Shawn Riegsecker is Founder & President of Centro, a media services and technology firm and makers of Transis, a media buying system.
AdExchanger.com: Can you discuss the pivots in Centro's business model since 2001? And how has it led today's Transis offering?
Centro’s vision is the same today as the day we started. Our whole belief was that, with the fragmentation of media choices, agencies and buyers wouldn’t be able to scale digital via old processes and using outdated tools like spreadsheets, emails, phones and faxes. Great software was going to have to come into the mix to automate the entire process from beginning to end. We figured if we could create automated software that could profitably scale local online, which is one of the hardest and most fragmented parts of the industry, we could help agencies become more profitable by giving them the software to use also.
After years of developing the software, using it and perfecting it internally, it was time to release it to the industry.
What problem is Transis solving?
Planning, placing, tracking and reconciling digital campaigns are a nightmare for most agencies. A 2009 AAAAs report said the cost of servicing a digital campaign averages about 25% to 30% of the media cost compared to 2% for TV. This is unsustainable. The problem is the industry spends around 80% of its time in low-value transactional activities versus highly strategic and creative thinking. Transis automates the low-value activities and gives digital media teams anywhere from 30% to 70% more of their time back to do the important things they like to do and their clients want them to do.
AdExchanger.com: Centro offers a range of services. How do you anticipate the company evolving with Transis? Will it become a sole focus, for example?
Our entire goal is to help agencies be more successful and their employees happier. With the launch of Transis, we now have three ways to partner with an agency: Transis only, Shared Services and Centro Media Services. Transis is a purely software-based relationship—we give them the keys and they’re off and running.
Shared Services is a hybrid relationship where we give the agency the front-end planning and buying module to Transis and we, Centro, handle all the ad operations and billing reconciliation. We don’t consider ad operations and month-end billing reconciliation to be competitive advantages to an agency so they can outsource this transactional work to Centro and we’ll handle all of it for them.
And Centro Media Services will continue to invest in and do what it’s done for the past eight years: help make digital media execution easy for agencies with a heavy focus on placing local online media.
In your Transis announcement press release, Peter Krasilovsky of BIA/Kelsey says, “Transis is automating the other 80 percent of the display industry" that demand-side platforms don't address. Please explain why this is true.
We believe ad exchanges and DSPs provide an important function in the industry but, today, less than 20% of display dollars spent is via DSPs and ad exchanges; in fact, I believe eMarketer projects their market share around 30% by the end of 2012. So the obvious question is: who’s focused on automating the other 80% of the display market? That’s where Transis comes in.
Your release also notes the buying of "premium" inventory with Transis. How do you define "premium"?
We define premium as transactions that contractually take place directly between a buyer and a seller. By automating the transactional work buyers and sales people are doing all day, we expect Transis to enhance the personal relationships and allow them to work more collaboratively on bigger ideas and more strategic campaigns.
How will you gain critical mass for Transis?
In the same way we built Centro: through direct relationships with agencies across America. Our team’s mantra is that they don’t want satisfied customers but rather they try to create “Raving Fans” of our services and now, our software. Although it’s software, we believe the people and the service behind the software are more important than anything and we’re committed to having the best software and the best people to over-service our agency partners.
It appears that placement is a key part of Transis. How does this address agencies need for audience buying?
Yes, Transis excels at helping agencies buy from more publishers and more sellers directly. However, every ad network exists inside the system also. So if people are buying audiences through multiple networks, it will streamline those relationships as well.
Do ad exchanges such as Doubleclick Ad Exchange or Right Media Exchange fit with Transis?
No; as of today, Transis does not have the ability to buy inventory from the major ad exchanges.
Besides media agencies, what other benefits do you see for ecosystem members such as publishers or creative agencies?
It’s a great question that addresses two sides of the coin—and I’d even throw in helping agencies work more efficiently with their clients versus just publishers. We are aggressively developing software internally and forming external partnerships that will create a seamless marketplace for ad agencies across 100% of all digital opportunities. We see an open and connected world in the near future that helps clients, agencies and publishers eliminate the meaningless and low-value work in the industry; allowing everyone to focus on the more important and strategic work for the marketers and brands we all serve.
A year from now, what milestones would you like to have seen Centro and Transis accomplish?
At Centro, we know that success is never a foregone conclusion, no matter how great of an idea or how great of software you bring to market. Everything in life comes down to execution. A year seems like an eternity away at this moment, we’re just keeping our heads down and focusing on executing our business plan over the next few months—that’s all we can control. If we execute well relative to what we can control, I’ll be incredibly proud of our team wherever we end up a year from now.
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