The SAS View: aiMatch Acquisition About Serving CMO, Leveraging In-House Analytics Says Director Raj

SAS Wilson RajWilson Raj is SAS Global Customer Intelligence Director.

Yesterday, SAS acquired publisher ad server aiMatch. Terms were not disclosed. Read the release -and industry reaction.

Raj discussed SAS's acquisition of aiMatch yesterday and its implications with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What is the opportunity that SAS sees in advertising and marketing, in general?

Wilson Raj:  The CMO role is transforming from a brand steward to a customer steward where he or she has to look at digital advertising in a slightly different way. That I think is the big point.  And aligning that idea from a SAS perspective is that we come from very deep, analytic roots.

Over time, we've been knitting together different marketing capabilities - certainly with our integrated marketing management model - with all the strategy and planning that goes into marketing and all the orchestration of activities from campaigns to digital advertising.  And then we parlay them into customer experiences – via whatever channel: mobile, video, online, offline.

Now with this acquisition of aiMatch, we get to extend those capabilities into the digital advertising sphere.  We've done very well on the website with analytics and customer experience, but this is another part the CMO is trying to grasp at and bring in so that you can holistically combine those things.

So those are the benefits. It's certainly a benefit to the ad world at-large in having a format in which you can horde all of your intelligence in one place and make intelligent holistic choices. From a SAS perspective, it's giving us a richer entree into the digital site of the business.

Take me through a use case of how you envision aiMatch will work within SAS's platform.

Sure. We can start with what aiMatch does now and then what we can do together.

So as you know with aiMatch, they have been in this business for a bit. It's a small company and have been looking to help publishers generate the maximum return on their online ad inventory - and that's a big deal - the inventory… all of these assets that CMOs have to deal with and try to utilize without breaking the bank. So, from aiMatch’s side, it's a cloud-based solution, which is great, and they have capabilities in terms of forecasting, yield management. They do a lot of price optimization in terms of where you would do ad buys, how you would shift resources depending on consumer behavior - which in today's world, it's instantaneous. There's also been automation. So those are some of the current highlights.

As part of SAS, and what we want to do with aiMatch is provide, first of all, a comprehensive offering that stands with mobile and social. We also want to be able to use the power of analytics for inventory and price optimization. But beyond that, we want to start powering real-time audience profiles to be used in targeted ads.

The other piece is that SAS will also start integrating all of the other analytics capabilities - the web analytics that we have in our digital suite, a lot of our predictive modeling and forecasting, and some of the risk management capabilities.

Now, the marketer will have a fuller view on determining visitor impact behavior and ad impact in a much, more cohesive way. I hate to use the term "end‑to‑end”… but we’re striving towards a “joint” platform that will be more comprehensive.  It will be a more holistic workflow from the creation of a digital asset - an ad, which includes the message, the audience - through market planning to the creation of the quote and [identifying] inventory, getting the pricing right and then placing the ad, which completes the loop and captures that intelligence.

We're not talking just about click-through and utilization, but all of the other behaviors that we are able to feed back into the optimization process that we have. That's our definition of how we can really help in the space.

In terms of channels of advertising you’ll address, are you thinking about display right now, or are there others?

Clearly, it's display. But, we've got grander designs here and it's coming from a good place. We believe that the same technology, the same loop that we talked about can extend to other platforms. We've seen all of the stats that point to the video channel – it’s a key brand enhancer. Mobile is another big one.

We definitely see extending to other emergent channels – but, whatever comes in the next five years, we don't know.

On the display channel again, are you thinking about “guaranteed” inventory for your clients, are you thinking about “non‑guaranteed?”

I've always loved those terms, from guaranteed to non‑guaranteed. Let me put it this way, We can move closer to guaranteed. That's what CMOs want. He or she is executing at all levels, not just the campaigns that we talked about, but the above-the-line, which is just as powerful - they have to be connected. They're looking for a number, a guarantee, to say, "If I spend these amounts of resources in these segments with these messages, here's my yield."

It moves up to an overall marketing ROI. As a result, I would say we're closer to that “guaranteed” spectrum.

Should we anticipate any more acquisitions from SAS, given this is display focused only?

The way we do acquisitions as I mentioned - we never do things to gain market share – it’s when it feels like it’s a requirement in the customer's vision, and if there's a gap in our capability, we will do it.

But, this is a big one for us. It's a small company, but it's a big step, because we're hitting this area of advertising where people internally are wondering how SAS and advertising come together.

We have not considered anything else as of yet, but I think when you see the market moving certain directions, that's when we would consider it.

Finally, why did you choose a sell-side or supply-side ad server versus a demand-side ad server?

What we see that's happening disruptively is definitely on the sell-side. We talked about all the different landscapes, all of the technology, things that are happening in terms of third-party solutions and how you manage those tools, - it's really fragmented. More and more the tendency is for brands to start bringing those capabilities in from a third-party or a group or even some of these big publishing houses and say, "Hey, I can do this better if I implement my own direct solution."

As we saw that shift happening we thought, "OK, here's an opportunity right off the bat where you could create some synergy and immediate value on that end of the equation."

The demand side is certainly very attractive and there are a lot of players there. In fact, we're all about demand side at the end of the day, from a SAS perspective. Analytics is all about driving on and identifying the most profitable opportunities, and taking the right action, whatever that may be for an enterprise.

By John Ebbert

 

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