VideoAmp’s Ross McCray: Tidying the Mess Of Cross-Screen Video Planning And Measurement

TV and video planning and measurement is a fragmented mess. Buying and selling video inventory across platforms can create a headache for everyone involved, not to mention a mountain of paperwork.

That’s where VideoAmp, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based video startup, comes in.

VideoAmp is a software and data platform with a planning and measurement tool for buyers and sellers. Its unique identifier helps buyers identify video audiences across linear TV, online video and OTT, and suppliers package audiences for advertisers to buy, getting more value from their inventory.

This has been a milestone year for the nascent VideoAmp, which launched in 2014 and has since raised $36.6 million in funding. In the spring, the company participated in its first upfronts and, to the surprise of 26-year-old co-founder Ross McCray, received $10 billion in media investment.

“My forecasts were so wrong,” McCray told AdExchanger. “The majority [of that investment] was against first-party audiences. That’s the most proud thing I can say about our business.”

McCray is clearly passionate about measuring success in and out of the office, which is why he starts his morning with a 4:30 a.m. workout, eats every hour and proudly proclaims “every day is the best day of my life.”

And McCray has been feeding VideoAmp as well. In July, the company acquired a Boston-based data company called IronGrid to make sense of set-top box data and partnered with Vizio’s data-selling unit InScape to strengthen its ID.

McCray spoke to AdExchanger about VideoAmp’s evolution and future.

You said your upfront forecasts were wrong. What was your prediction?

ROSS MCCRAY: I said if we could get half a billion dollars this year, hell yeah. But the team got destroyed. We were in a 74-day crunch where engineering and product teams didn’t leave the office from Monday to Sunday. People wouldn’t leave. I had to force people to leave.

What problem is your planning and measurement tool solving?

The idea behind the planning and measurement is it’s not planning for one channel.

I’m going to commit $420 million in brand marketing. How many different options do I have? TV? Should I go to digital? How do you use data to move the needle toward increasing revenue?

That’s what our planner does. It looks at traditional linear, how much you do in the upfront, how much you do in the scatter. It looks at premium video, how much you go into OTT and how much you go into premium content like the broadcasters.

Has VideoAmp’s mission changed as the company has evolved?

It’s the same mission, it’s just becoming clearer for us. It’s really to transform brand marketing to optimize against business outcomes.

I can’t stand vanity metrics. If I’m in a meeting and someone says, “I’m looking to optimize impressions, I’m looking to optimize GRP,” I literally stop it and say, “I can’t have this happen.”

Is VideoAmp profitable or is it completely in growth mode?

If we wanted to push on the profitability then we could turn that around at any moment, but my personal strategy is to invest as aggressively as we can and not get too far in the red.

VideoAmp used to have a buying platform, but that doesn’t seem to be a focus anymore. Why not?

When we started, we went right to planning and measurement. But people were like, “What are you talking about? Integrated planning and measurement? You’re out of your mind.” I heard this from every client and every holding company.

We created digital audience segments because there’s faster liquidity, there’s programmatic, there’s dynamic ad insertion.

So we built a platform DSP to help execute on that media against that strategy, like a proof of concept. So, 85% of our business was that offering, because it was the data plus the platform and that was cool, because we were showing the value.

Then, the industry was ready for our planning and measurement tools. You can make your own assessments on why the industry was ready for it a year and a half ago versus four and a half years ago. It quickly took off and became a revenue driver.

Does your platform automate that decision-making process?

Correct. It’s all about connecting. We have to get our client’s data in whatever form that it’s in, whether it’s in a cookie space, in a DMP somewhere, encrypted mobile ID, CTV. That was our big struggle in this upfront. We have all the DMP integrations but it’s manual to go through most DMPs.

So we did a deal with LiveRamp. It’s not a typical LiveRamp deal but one where we together created a solution – I don’t even know if we’ve announced this yet – where we actually have the mapping tables for the approved partners so that together we don’t have to have that eight-day, 14-day turnaround.

What’s the turnaround like now?

There’s none. Here’s how it works.

Say I’m a client of a random DMP like Neustar, and my CRM data set is in Neustar. I tell Neustar to send this to VideoAmp. There’s like a store where they can send that to our system in a Neustar ID. Clients have their own IDs that they can send to us directly that we pick up and say what ID was it. Was it Neustar? I press connect and it’s done. That’s how you get the business outcome.

Do you foresee your partnership with LiveRamp continuing, considering it’s up for sale?

There are a lot of companies in this space right now that are in flux. Consolidation is crazy. Everywhere you go, from the supply side to the big corporate mergers, I think you have that issue no matter what. I think you have to make sure you’re not dependent on one solution. Other companies could in theory do what LiveRamp does.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

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>