Buy-side video ad server Vindico has in recent months sought to position as a viewability specialist.
This fall the company is broadening that profile further to include a fuller set of programmatic tools, as it offers workflow and measurement services to publishers.
Vindico President Matt Timothy hastens to add: Don't call it a pivot.
Vindico was built out of one of the earliest video ad networks, Broadband Enterprises, following its acquisition nearly three years ago by Specific Media. While Timothy wasn't working for BBE at the time it was bought, he was on its board. He says Vindico was created to deal with issues of workflow, impression quality and ad serving that still plague agencies and publishers. And while the company looks to create a programmatic marketplace, Timothy says the focus is on packaging its existing tools for automating and simplifying the ad buying and selling process, as opposed to shifting to a different business model.
"Programmatic is just another name for addressing issues that we've been working on for years," Timothy said. "Take the topic of viewability right now. In addition to making sure that the add was 'viewed' or 'viewable,' the industry has to take more steps toward ensuring better traffic quality, video player sizes – did you buy a linear, in-stream player and get a small, in-banner, below-the-fold execution? If we don't address these issues, internet advertising will remain a backwater for a long, long time. Programmatic is a way of bringing everything that we do together, but in a more seamless package."
On the viewability front, Timothy was referring to AdTricity, its video ad measurement platform that was introduced in March. Marketed as a solution for both buyers and sellers, AdTricity's technology aims to rank the quality of video ads based on placement and appearance, as well as other criteria.
"AdTricity does more than just viewability," Timothy says. "We see this as a larger issue of quality: quality of execution, quality of impressions and leveling the playing field between video and TV. There's not a TV buyer alive who goes to bed at night worried that they bought CNN, but that buy might show up somewhere else. But that's something that happens every day in the digital space."
Looking back at the time of BBE's purchase by Specific Media, Timothy describes a video ad marketplace that was starting to heat up. Even in the depths of the 2008/09 recession, most analysts saw video ad spending growing double digits. But the growth was unfocused and advertisers were generally dismayed with the lack of "premium" inventory and the uncertainty around where ads were actually showing up. So, BBE, the video ad network, gave birth to Vindico, the buy-side facing video ad server.
"It was the wild, wild west – more so than now, though a lot of the complaints about buying video remain," Timothy says. "No one, not even BBE, could report back to the agency about what had been bought. These were smart, pioneering advertisers who were being handed Excel spreadsheets that we gleaned from the server logs of our publishers. That was about it. And you couldn't make heads or tails of it."
With the business selling video ads a lot faster than BBE could handle – the company, which was founded in 2004, always claimed to have reached profitability after its first year in business – executives looked around at various ad management solutions. But the only ones available were focused on general display. "So we realized we had to build it ourselves," Timothy says, noting that the name "Vindico" is Latin for "to deliver." (Technically, most translations define it variously as a term for delivering punishment, protection or liberation.)
With all the IPO and acquisition activity in the video space right now, Timothy understands that it's tempting to see the company as "pivoting" toward programmatic and the supply-side. But as he describes it, the latest moves simply a codification and repackaging of what it and the digital ad business has been headed – i.e., the promise of connecting marketers, agencies and publishers through software designed to ease complexity.
But if an agency is using Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings to measure a publisher's audience when the publisher is primarily using comScore validated Campaign Essentials, that entails some entanglements for serving ads. Given that there are all sorts of other tags and third party tools that need to be sorted out in determining the effectiveness of the campaign, complexity is what stands out the most to all sides of the transaction.
In addition to AdTricity, Vindico is starting to market a software that promises to untangle all those problems. The product is called "Sugar" and it's supposed to allow publishers to adapt and conform to whatever measurement and third-party data platforms an agency needs.
As Vindico prepares for its wider focus, the company plans to do some hiring -- it has just under 100 staffers in its three offices -- and will also look at planting its flag in Europe over the next few months.
"We've never pivoted – we've never tried to appease some VC demigod," Timothy says, adding that despite the "Chinese wall" separating it from Specific Media, its parent has been consistently supportive. "We've been building our ad tech stack for six years. I see these other guys going public or getting bought, good for them. You can't deny that IP delivery for video is a hot space. The $70 billion in TV isn't going away. But it is getting more complicated. And everything we've always done on video has been focused on addressing that increasing complexity."