Big Data

AdFin’s Jeanne Houweling on Her Company’s New Two-Pronged Platform

Jeanne Houweling Jeanne Houweling is Co-Founder and CEO of AdFin, digital media’s definitive source for real-time market and data analytics. The platform aggregates data from the media marketplace to provide visibility into the programmatic media ecosystem. Jeanne recently spoke with The Makegood about AdFin’s new dashboard.

The Makegood: Hi Jeanne, your company, AdFin is releasing dashboards to help provide “transparency” on what the real-time supply-and-demand of audience inventories are trading at. Can you explain how that will work, logistically?

Until now, people haven’t had enough access and visibility into their data to make the best buying and selling decisions. Often this data is stored in many different databases or with several different vendors.  Creating a single new report can take weeks. Plus, companies have to deal with vast amounts of data that is often unstructured and poorly organized. Accessing data and making it actionable is a hard problem to solve for. So AdFin’s platform offers companies two layers of insight: business-intelligence, analytics and reporting tools that enable a customer to see all of their own data in one user interface; and the Market Index — a tool that translates the disparate data of other companies into one common language, enabling customers to benchmark their performance against those of the market as a whole, and to do price discovery queries across dimensions that matter to them in real time.

The workflows our team has built help our customers to both save money and generate new revenue. Trading desks love it because they finally have an intuitive, actionable view on what’s happening across the market. Independent agencies now have much better access to great, usable data, enabling them to grow budgets from current customers and attract new ones. DSP’s, SSP’s and exchanges have access to the information their customers have been asking for, and can better manage and grow their businesses.  Logistically, integration with AdFin is a very straightforward and fast process requiring very limited resources on the customer’s end.  We simply need access to log files, the metadata to translate the data fields and a call or two to resolve any discrepancies or inconsistencies.  In about two weeks, AdFin will deliver the platform populated with your data and train your teams on how to make the most of the tools.

The Makegood: How did this idea come to be? What has the development of this process entailed?

One of our founders, Jonathan Leitersdorf, was at a social event with a senior leader at a major agency who was talking about how their agency allocates RTB spend, and how difficult it is to know how much you’re spending on different campaigns across many publishers. Coming from a financial background, Jonathan was surprised to learn that the advertising world didn’t offer the kind of transparency that he was used to — that many big agencies didn’t even know how much they were spending on different sites because they were relying on someone else to do it. So he started looking for people who came from our industry and would know how to address this challenge.

One of the first people he found was Milosz Tanski, who had been the architect of Google AdMeld’s Real-Time Bidding exchange. Milosz built the piece that did the auctioning and ad serving, and built it so that it could scale. Then he became a lead developer on Apple’s iCloud. Milosz knew the advertising data sets we are dealing with and had the technical expertise to build a platform from the ground up to address these problems. Since leaving PubMatic — the first SSP to launch RTB — where I was CRO, I had been looking at companies that had big data expertise and could help solve the problems of my customers, many of whom I had worked with for a decade or longer. A senior advisor of Jonathan’s recommended he contact me.  I flew out to New York, spent the weekend meeting with Jonathan and Milosz, and we agreed that weekend to create our business and start to make an amazing impact on digital media.  Where Milosz has the technical genius, I understand the business side, know what our customers really want and need, and have the relationships AdFin needs to grow. It was a great match.

By its nature, programmatic as a solution is a win for both buyers and sellers. But it works only if each side has access to a lot of information. Unfortunately, the necessary data tends to live in silos, making it hard to correlate info across campaigns and across the many platforms that buyers and sellers use. There’s an opportunity for everyone from the marketer to the publisher to become much smarter and more efficient. Our vision is to help that happen by offering a neutral unbiased platform for both buyers and sellers, sharing data in order to drive more transparency, trust and spend — helping the whole market grow.

The Makegood: Do you think there may be issues with getting agencies to adopt this new system? If not, what other challenges do you think you may run into?

As mentioned, AdFin’s platform has two layers: The Market Index, which provides price discovery across exchanges in real time, and the other layer comprises the BI tools, reporting and analytics that enable a customer to look at all sources of data within a single UI and benchmark those against the market. The key applications were designed with specific input from prospective customers to help them generate and save money. Agency trading desks like this because it helps them prove to clients — and themselves — that their buys are efficient. Broader agencies like it because it helps them build better campaign strategies in less time, as well as shorten campaign test cycles. Our goal is to change the way people think about actionable data – to give people the ability to access and act on data in the short, medium and long term. Because this level of visibility is new, there’s a process of education, of course. It takes time to teach prospective partners that we’re not exposing their domains or their brand’s spend, and not to fear transparency in general. Some agencies, DSPs and SSPs are unaware of what they can do with the information they have. They don’t yet know what can be done with a platform this powerful. They’re learning.

The Makegood: How has the emergence of ‘big data’ helped you in the workplace and in the process of putting this platform together?

Milosz and I have been working with big data for the better part of a decade, albeit in different capacities. We both have a deep knowledge of what datasets look like and from where they are derived. We know how to turn datasets into business drivers. We’re deeply experienced from a technical standpoint on what can be done, and on the business side we know what the opportunities have been and where the dangers lie. We understand how to use visualization, actionable analytics and predictive analytics to generate revenue. We know which facts are relevant, and we know how to make them actionable for a publisher and an agency, so they can expand their budgets and hit their targets more precisely. We turn their data into a forward-looking story.

The Makegood: What is the ideal endgame for this product? Where do you see it going?

The platform initially is focused on programmatic data for display, mobile and video across all screens and all sales channels— a neutral trusted platform that sits on the desktop of anyone who’s buying or selling media and has applications from the executive suite to the optimization team. Our vision is to be digital media’s definitive source for market data and analytics.  We partner with industry organizations and best of breed innovators to create common language and tools to further simplify and grow the market.  We work with our customers to understand their KPI’s and build flexible tools to allow them to grow.  Expanding beyond digital into programmatic out-of-home, we will continue to serve both buyers and sellers with the goal of building deeper, more trusting relationships between both sides and driving more spend in digital media. As an industry, we’ve now reached a scale and sophistication where we can introduce some of the key instruments that have been available to the financial markets for years — this time, in order to accelerate growth in digital media.

The Makegood: Thank you, Jeanne