The Australian maker of a media-trading platform, Brandscreen, barely months into a strategic deal it formed with Chinese search giant Baidu to fuel further expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, has been put up for purchase.
Entering voluntary administration on the eve of the new year, Australian intellectual property law firm Jirsch Sutherland is administering the sale and is in the process of instating “restructuring initiatives designed to improve productivity and strengthen the company’s commercial operations,” according to a notice on the Brandscreen blog. It was noted that Brandscreen services in Singapore and Australia will remain intact throughout the review process.
In Australia, when a company is insolvent or otherwise unable to pay back debt, it either liquidates or enters administration. An alternative to fully liquidating, entering administration essentially means business can carry on as usual throughout recapitalization or sale by the named administrator on behalf of creditors.
Although the reasons for Brandscreen's sale are not disclosed, Australian media and marketing news site Mumbrella cited rumors of an unraveling of the relationship between Brandscreen founders Julian Toll and Seth Yates. The article augmented the original notice of sale with an update from Jirsch Sutherland, referring to “redundancies [that have been found] among the 47 staff employed across the companies’ offices.”
One Brandscreen customer, Australian media agency Ikon Communications, has a long-standing relationship with the DSP and says it’s still actively executing trades using the platform despite recent developments.
“To be honest, it was a little bit of a surprise,” commented Phil Cowlishaw, performance media director at Ikon. “For now, we still have very good relationships built with that organization. A lot of senior technical people who were there from day one remain in the organization, so there’s a level of faith and trust that our campaigns will continue to perform. We have done due diligence, naturally, to contact inventory sources and our partners to ensure they’re aware of the situation and comfortable with it being in administration.”
As one of Brandscreen’s earliest customers, having executed its first trade via the media platform in November 2010, Cowlishaw said that although he could not speculate as to the cause of Brandscreen’s sell-off, growing competition could be at play.
“You saw Turn [platform] enter [Australia] aggressively last year and you see AppNexus, The Trade Desk [and] DataXu all probably entering Australia this year,” he said. “It [programmatic] is huge. It’s growing. And I think it may be a natural thing that might have happened.”
Similarly, in the Chinese market, where Brandscreen was ramping up operations, prominent publishers like Tencent and Taobao have established their own ad exchanges, which can create roadblocks around data quality and effective targeting for DSPs and trading desks.
Speaking about RTB trends in Ikon's native Australia, Cowlishaw said what was originally met with some hesitancy or perceived cannibalization of traditional media-buying methods just four years ago has been replaced with more client allocations to programmatic ad buys.
Around 35-40% of Ikon’s digital billings are traded programmatically. For some clients, with more significant budgets, that could be $100,000, he noted, which may not be “big in America, but which sure is [in Australia].”
“It’s disappointing that it’s gone this way, but I certainly don’t believe it’s the end of them [Brandscreen] as a company that’s focused on fulfilling capabilities in this region,” he added. “If the right company buys them and they merge together different data assets [such as onboarding offline data] … that could be a powerful position.”
Requests to Brandscreen for comment were not returned.