Art Shaw is CEO of Epic Media Group, an online advertising company.
AdExchanger.com: Can you talk a little about Epic Media Group’s integration of Connexus Corporation? Is it complete? Any challenges?
AS: We are almost exactly six months post-deal, and it is going very well. Our integration efforts, and the strategic synergies we saw when we examined the deal, are coming to fruition more quickly than we thought. I would say the highlights include an ability to serve a full spectrum of clients, from Fortune 500 brand campaigns to customer response campaigns, including building awareness, building brand engagement and driving customer acquisition. More specifically, we are seeing a lot of traction with our multi-channel marketing approach for our clients, including social, display, mobile, search, and rich media. And, the progress we’ve made on leveraging our world-class technology platform is exciting. Of course, we’ve faced our challenges along the way –- any deal of this size has challenges, especially in our case with so many different offices –- but I’m very happy with the overall progress we’ve made so far.
How do you break out the business units of Epic Media Group today?
Right now, we go to market with a few different brands. This will likely look a little different in 2011, stay tuned, but currently our business units include: Traffic Marketplace, our branded advertising network; Epic Direct Network, our customer acquisition arm; tmpSocial, our fast-growing social media business; Firstlook, our contextual search business; and Online Intelligence, our online forensics and compliance group which is led by the former head of the FBI Cyber Crime unit and which provides anti-fraud and anti-abuse protection services to our clients.
Any client buying trends that stands out from those units today?
I would say the biggest trend is the growth we’re seeing in our own social business, via tmpSocial. Despite a lot of the chatter and claims made by some competitors in the space, our business has actually been tapping into the social phenomenon and the enhancement of data for quite some time. Rather than just talk about what we can do in vague terms, we have a great book of case studies for major brands from entertainment to the food industry and dozens more. We’re helping to leverage the vast appeal of social media through all we do for clients –- including things like fan pages, profiles, groups, applications, virtual currency and a lot more -- and then we are able to harness that data on the open web. Truly, no one is coming close to what we are doing in social right now. The other notable trend is obviously how hot the mobile sector is, and leveraging our unique rich media capabilities for clients through all the great devices out there, like the iPad for instance. Again, we have a great book of case studies and successes with brands like Nikon, so its not just fluff, what we’ve done is proven.
What do you see as the key growth opportunities for Epic Media?
Clearly, our opportunities stem from our diversity – meaning, the broad range of marketing solutions we offer clients. The key to enabling this full-spectrum approach – rather than being just another point solution provider -- is with our platform. The power is in that platform, where we meld integrated reporting, optimization, data, compliance and ultimately delivery. It is a huge opportunity for us and for our clients, we believe, and is where we’re well ahead of the game relative to our peer set.
Can you see making any more acquisitions? Would you look for a services or technology business?
Well, we would never say “never” because things can change so rapidly in our industry. If there is a great opportunity out there that came across the transom, we would certainly look at it. But for right now, we are pretty laser-focused on getting maximum value through the company as it exists today. We’re seeing that there’s a lot of growth in what we’re doing now, and so our focus is razor sharp at the moment.
Recently, what might be termed "traditional" ad networks who are your peers - Undertone and Collective, for instance - announced distinct products offering different "flavors" of exchange buying and selling. Does Epic Media have plans here?
Well, we understand some of the other ad networks have announced specific products and so forth. The reality is that the platform we have today currently accomplishes many, if not all, of the same functions. We just don’t have a snazzy name for it I guess. Ultimately, we are less focused on hype, more focused on client results. I think our plans as I mentioned before are really to keep building our platform into an increasingly integrated solution that gives clients the flexibility – and access – they require for premium inventory.
Do you think of Epic as a brand or a DR-focused advertising company? What's the acronym you use for Epic these days?
There are a lot of acronyms out there, so we won’t add another to your list! We even posted something on our blog talking about the DSP model, but we won’t rehash that. The truth is that we’re both. We have hundreds of clients that are brand focused. We have hundreds of clients that are more customer response focus. And we have clients that want a mix. We see branding and customer response marketing as happening on a continuum, and our strength is being able to serve clients at any point on that continuum through any digital inventory source.
How big of an issue is addressing malvertising/malware for Epic Media today? Where do you see this going?
This is absolutely an area of intense focus for us, and also one of the biggest advantages we have today. Through our Online Intelligence unit, led by the former head of FBI Cyber Crimes as I mentioned before, we have built industry-leading technology tools that help advertisers gain transparency not only in their business with Epic, but transparency over their brands across the worldwide web. Especially with the rise of social media, clients –- ranging from big brands to emerging brands, and even including celebrities -- have a need to know what is going on with their image and product across the web, and they are turning to us for help and guidance. We’re able to provide probably the best insight of anyone I know into possible abuse, fraud, malware or other integrity issues that our clients really care about every day.
Are you profitable today? Is the next stop an IPO?
Yes, we are profitable and we have a long track record of profitability. In terms of your second question, excuse the cliché, but our goal is to maximize shareholder value responsibly and faithfully.
What are some key milestones you'd like the company to achieve in the next 12 months?
I would love the company to be positioned as the first name you think of when considering the most comprehensive suite of digital marketing services. We think we are close to that even today, but there are still some pieces that we need to fit together. We would like to be considered by the general business and advertising public as the best place to go for all clients’ marketing needs regardless of size or vertical, and regardless of the where the audience needs to be targeted whether through social, rich media, display, search or mobile – or all of them.