing yield optimization across guaranteed and non‑guaranteed media placements. Right?
Yes. And we do that in a way that it's “push button.” This is about programmatic selling, helping the sell-side define the variables in which they're going to sell their inventory. And making those allocations on a daily or intra‑daily basis in order to respond to the programmatic buying that's occurring in the marketplace.
And traditionally publishers have not had the quantitative statistical and mathematical expertise to leverage their own data. We're giving them a tool set that allows them to do that and to respond to a changing demand-side landscape.
What can you share regarding the company’s funding and momentum?
We have been funded up until recently by our two original financing companies. They're two UK based VC companies. One is called Eurovestech and the second is Fieldhelm. We recently began a small fundraising effort to bring in some additional partners and it was oversubscribed.
We expect based upon our current run rate and based upon the momentum that we have that we'll be profitable in first or second quarter 2013. Since last year, we’ve quadrupled the number of customers and revenues are on a similar slope. We have a lot of momentum particularly outside of the US. In the US there are so many technology companies that publishers and networks are confused as to which technologies they need.
Our international footprint allows us to get to market faster in some cases. We have good traction in the US, too, and it represents the largest portion of the worldwide market for us.
And how many people is Maxifier today?
Finally, what milestones might you like to accomplish in the next 12 to 18 months?
We want to be the de facto standard for programmatic selling.
For us, a lot of the next year is about continuing to integrate with more and more platforms and rolling out tools that allow other platforms to integrate with us more easily. So eventually that will be an API, but at the moment it's typically for each inventory type or for each data type. We have an API but it's not an integrated tool yet.
And then finally our clients are worldwide. So Forbes is a worldwide brand. Monster is a worldwide brand.
All of these clients are requiring us to deploy on a worldwide basis, and so as a young company and relatively small company, being able to deploy these enterprise class solutions simultaneously around the world is both a challenge and an opportunity.