ExoClick’s Richard Cottrell interviewed by digital ad blog Thalamus
Here is the interview taken from Thalamus.
For those of us that aren’t familiar with ExoClick, please tell us more.
Based in Barcelona, ExoClick is an innovative global ad network. Since 2006 we have been providing solutions for advertisers and marketeers to reach online audiences and for publishers to monetise their digital ad spaces. We now serve over 155 billion geo-targeted ads each month via our proprietary self-service software platform to a global network of 65,000 desktop and mobile direct publishers. Segmented traffic can be purchased on fixed price and real time bidding models. Our core mission is to give clients full transparency while maximizing their ROI and earnings. Clients have full access to all their traffic and conversion data so that they can track their campaigns and monitor their ad zones every step of the way. Advertisers have the targeting and retargeting tools they need to fully optimise their ad spend. Publishers can test their ad zones with more than 20 ad formats in order to optimize their earnings.
You serve over 155B impressions per month, which is no trivial feat. How were you able to get to this scale of inventory availability, and advertiser demand?
There are many factors that have driven this growth but I think one of the key factors is our high regard within the industry, that we strive to give clients the best ROI possible, you can check out some of our client testimonials on www.exoclick.com to see for yourself.
Other factors include the quality of our traffic: we don’t work with blind traffic, we know where all of our traffic comes from and our platform provides further traffic fine tuning with our deep targeting options. It is important to note that we don’t segment our traffic for premium and performance based campaigns, everyone has access to the same traffic ensuring everyone benefits from the same opportunities.
Our big data tools allow clients access to all their data in real time and we provide analysis tools for them to learn from and fine tune their campaigns.
We offer exclusivity with many publishers which gives better impressions and we work with smaller publishers to build up their traffic and so in turn increase their monetisation of their ad offerings.
Because we are a self service platform we can add much more value by allowing people to control their RTB spend with our segmentation tools. With the recent introduction of our platform API we also now provide a hybrid model of self-service blended with programmatic.
Our SmartCPM option bids for clients at the best price possible, they just set the maximum CPM bid they are prepared to pay and our system automatically bids for them 24/7. Our system determines the lowest price to get the best position in the rotation of the campaigns up until their maximum bid price. Used wisely, our SmartCPM is a great tool since it saves time and guarantees the best visibility at the most affordable price.
Additionally, we also manage our clients campaigns strategically with our experienced sales team who advise clients in order to help them achieve the results they want. This is how we have consistently grown our ad impressions.
Tell us more about your platform API.
We decided to open up our platform to developers, partners and clients so that they can implement different levels of programmatic control over their campaigns by developing their own bespoke software applications and enriching their businesses around the ExoClick ecosystem. For example, software can be created for setting custom bidding limits, monitoring performance in different GEOs , automating the targeting of different devices and mobile carriers or creating custom dashboards for more in-depth metrics.
The API’s interface is super friendly and fast to use. Simply set the parameters and press the ‘Try It Out’ button to automatically generate code. There is also a comprehensive user manual which additionally contains examples of PHP code for various functions that can be quickly copied to ensure fast workflow. Partners, developers and clients can visit our developers page and try it out for themselves.
Years ago, many advertising trade publications were calling for the death of the ad network due to ad exchanges, real-time bidding, and self-service models. As things played out, this was obviously not the case. How do you view the future for ad networks?
The digital ecosystem was originally created and developed by ad networks and credible ad networks still have a great deal of value within it. In September 2015 eMarketer commented that global digital ad expenditures jumped 18% in 2015 to reach $170.17 billion which is 29.9% of the total advertising market.
In order to survive and keep growing ad networks have had to adapt to new technologies by providing innovative tools to allow advertisers and publishers to take advantage of new digital channels, data capture and data analysis. Mobile is a key example here which has drastically changed the digital ecosystem. By taking the desktop experience mobile, it has opened up new product segments that were not available on feature phones, such as video content viewing, apps for everything you can think of, GPS localized products, mobile payments, etc
As more and more of the world’s population migrate to smartphone connectivity, publishers want to reach these audiences with their content and advertisers want to reach them via those publishers, widening the opportunities for ad networks to provide solutions to monetising the mobile revolution, and that revolution is still growing in potential! eMarketer states global mobile ad expenditure for 2015 was $72 billion, which is expected to rise to $104 billion next year and by 2019 to be almost double that at $198 billion. In 12 months ExoClick has seen a 15% increase in the mobile side of our business with it now accounting for 65% of our global revenues and that is because we are providing mobile solutions for our clients including specific mobile ad formats, an Android in-app SDK, partnerships with mobile carriers worldwide, device targeting and with more platform innovations targeting mobile coming up in 2016, the future is very bright for ad networks who intend to be key players in the mobile space.
There have been many reports over the past few months of the exponential rise of ad blocking by consumers. From the data you’ve seen internally, is ad blocking adoption really at catastrophic levels or just sensationalist news hyperbole?
