From Madison Ave to Wall Street

Date:   Friday , June 06, 2014

The 4 key tenants needed to progress to make the media marketplaces of tomorrow the financial exchanges of today

Kargo is a provider of mobile brand advertising platform offering brand measurement to advertisers surpassing the traditional mobile experience and improves engagement and interaction for users. Founded in 2003 and headquartered in NewYork, NY, the firm has raised a total funding of $3 million.

The way content is consumed has more drastically evolved in the past ten years than over the previous 100. As such, the advertising technology marketplace has taken note and adjusted to accommodate this phenomenon -- there has been exponential growth in new ventures, product offerings and the ability to implement technology into traditional advertising in ways we have never experienced before. Mobile is another entity on its own -- an additional extension within the digital space.

With this extreme growth comes wide confusion in the media marketplace around ad tech firms and their offerings. The LUMAscape1 does a great job of pointing to the nuances of the ad tech industry and to the sheer number of players in existence, further highlighting the fact that the space is both fragmented and oversaturated. Because of this extreme growth and specialization, there\'s more opportunity than ever for M&A activity to occur based on a company\'s leadership (Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook are active acqui-hirers), their product (SaaS), or niche (mobile-first, data-centric, rich media, etc).

Due to the nature of the different services, products, and exchange environments available, ad tech is often compared to the financial markets - but we are still far off as it relates to standardization and overall legitimacy. From where we stand today, how do the media and digital advertising marketplaces - a nearly $300 billion industry � need to evolve to become the next NYSE? Here are the four core tenants that need to advance to get there.

1. Spot buys and Future buys: Largely, the current media exchange environment is transacted using the real-time bidding of inventory that changes hands immediately. But, when will the space allow for the acquisition of inventory served at a later date? Much of the agency buying model has been predicated on this. The ability to buy now, later and reserve for the future - all priced accordingly - is critical.

2. Liquidity:
Time, ABC, Cond� Nast - the blue chip media companies of the world - need to move onto and fully commit to an exchange. Exchanges are not just for long-tail publisher or remnant inventory. But until that infrastructure allows for the right controls, discoverability, high-impact units and sponsorships, best-in-class publishers will remain using them as a partial sales solution, limiting the full liquidity the exchanges can provide.

3. Standardization & Consolidation:
Marketers and publishers cannot make accurate buying and selling decisions when there is a lack of standardization. From targeting parameters (is location lat-long offered by user opt-in, or extrapolated from the IP address?) to tracked metrics (are these clicks verified and viewable, or just all clicks?) to inventory types (is this expandable in-banner video or non-expandable in-banner video, or true video pre-roll?), each exchange transacts a little differently. This often moves the focus of media buying to \"where do we do it\" versus \"how do we do it better.\" Buyers in the financial markets have evolved past this, looking at trading patterns or fundamentals of a company\'s securities rather than what exchange they are going to purchase them on.

4. Transparency in Pricing and Data:
It may seem like a pipe dream now, but if the media world wants to evolve to become anything close to the financial markets, it would need a \"universal ticker\" to transmit pricing information, based on audience and inventory data. This means breaking data silos that do not talk to each other, more accurate user-matching that relies less on cookies, and historical data from publishers and advertisers based on the proven value of their audience and campaigns. Without consistency and transparency here, the current market is ripe with arbitrage, and \"more data\" becomes the de-facto without much proof of which data piece or ad creative or content juxtaposition led to any real alpha.

The parallels between these two marketplaces are obvious, but the challenges are big with many players offering potential solutions to them. It is only a matter of time before our industry evolves to the NASDAQ or NYSE of today. The question is, how long and by what means will it take to get us there?