A Marketer's Guide To Ad Tech Consultants

labyrinth consult

 

In the movie “Cube,” a group of strangers find themselves in a labyrinth made of shifting rooms. Sometimes the rooms are safe to enter; other times, they’re rigged with lethal traps.

That’s what it feels like for advertisers or publishers trying to navigate the world of ad tech. The promise is great but the journey is fraught with peril. As a result, numerous consultancies have emerged in recent years to provide guidance.

What follows are snapshots of just a fraction of the ad tech consultancies offering a guiding light through a thicket of confusion.

They are arranged alphabetically. Scroll down or click on a name to access a profile directly.


deloitte digital

 

While Deloitte has offered advisory services for several years, it consolidated its disparate capabilities under the Deloitte Digital umbrella in 2012.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

This conversation doesn’t really apply to Deloitte Digital because unlike many other consultancies, Deloitte Digital doesn’t focus on ad tech.

What is Deloitte Digital’s specialty?

Deloitte Digital helps companies build customer experiences. Its clients are often businesses that want to transform processes across marketing, advertising and customer experience.

Depending on client needs, it develops strategies and builds the tools needed to execute on those strategies. This can mean integration and configuration for SaaS-based products, or actual development for on-premise deployments.

Deloitte Digital also runs the implementations.

Its work with paid media is generally a part of a larger engagement. For instance, Mark Singer, the principal leading the company’s agency offering, notes the company has “greater than 10 and less than 20” clients for which the consultancy is pulling programmatic levers.

“The clients we’re doing that for are really looking for cross-channel and omnichannel, multiple methods of engaging a customer to move them through their funnel,” he said.

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes, Deloitte Digital’s services include performing tech evaluations and assisting with tech selections. That covers everything from data management and CRM to broader media and content technologies.

Boutique or big firm?

Big firm. Deloitte Digital has around 5,000 employees globally, though that number fluctuates.

How many clients?

Deloitte Digital declined to disclose this information.

Vertical focus?

It runs the gamut. One way Deloitte Digital goes to market is by industry vertical. “We have strength in a bunch of different verticals like consumer products to financial services, to tech, media and telcos to manufacturing,” Singer said.

 

Infinitive

 

Infinitive was formed in 2003 by two Accenture execs. It’s structured internally both by vertical (i.e., retail, media and entertainment, financial services, etc.) as well as by practice (IT security and risk, business transformation, customer intelligence and digital media).

“We structure this way in order to maintain areas of expertise, but also recognizing that, say, a financial services company might need/want to utilize services from each of our internal verticals,” said Jay Wright, principal consultant in the digital media unit.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

Both. The customer and audience intelligence business supports the buy side, working with CMOs, primarily on data-driven marketing efforts. Digital advertising and marketing solutions are tailored for the sell side. Infinitive also works with a handful of tech companies.

What is Infinitive’s specialty?

Order management and full business life cycle management. Infinitive positions itself as the backbone of the entire operation, so it’s very hands-on, with expertise in disciplines including viewability, ad tagging, CRM, DMPs, finance and revenue recognition. “We have to know everything because we do the entire life cycle,” said Wright.

In all, Infinitive’s work includes process optimization, organizational design, ad tech selection, implementation and optimization, as well as some revenue management. It also does customized training.

Recently, Infinitive developed a program specifically for cross-channel campaign optimization, which integrates or unifies data, analyzes and segments it and activates it.

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes, Infinitive does vendor assessments though Wright doesn’t “believe too much in the rigorous RFP/RFI approach.” Infinitive performs those at the behest of clients, but prefers to score vendors against client KPIs. “If it’s a yield management system or an ad server, we try to think about the strategic direction of the organization,” Wright said. Additionally, Infinitive helps clients determine the right product mix they should invest in.

Boutique or big firm?

Infinitive itself is big. As a whole, the consultancy has 100 full-time consultants, 25 of whom are in Infinitive’s media vertical.

How many clients?

Infinitive’s media vertical usually has on its client roster about 10 major companies and 10 small to mid-sized companies. Additionally, it has partnerships with ad tech providers to service their customers.

“But we are not biased and we do not resell their product,” Wright adds. “We service ad tech customers like we service any other customer.”

Vertical focus?

See above. The company is organizes around certain verticals.

 

jounce media

 

Turn and AOL alum Chris Kane formed Jounce Media earlier this year. Kane feels he can bring more “hands-on keyboard experience” compared with what he saw in the space. His goal is to push Jounce from the strategic side and into operations consulting.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

While Jounce would ideally like to work with buyers, sellers, agencies and vendors, its top clients are buy-side – and likely that is where the core business will reside.

