In Going Public, YuMe Wants Brands' Respect Alongside Investors' Capital

YuMe rings the NYSE BellYuMe's stock price at the end of its first trading day remained at $9 – exactly where it was when the video ad tech company's shares were priced the night before. While the opening price was less than the $12 to $14 the Redwood City, CA-based company had aimed for when it filed its initial S-1 with the SEC last month, the first day offered a sense of stability that the company is hoping will last going forward.

YuMe CMO Ed Haslam pointed to the "fickleness" of market conditions when asked why the company's sale of 5.1 million shares was valued at $46 million versus the $65 million estimated in early July by the deal's underwriters Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, Barclays, Needham & Co. and Piper Jaffray.

"The price quoted in July reflected the council from our lead banks on the IPO," Haslam said. "But I can't stress enough that what the opening price is and what happens on the first day, first week, is much less important than what happens over the long term. All the news out there today – including AOL's major investment in our marketplace – shows that this is a large market and there are a lot of great opportunities. The fact that the financial markets may be a little fickle is less of a concern for us."

Haslam was of course referring to AOL's $405 million acquisition of Adap.tv, which operates a video ad marketplace that is intended to help support CEO Tim Armstrong's focus on building AOL as a programmatic one-stop-shop for buyers and sellers. Adap.tv had been considered next in line to go public after YuMe, which had followed video ad network Tremor's IPO in May.

Tremor's $10 opening stock price was also lower than what it initially targeted and its stock has lost roughly 20% in the past two months, consistently hovering above $8. Other video ad tech companies such as BrightRoll, another video ad tech marketplace that is squarely in the programmatic space, is also often talked about as a candidate for the public markets.

In looking at the business models of the various companies in the space, YuMe and Tremor are often identified as ad networks who have avoided programmatic buying and selling methods and instead relied on traditional direct sales placement.

The ad network model has evolved over the last decade, but it's viewed as older and less sophisticated than "programmatic," which primarily involves automating ad sales. With that sentiment prevailing, YuMe accepts the ad network label grudgingly, even as it clearly rejects programmatic buying as antithetical to its focus on brand awareness and brand lift-related advertising.

Haslam is quick to point out that while YuMe is not involved in the programmatic space, it is more of a technology company than a traditional ad network because it relies on data to target audiences based on how receptive they might be to brand advertising.

To be sure, like Adap.tv or BrightRoll or Videology, YuMe does serve as a marketplace both to publishers, through its Connected Audience Network and ad serving software, and to marketers and agencies via data-related tools like the Placement Quality Index, which measures brand receptivity among audiences, and the Audience Amplifier, a cross-screen planning service.

"Purely speaking, you can call Google an ad network – but nobody does," Haslam said. "We fancy ourselves similar to Google: we're a technology company that happens to sell media based on our software system. But we're not interested in buying audience demographic segments at publisher sites. We're strictly focused on using data to find brand receptive audiences."

YuMe wants to be seen as a "top of the funnel" video technology solution, which Haslam distinguishes by buyers with millions of dollars to spend on building brand affinity, awareness and message recall. This approach looks at online video as a clear extension of TV advertising. As you go down the funnel, online ads are focused on reaching those with purchase intent, such as people in the market for a car. At the lowest part of the funnel, you're at direct response and clickthroughs. Although YuMe does do some ad deals via automated channels, Haslam tends to associate programmatic with the bottom two funnels, primarily.

"The buying public at that level is thinking about how to allocate multi-million dollar campaigns and therefore, they do not want to buy through programmatic interfaces," he said. "They want the customer service and support that comes from buying directly from a sales organization that treats their ad dollars with care. They want to be able to talk to a person. That said, the market is far large enough to support the direct model we have on down to the mid- and lower funnels."

Haslam also wants to be seen as different from Tremor and, for that matter, AOL, both of which maintain traditional ad network businesses as part of their core.

"There are subtle, but important differences between us and those other companies that we want the market to understand," Haslam said. " We're independent as opposed to AOL, which has a lot of owned and operated content on its sites. It has a natural interest to use its technology to promote those properties. And when you buy from a Tremor, you're buying a more traditional ad network model, you're buying a site list. We don't have those kinds of relationships with publishers."

The experience of going public is generally seen as something companies are driven to do by their investors. To be sure, YuMe, which was formed in 2007, has raised roughly $70 million in venture capital.

When asked about AOL's huge purchase of Adap.tv and the scrutiny Tremor has received, Haslam said that there are two valuable things about going public.

"We want to chart our own course and remain an independent company," he said. "You can do that as a private or pubic company. We chose the latter because the currency it gives us in terms of reputation with the ad agency holding companies, and the brands they represent, is enormous on one level. On a more tangible level, the actual capital we've raised gives us greater wherewithal to pursue technology acquisitions and geographic expansion. Being a publicly traded company and the greater scrutiny that comes with it confers a greater level of respect because you've passed a certain litmus test with investors. And that's why we did this."

 

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