Paul Cimino is CEO of Brilig, a data optimization platform.
AdExchanger.com: What is Brilig? Do you consider it a technology or services company? Gotta ask - what does the name mean?
PC: Brilig is a technology company with a patent pending process for data integration that provides advertising data and analysis capabilities to online publishers, marketers and targeters. Our platform enables marketers and targeters (be they contextual, behavioral, retargeters) to assess response rates of past campaigns using segmentation data provided by web publishers. For instance a travel ad directed not only to someone who has a browsing interest in travel, but who has some confirming travel propensity, might get a much higher response. So the behavioral targeters would purchases this travel measure, updating its own records with the individual travel propensity field. It now has a better segment. When we have enough data we will be able to assess what works for an audience, or an audience member. prospectively. This is where the term TruePropensity(sm) comes from.
When you get down it we resemble an advertising data version of Bloomberg. As characteristic of many innovative companies, our business represents a new way of thinking about the industry more than any breakthrough technological achievements.
The name Brilig comes from the Lewis Carroll poem, Jabberwocky. It represents the idea that every word has meaning and value when placed in the proper context. We realize the brillig from the poem has 2 L's but that URL was taken so we dropped one L's for expediency sake.
On your website, you say that Brilig's TruePropensity is "a next generation online advertising optimization solution." So are you a buying platform like a Media Math or Invite Media? Or a data optimizer like Aggregate Knowledge?
We are different from (ad space) buying platforms like either Media Math or Invite Media. We don't buy or arbitrage ad space, we provide a data exchange and analytical platform for the buy and sell side of advertising to enable them to assess why ad buys were successful or not. In that regard we could be considered second cousins of Aggregate Knowledge but have significant differences. I take my hat off to companies like AK who cover so much ground; ad personalization, creative optimization, content personalization etc. Although we could someday reach this breadth of services, we have chosen to focus on being the best at integrating advertising and consumer databases and providing analytics and data services around that core skill. Therefore, like AK we provide retrospective insights into why ads performed or not. Unlike AK we provide data that is not native to the ad campaign, as well as the ability to gain insights from that data. Another difference is our ability to provide prospective insights on what an individual consumer or audience population is likely to do. Lastly, and most importantly, the biggest difference between Brilig and these other companies is the fact that our platform is open and transparent. Most current approaches seem to be proprietary, black-box and closed in nature. Our belief is that we can be successful providing a mechanism that give everyone access to all necessary market data.
What are the "non-targetable segments" that Brilig can now target? What's the key? If it's related to data - where do you get your data?
Our data comes from website publishers, etailers, social networks on the sell-side, and ad performance data from targeters and marketers on the buy-side. A view of this non-PII information resides in what we call the "Brilig Dictionary", the central piece of our platform. Consumers will have the capability to view their "page" in the dictionary and correct it.
It is our belief is that the likelihood someone will click on an ad is inversely proportional to the size of the audience. And because click-rates are well below 1%, we feel that the devil (for marketers) is truly in the details; meaning the heuristics of the people that did (or did not) click is very important information. This is what we mean by "previously non-targetable segments".
What is it you love about the start-up environment?
We love the intellectual challenge of creating something new, innovative, useful and valuable. Having worked in every work environment from startups to large companies I can say that each stage of a company has its rewarding aspects as well as its touch aspects. I guess it might be a little like parenting, you've always loved your kids from day one and as time goes on that love becomes more profound, but there is nothing like a brand new baby. I mean startup.
Please name two or three key learnings that you bring from previous startups such as Marketing Technology Solutions, CAC Media or (even way back) Snickelways Interactive to Brilig?
1. Focus, focus and focus some more. Too many great concepts die on the vine because they are over ambitious in their market approach or because the company allows itself to be distracted by short term, non-strategic gains, such as a custom job for an important client. Saying "we can't do that right now" is a tough sentence to utter, but is the sign of a mature team.
2. Hire the right people. So many cycles and so much valuable capital is wasted on trying to make people fit and/or giving people time to "find their way". Startups simply don't have the time, money or mental energy to waste on people who are better than average and hopefully superstars.
3. Find the right financial partners. Financial partners have to mix well with the founder-culture and understand that startups are like families. They need to understand how to cultivate young companies, outside of cash flow and balance sheets. It is sometimes difficult force what may be perceived as austere rules or changes in. I have had both good and bad experiences with venture capitalists. Beyond the cultural aspect, you need to constantly make sure that your goals are aligned. Solidarity among key stakeholders is paramount.
4. Finding the right initial customers. Startups need to make absolutely sure that the initial role out of a product or service line is successful. To accomplish this the company needs to find very friendly initial clients that are a good fit. This means that Sony might be too big as an Alpha client / partner and make overwhelm your little startup. Conversely, your initial clients cannot be insignificant players whose endorsement will be meaningless.
What's your view on ad exchanges? Are they key to Brilig's success?
Certainly. Ad exchanges represent the greatest innovators in the field, and we can offer them a white labeled targeting solution.
I think ad exchanges, especially the big 4, are a vital part of the digital marketing supply chain. F500 CMOs currently are faced with extreme fragmentation in the Internet Ad realm. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of ways to get their message out. Within CPM, CPC, CPA/L and CPX there are approaches and technologies. The big exchanges represent market attention consolidation that is natural in any hot, quickly evolving marketplace.
Brilig's mission is to serve as a data and analytics partner to whoever needs us. Initially we are launching a trial run of our platform which will involve several dozen publishers, contributing sell side data and 3 or so behavioral targeters who will be contributing buy side data. Both sides will analyze where the lift is coming from and when lift is found, the buyer can buy data from the seller. Therefore ad exchanges will be important to us because they are important to targeters in general.
How does your platform address the creative "wild card," if you will? After all, if an ad unit doesn't have the right messaging, it doesn't matter what segment is targeted.
We are a data company. If there is data about which creative performs better than we will enable our clients to analyze it. We leave the actual creative optimization to the experts like Eyeblaster, who have already turned this into an art form.
What's Brilig's target market?
Ad exchanges and ad networks.
On the sell-side we cater to web publishers, social networks and e-tailers and on the buy side we cater to targeters (behavioral, contextual, retargeters) as well as ad buying platforms and exchanges.
What should we expect at launch from Brilig? Has a launch date been set?
Our data study / trial will run from October 2009 till March 2010 at which point we will begin charging a license fee for the analytics platform privileges and will charge a flat fee for (sell==>buy) data transfer. We have a road map of other features that goes out to 2012.
Do agency buying platforms represent a threat or opportunity to a company like Brilig?
This is an opportunity for Brilig. We can provide them a white-labeled targeting solution.
Buying platforms represent an opportunity simply because they need mounds of data and analyses in order succeed. We hope to be a major supplier.