“My expertise is in the buy side,” Kane said, though he notes there is “gigantic opportunity” for working with publishers and supporting ad tech vendors.

“Some of it is crafting a strategy, some of it is client-facing, where they’ll have R&D lab extensions of their core business,” Kane said. “When they get a first client that wants to try something new, they don’t always have resources to support it.”

What is Jounce’s specialty?

Jounce’s initial work with a client typically begins with ad tech strategy development, though that typically translates into implementation.

For example, he might help work through ad server migration. While at Turn, he said, he helped build trading desks and he’s increasingly using that experience at Jounce.

“I think [implementation is] proving to be a key point of differentiation for Jounce,” Kane said. “We're operators, and we know how to put a CEO-level strategy into action."

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes.

Many Jounce engagements begin at the ground floor. Kane does soup-to-nuts training and authored a 15-page booklet called, “The Little Black Book of Ad Tech,” which describes the fundamental concepts of digital advertising. “In one day, I can take your team through 15 concepts and give a basic grounding on how the fundamentals of ad tech work,” he said.

From there, clients ask him about more specific problems, which is where Jounce transitions into more technical, problem-specific engagements.

Boutique or big firm?

Boutique. Kane recently hired his first employee, and he brings in specialists as client requests warrant.

How many clients?

In its first five months of existence, Jounce has worked with seven different clients and has three active clients.

Vertical focus?

Currently no, but Kane anticipates that’s coming. As core technology becomes commoditized, differentiation will occur through vertical customization. “It’s crazy that Ford and Kimberly-Clark use the same tech,” he said. “You don’t advertise cars the same way you advertise diapers.”

 

medialink

 

While MediaLink has been around for a number of years, it brought in former MediaMath and Omnicom exec Matt Spiegel to head its programmatic consulting practice – more specifically its marketing and tech solutions practice – in March 2014. MediaLink's programmatic discipline employs 20 people mostly in Chicago, though some are scattered across its other offices.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

MediaLink has worked in ad tech even before programmatic became a major interest. So it has a pretty universal focus and works with both the buy and sell sides, with big brands and tech companies.

What is MediaLink’s specialty?

It’s pretty broad. MediaLink’s marketing and tech solutions practice helps with strategy, including marketplace assessment, road mapping and technology reviews. It also assists with data strategy, which can lead to DMP reviews and activation, and builds media management models – facilitating connections with agencies and tech partners.

“We’re part of everything MediaLink does,” Spiegel said. “Our speciality is extending [MediaLink’s] strategic advisory operations into areas driven by data and technology.”

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes.

“We help these organizations understand that this is a journey, and as they adapt to more tech and data-driven ideas and operating models, this isn’t on and off,” said Spiegel.

That initial fact-finding impacts solutions MediaLink recommends.

“If they’re heavily reliant on the agency to do the work, that dictates a different set of solutions than if they have a team in-house for data buying or analysis,” Spiegel added. “Or if they plan to do the tech themselves or with a partner.”

MediaLink understands these various tools because the consultancy has “collectively bought and sold these exact tools and used them ourselves.”

Boutique or big firm?

It’s pretty big. Obviously, the marketing and tech solutions practice arm isn’t huge, with 11 people based in Chicago, but it’s part of MediaLink, which is quite large.

How many clients?

MediaLink declined to disclose this information. It works with both Fortune 50 marketers and slightly smaller clients, as well as big, traditional media companies.

Vertical focus?

There’s no vertical focus, per se.

 

prohaska

 

Matt Prohaska founded Prohaska Consulting in 2011. It went on hiatus when Prohaska, a digital ad vet since 1994, worked in-house for The New York Times between 2013 and 2014. It resumed operations in February 2014.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

While Prohaska Consulting used to have a majority of publisher clients, now 40% of its client base are sell-siders. The company has scaled its other verticals, such that it now includes buyers, industry groups and ad tech vendors.

“We’ve done a lot of corporate repositioning, product assessment, tech development assessment,” Prohaska said of the latter group.

As trading desks reassess their integration strategies, its agency work is also picking up after peaking between 2011 and 2012.

What is Prohaska Consulting’s specialty?

Eight-five percent of Prohaska’s consultation work is related to programmatic. Beyond that, it advises around “old-school digital monetization.” Its services run the gamut through display, mobile, video, social, email, native advertising, radio and television.

As mentioned, Prohaska has six types of clients, so its products and services cover a wide range. It ranges from writing white papers for industry groups to something highly specific, such as coaching publisher sales teams on the best way to deal with certain trading desks or media agencies.

Beyond its strategy and project work, Prohaska Consulting also has operating business development teams that operate like publisher development teams for ad tech companies or ad sales teams for publishers.

