Advertising Technology

Proximic’s Philipp Pieper on Bringing Comfort and Control to Media Buyers

Philipp is the founder and CEO of Proximic, a company that helps media traders grow revenues through improved online ad placements. We recently spoke with Philipp about his experience and industry trends.

The Makegood: Philipp, how did you get into the online advertising industry and what inspired you to found Proximic in 2007?

PP: In 2002 I was part of a strategic group for pan-European Logistics and IT operations at Sony. A colleague and I left to launch a company that ran an electronic data exchange for producers and retailers in the consumer electronics space. In order to improve our service, we wanted to develop algorithms that could understand unstructured text. I looked at everything on the market at that time — semantic engines, statistical models, artificial intelligence, anything I could get my hands on — but none were able to understand such text at scale. Then I came across a team of researchers in Munich that had taken a unique approach to the problem based on pattern recognition. Building on top this approach we built a core technology, which later became known as “pattern proximity profiling”, and which worked so well that we started testing it on everything we could get our hands on. It showed great promise in handling languages, and performed extremely well when it came to determining the context, or as we like to call it, the “about-ness,” of a page of content. We then iterated with clients for a couple of years, perfecting the technology.

Along the way, we explored more and more how to apply the core technology to digital media. Adding our Dynamic Category Matching algorithm then enabled us to map all of our data to any-one’s taxonomy — in any language. That’s when we were ready to hit the market. We tested our technology on digital media first in China in 2009. As we built a highly scalable, extremely flexible data solution that met customers’ needs, AppNexus was one of the first platforms to plug us in. Since then we’ve added partners across the spectrum of digital advertising, around the world.

The Makegood: The industry is changing constantly. How do you keep yourself and your clients up-to-date with the latest trends?

PP: Naturally I scan the essential trade publications, including Ad Age, AdExchanger, ExchangeWire, Adweek, MediaPost, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, SearchEngineLand, and PandoDaily. I also check in on what industry experts are tweeting and blogging about, such as Mike Nolet of AppNexus, John Battelle of Federated Media, or Jerry Neumann. And of course I scan the feeds on LinkedIn and Facebook for anything where I could derive value from. There’s a lot to read!

When our clients ask our opinions on general industry moves, Proximic’s neutral position to the sell- and demand-side enables us to give them a unique perspective. So many people present their points of view as “trends” that we try to avoid that word. We seek to understand what each client needs to do in order to take the next step, and then solve that with them. Sometimes chasing a supposed trend would be the wrong move. An intermediate step may set them up for greater success.

The Makegood: Proximic offers page-level scoring. Can you tell us what that means, and what it does for advertisers?

PP: Page-level scoring means that we generate all relevant data regarding the location of where ad messages meet the consumer, and deliver that as pre-bid analytics into the decision engines our customers operate on. These analytics supply the key insights that ensure that advertisers identify opportunities where they can break through the clutter and have their message resonate with their target audience. The insights are key to increasing brand relevance, identifying premium inventory and improving ROI. In digital, the advantage over traditional buying is supposedly that a buyer gets greater transparency, control and accuracy. That doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. If my TV commercial for a fast-food chain featuring a 1,200-calorie burger shows up during an episode of “The Biggest Loser,” I lose credibility. The same is true online. Few buyers understand the context and quality of digital ad placements, and their ignorance hurts the brands they serve. The ad-buying landscape’s opacity hinders digital spending and threatens industry growth. Proximic seeks to give advertisers the ability to regain control of the ad environments they buy. Proximic’s analytics services help advertisers understand the ad environment comprehensively before they buy.

The Makegood: Proximic is a pre-bid analytics provider that works with the recently launched Agents 2.0. Can you explain what the product does and can you speak about first results?

PP: The ecosystem is far too complex. Our Agents interface has made it simple for media buyers to use, combine and operate complex data in one interface, often integrated into their own platforms. The new release, Agents 2.0, brings even more comfort and control to a media buyer’s work flow, whether for direct or programmatic buys. We kept hearing about the desire to connect display buys with other channels (e.g. connecting SEM and Social with Display), and to buy more intuitively. Keywords matter. The new release gives our users incredible flexibility to operate custom segments effectively and get analytics across the exchanges. Our customers and their clients understand this powerful method quite well. A number of customers have adopted Agents 2.0. While we’re very pleased with the results, we are not yet in a position to discuss them publicly.

The Makegood: Precision and confidence of ad placement is very important in today’s vast accessible inventory. What can marketers expect to be next in the online advertising ecosystem and how will that affect their business?

PP: There is a lot of education to be done to help companies get more out of the digital power they already have. Many are just beginning to make their media buying processes easy, and use analytics effectively. Accurate and actionable data will improve the landscape a lot, as it enables both sellers and buyers to properly value their inventory. There is work to be done around buying quality inventory, and around working with publishers to bring more quality inventory to the market. More simplification by platforms is needed to increase spend. This will happen through the vertical integration of transactional platforms. It also requires deeper integration into the work flows of marketers, to make the full data spectrum actionable. Only full access to data can adequately support the messaging along the customer’s decision journey.

The Makegood: Thanks, Phillip.