Advertising Technology

MediaOcean’s JT Batson on Solving Advertising’s Tech Stack Problem

We spoke to JT Batson of the newly formed MediaOcean, a merger of Donovan Data Systems and MediaBank, about where the company is headed.

The Makegood: Now that Mediaocean is up and running, what kinds of things is the company looking to solve?

We created Mediaocean to empower agencies and media vendors to capture full value from the shifts in media and advertising. We’re a company focused on enabling folks to make the most of the tech and data opportunities that are only growing every day.

Mediaocean started with two very simple premises:

1)     The shift in consumer’s consumption of media and technology has had profound effects on advertising and its ecosystem.

2)     Agencies on behalf of their advertisers are designing global, customized solutions mixing great strategy, creating, data, technology and proficient execution. That creates huge complications and also huge opportunities for the advertising ecosystem.

Anyone reading this post knows all too well about Point 1. So we’ll spare you any more. Point 2 and the implications of these market changes are where this all gets interesting.

You see, historically, technology for an agency was a back office function—helping you get your buys done and your bills paid…all with the goal of streamlining internal operations to do those tasks as efficiently as possible. While efficiency still is important, technology is moving rapidly to the front office.

But it’s clear that that technology is no longer a just a “cost of doing business” for agencies. It’s a key part of how they win, keep or grow a media organization—from creating trading desks and data groups to acquiring or investing in tech companies. Technology is critical to executing on strategy for clients.

To execute on strategy, an agency intentionally or indirectly puts together a customized “tech stack” for a particular advertiser—pulling together multiple technologies to achieve complex goals. But it turns out that no two “tech stacks” look the same. In fact, they’re often wildly different. That’s because the advertisers the tech stacks serve have very different needs.

Consider, for example, two different advertisers: a major automotive brand and a global PC brand. The automotive brand is, by and large, a brand advertiser: its media owners think in terms of reach and brand engagement; conversions, which happen in the dealership, aren’t currently “real time.” The PC company, however, is firmly in the direct-response camp, keeping a vigilant eye on both web orders and call centers on an hourly basis. Each of these advertisers need a different kind of tech stack to help them achieve their unique goals.

For agencies looking to corral technologies to solve unique problems, the good news is that the pickings have never been better. From engagement tracking to QR codes to Foursquare check-ins, to real time sales data, the ways brands can interact with customers on their own terms have never been more powerful. And as new channels emerge all the time, the opportunities to connect with consumers in just the right way only proliferate as well—along with the mini-ecosystems of small “point solution” technologies empowering those connections further. Among other important things, it’s our view that agencies are best equipped to play the role of integrators-in-chief across those technologies.

There’s the opportunity. But a problem is that in the not too distant future, the collective technology infrastructure of the ecosystem will face a scale challenge. It’s one thing to build out unique tech stacks for a handful of advertisers, for one media channel (it’s incredibly expensive—but relatively straightforward to execute); it’s quite another to roll out and operate a unique stack cross-media. Factor in each of the 50-200 clients a large agency typically has, and then layer in the fact that you have to do it worldwide—wow.

The challenge is rooted in an interoperability problem: different types of media technology aren’t built to “talk” to one another. And so when agencies build technology solution suites that carry across an entire campaign, or an entire brand, they’re forced to patch together a group of technologies that don’t organically interoperate. The integration they do create requires fitting a lot of square pegs in round holes (many of which we created over time—so guilty as charged); that takes huge resource commitments to make things actually work. Try repeating that process across dozens of advertisers in just as many markets, and you’re facing a serious challenge.

That challenges is hardly unique to ad agencies, or even to the advertising business. Do ten minutes of research on enterprise architecture or business intelligence and you’ll see that what I’m describing are the new normal of a technology-driven world.

But the transformation of advertising into a technology business is still relatively new—and few companies have arisen to help advertisers, agencies, and networks/publishers solve the tech stack problems. We at Mediaocean would like to give solutions to those problems a try.

We’ll be going in to much more detail about what all this means as we have more to show—and more importantly, with a lot of help from our clients, partners, and the broader ad tech community, we’ll have stuff to offer for everyone to play with. In the meantime, that pretty much lays out the core problem we’re looking to tackle: the challenge of the customizable tech stack.

Ambitious for sure, but we can’t imagine anything more fun to work on every day.

The Makegood: Thanks, JT.

  • Anon

    Definitely an interesting challenge taken on by MediaOcean, Google, Adobe and MSFT. The issue that these “one stop stacks” have is an outrageous amount of conflict. How can you be an open ecosystem but offer pieces of the stack as well?