Although it has impacted the ad industry, so far we haven’t seen any direct effect. But it is a serious issue and the industry needs to come up with clear solutions to improve the user experience such as delivering advertising that enriches content, that is not obtrusive and adds value to the browsing experience. ExoClick has a solution for publishers called NeverBlock. Additionally our own platform’s rich targeting tools do give advertisers the chance to really target niche groups with relevant ad creatives and offers. So going forward the industry needs to educate consumers as to why blocking ads could ultimately exclude them from the wealth of free digital content that they enjoy today. Additionally slow page loading times do drive consumers to download ad blockers and ad servers need to create faster technology to counteract this.
To the extent that you can share, what are some general eCPMs and fill rates you’ve seen for your publisher partners, by content vertical?
It’s a very complicated thing to explain because there are so many variables that influence the price of eCPMs. It depends on the publisher’s platform, GEOs, mobile versus desktop and ad formats. Demand is high for mobile so this pushes up prices and out of our 20+ ad formats the most valuable is the popunder because it is such an effective medium. Our fill rates are close to 100% across all our verticals because any unsold premium ad spots are used for our performance campaigns.
There has been a cambrian explosion of ad technologies, networks, and platforms popping up over the last few years. How do you see this playing out over the next few years?
In any digital landscape ad technologies get fine tuned and improved over time. Some companies have become more specialised and niched, others are continually diversifying to broaden their reach. I think if any ad tech company doesn’t ride the wave of innovation they will fail or be acquired by another who sees value in their assets. There are also market forces at work, consumer demand is driving even smarter handsets and emerging economies such as the Middle East, Africa and Latam are getting connected. This provides prime opportunities to drive more and more ways in how to monetise these new consumers and ad networks need to provide solutions to expand into these localised markets with excellent targeting features and localised third party partnerships.
Of the publisher sites that you work with, what percentage of their traffic are you seeing move to mobile, and how do you think this will evolve over the next few years?
Google’s penalisation earlier this year has been a major driver to push publishers to adapt their sites to be mobile friendly. In the video entertainment sphere desktop is still very much in demand and you have to remember the small screen is a different experience to desktop as is consumption of bandwidth on mobile devices, so different offers are suited better to different channels. The smartphone is becoming a part of each consumers identity with the data generation created by their smartphone usage. There is significant global growth of shopping on mobile, new mobile payment technologies, localised mobile advertising/product technologies, push notification messages, in-app opportunities for user engagement and the fact that many consumers in emerging markets have never owned a desktop computer and are beginning their connected lives with a smartphone. Without a doubt the future is mobile.
What are some innovations in digital and mobile advertising that you are excited about?
Innovation has always been driven by improving the consumer experience and finding more effective ways to reach those consumers and ultimately generate sales. There are many new compelling ad formats that use the latest technologies to drive monetisation of new platforms. For example, digital product placement is opening up the world of retroactive advertising, where existing video can be altered to place a product. Instead of running ads pre-roll or post-roll on a music video, for example, the video can be retouched to change a bottle of Cristal to a different brand, possibly with the incorporation of the viewers’ location data to drive sales with discount offers at a local retailer.
VR has been bubbling for a couple of years now and this looks set to go mainstream in 2016 with several manufacturers releasing viewing sets. Apart from the obvious in gaming advertising it will be very interesting to see which business models content producers and VR publisher platforms will implement. I would like to see freemium models funded by advertising to maximise the mainstream reach of VR technology.
Online video advertising is a very exciting market right now, according to Zenith OptiMedia, last year this market was valued at $11 billion and this is set to grow to $23 billion by 2017. Key growth factors are mobile video consumption partly driven by larger screens on smartphones, faster 4G connections, more net-connected devices such as tablets, wearables, gaming consoles and connected TVs.
Lastly, what is your take on the future of digital advertising, as it pertains to ad networks?
Ad networks are here for the long run but they must be able to demonstrate their transparency so that advertisers know exactly what they have spent their money on and publishers need to see what, how, to whom, and the price their advertising space is being sold. ExoClick is a transparent network and we will continue to give advertisers and publishers access to all of their real-time statistics and help them find more ways to segment and analyse their big data. We must ensure that we are using that data to deliver better, more interesting and relevant advertising.
Programmatic is driving big brands to automate their engagement with consumers and while this process minimises human error, the downside is that it minimises visibility and takes control away from publishers and advertisers. I think that a human element is still vitally important in order to instinctively react to pinpointing conversions which is why the hybrid ad network is the future. ExoClick’s blend of self-service control with programmatic is creating such a hybrid where automation can be combined with human decisions and experience.
The ad network space is pretty crowded so we can expect to see some consolidation within the market as ad networks acquire new niche targeting companies and tech. The real winners will be reputable ad networks that are transparent, provide truly innovative tools to maximise ROI and put their clients’ needs first.