Bob Davidowitz is the Chief Revenue Officer at Trust Metrics. Bob is a seasoned media professional and has worked at companies including Primedia, Rodale and Bauer Media Group. We recently spoke with Bob about his current role.
The Makegood: Bob, you spent most of your career in magazine publishing at companies including Rodale and Bauer Media, before making the move to Trust Metrics. What motivated you to make the move?
BD: I had 18 years in print and could imagine returning to print down the road. I left magazines for a couple of reasons. Initially, it was to attempt to do something for myself. I think all of us day dream about building something from the ground up but thinking about it and taking the initiative are two very different things.
When Andy and I first started Format LLC (Trust Metrics is our product) it was not with the intent on building Trust Metrics. Rather, I was still very connected to the magazine and media business as a whole. Format was a web strategy and development firm helping primarily magazines effectively transition to digital. From my personal perspective, I was attempting to build a business but at the same time, I was getting exposure and a digital education, something that I knew would be relevant to wherever my career led me in media.
In fact, the idea behind Trust Metrics is in large part because of my experiences selling print. While working at Format with a whole host of premium publishers, one thing struck us time and again—-digital display was obsessed with scale media as defined by networks and exchanges and major publishers were and still remain weakened by the growth of this marketplace. The problem is complex but I think it’s fair to say: maintaining price integrity and thus receiving fair value for their content is a systemic problem potentially getting worse. Scale media and the vigilant focus on audience buying is happening at the expense of professionally produced publishers. While Trust Metrics does not directly serve the most premium publishers, it was built from the perspective that all publishing environments were not created equal and the quality of the media always has and will impact the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Right person, message and PLACE are how media has been traded for the past 50 years and will be relevant for the foreseeable future.
The Makegood: Currently, you are the CRO of Trust Metrics, can you tell us about your role and areas you are focused on within Trust Metrics?
BD: One thing you learn quickly in the startup world is there are no boundaries to your contribution and responsibility. You check your ego at the door and do what is necessary to keep the business moving forward. That being said, I wake up in the morning thinking primarily about driving revenue. The first year of our existence was largely focused on the buy side. We knew we needed to evangelize the product’s position and value within the overly complex digital eco system. Ad tech is the land of noise, clutter and products consistently overpromising and under delivering. These circumstances created even more challenges to a primarily boot-strapped company with a truly unique product but limited resources to promote our message.
As buy side adoption continues to grow, a lot of the past six months has been devoted to networking the sell side and defining how we can help scale sellers generate revenue. Essentially, do not be a media expense for either side and instead, improve return for everyone. Empowering sell side clients to leverage Trust Metrics has been very effective in further amplifying our message. What time remains I apply to business development which can have both short and long term impact. We know we have elevated site visibility and control beyond any current contextual provider, but we are addressing only one aspect of the buying/planning process. We are fully aware that we will benefit from aligning Trust Metrics with other providers servicing the lives of brands buying media. We are confident that the right alliances will create easier access to our data and greater adoption of the product as currency.
The Makegood: Recently, Trust Metrics released a study revealing that 6 out of 10 sites were rated low to poor in terms of environment quality for ads. How can marketers and media planners avoid working with these sites while still getting reach?
A: I think it’s imperative to point out that we built Trust Metrics to help address the $60 billion gap in digital vs. television spend. For this gap to be narrowed, premium brands must begin to invest in the scale eco system. We are the only contextual provider that has the ability to account for the plethora of things that matter to premium brands evaluating the “right place” and therefore we know we can help.
While we have effectively elevated visibility from simple brand safety to safety and quality, we also are in the business of managing advertisers expectations. Exchange media in particular trades at very low CPM’s and I think it’s fair to say the large majority of domains are average in quality. Our focus is not on isolating NY Times quality sites but rather, separating the wheat from the chaff and enable big brands to subsidize premium direct buys with efficient and targeted scale that’s going to meet advertiser expectations. There is plenty of good enough exchange inventory, you just need to know how to separate the good from the bad apples. If by small chance we do negatively impact scale, I assure you the inventory we are blacklisting is valueless media that is not worth a nickel. At the end of the day, we are doing even the most conversion focused advertiser a huge favor.
The Makegood: Can you let us know about some recent successes at Trust Metrics?
BD: From a business perspective, success means clients and after an arduous year of knocking on doors and defining what we do and how we are different, we have seen over the last 6 months some tremendous growth. Our goal is to become industry currency, the metric used to help advertisers isolate quality inventory within scale media. We are on our way to elevating the conversation from “brand safety” to “brand quality”.
From an advertiser perspective, there are two ways we gauge success. Because digital is so measurable, right or wrong, the industry is hyper focused on a measurable conversion of some kind (CTR, CPA, etc.). We have consistently driven actionable performance across dozens of campaigns. Inventory curated by Trust Metrics has demonstrated actionable lift from 15-200%. It’s as simple as using our quality ratings to eliminate the poorest quality inventory. We are seeing some encouraging signs that our data will impact branding lift (recall, awareness, etc.) but this is not yet conclusive so I currently don’t have any specific statistics to share.
I think it’s also important to mention success as defined by brands looking to find efficient media that allows them sleep better at night. While driving measurable performance is wonderful, eliminating junk inventory and isolating sites that are professionally produced, managed and maintained is very relevant to premium brands that care deeply about the environment surrounding their brand.
The Makegood: Thanks, Bob.