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

It does both. “We look at sprint cycles and we’ve done reviews of engineering teams, like who’s building it,” Prohaska said. “We couple that with a corporate strategy and vision, and make sure they’re building things for markets one to three years from now. That has to do with a product road map and fitting in with customers. After that, we look under the hood.”

Prohaska Consulting also has done systems integration work, depending on client needs.

Boutique or big firm?

Let’s call Prohaska Consulting a big boutique. It’s actively hiring and has salaried employees in leadership roles. Prohaska projects eight total by February.

In addition, the company has 72 employees with “a handful full-time.” They are in 18 cities across the globe.

“We match talents with client needs,” Prohaska said.

How many clients?

Prohaska’s firm has signed 95 clients.

 

promatica

 

Promatica Consulting was founded in October by Joe Weaver, a former executive at TubeMogul who also managed Mindshare’s trading desk and served as Omnicom Media Group’s global group director of digital.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

While Promatica has engaged with publishers, the majority of its work is with advertisers. Weaver estimates an 80%/20% revenue split in favor of the buy side. He sees the publisher side – which involves helping them understand advertiser needs so they can build products that attract brands – as a business that could become core.

Promatica also works with technology companies “consulting on their go-to-market sales and positioning strategies and product development insights (i.e., how to best position products and services to brands based upon what brands need).”

What is Promatica’s specialty?

Promatica develops a programmatic framework and strategy for its clients, then designs activation plans to integrate systems. Since activation plans are heavily customized, Promatica’s approach varies depending on various factors, such as whether brand marketers want their media agency involved or if they want to begin buying and activating media in-house.

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes, via a 200-point evaluation that provides a vendor overview, history, locations of its different offices and its future outlook over the next three to five years. “A lot of vendors want to go public, which changes the way they work with their current client base,” Weaver said. The evaluation also covers technical questions, such as whether a vendor has a DMP, capabilities around analytics and integrates well with other players in the ecosystem.

Promatica also has a short list of vendors for clients who want to get up and running quickly.

Weaver is skeptical about using bake-offs to evaluate tech. “They’re tough because if you run a campaign today and run the same exact campaign in a bake-off four weeks from now, you could see very different results,” he said.

Boutique or big firm?

Boutique. Weaver is currently its sole employee.

How many clients?

Promatica is small and has been operating for 12 months. It is selective about clients it engages with and takes two to three at a time, depending on client size.

Average length of engagement?

Promatica’s engagements are typically six to nine months. “Lots of consultants want to get in or out,” Weaver said. “We tend to be engaged for longer periods of time. A lot of the clients I’ve started with I’m still working with.”

Vertical focus?

“CPG is a big one,” Weaver said. “Some financial, luxury goods and some entertainment clients.”

 

unbound

 

Unbound was formed June 2013 by Brendan Moorcroft and Quentin George, two execs who helped form IPG Mediabrands’ trading desk Cadreon. They were joined last year by Michael Brunick, another Cadreon co-founder.

Buy-side or sell-side focused?

About 40% of its clients are on the buy side, largely Fortune 100 brands that want to have conversations around workflow and efficiency. Another 40% are media owner clients that need help figuring out what customers want, which new capabilities to offer and how to package their programmatic offerings. The remaining 20% are companies that are trying to build businesses from their unique data sets.

What is Unbound’s specialty?

Broadly speaking, Unbound's entry point is executive education around programmatic. It helps clients define their business strategies around programmatic media buying, with particular expertise in data enablement.

Does it make tech recommendations or perform assessments?

Yes. Unbound has a formal RFI/RFP process. “We come up with bespoke requirements for each of the categories,” said Moorcroft. “We put proof-of-trial concepts into marketplace.”

Moorcroft emphasizes that “while most other evaluations work over scorecard,” Unbound helps its clients develop and formalize their requirements, then designs specific use cases around those requirements.

“When we get to the RFP phase, a technology company doesn’t just come in and show us capabilities,” he said. Instead, the vendor takes Unbound – and Unbound’s client – through a specific step-by-step process and is graded by pre-set requirements.

“There are very few companies that Mike, [George] and I haven’t worked with personally in this ecosystem,” Moorcroft said.

Boutique or big firm?

Boutique. “We enjoy being a small, private company,” George said. Their industry connections, he said, allow Unbound to source the best talent across the ecosystem.

How many clients?

Unbound declined to disclose this information.

Vertical focus?

Unbound’s buy-side clients represent numerous categories, though there’s a particularly heavy concentration in high tech. It also has a large amount of clients in retail, cosmetics and CPG. On the sell side, it tends to work with “fairly large, diversified media and entertainment holding companies with multiple assets.”

 

 


Popular On AdExchanger Right Now:

 

Add a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>