Esther Yang, a pioneer in transforming internet surfers into buyers, founded UniQlick in 2010 to help advertisers execute smarter digital campaigns in China.
"UniQlick's technology increases the conversion of audiences into customers who buy things and engage and ask about information. That's the real value of our technology," Ms. Yang said.
It's a speech she has delivered to many media agencies in China, and some are vocal advocates, such as Clement Tsang, head of ZenithOptimedia's Performics unit. "Her work has seen her cross over from the agency side to technology platforms, giving her the skill set and capability to identify agency challenges and offer mutual understanding and delivery of what they need in the evolving digital media marketplace."
Others still shy away, partly because learning how to apply the technology is complicated.
"Local agencies are used to buying inventory on cost-per-day basis. Real-time bidding allows them to bid for audience segments minute by minute, via technology utilizing data that is powering the technology," Ms. Yang said. "The issue is that traditional agency people, even the digital teams, often do not understand how to bid or optimize a campaign."
The ones who do get it tend to be the search-engine marketing teams, who know marketers need data to make accurate assessments about whether web users are interested in a subject or product.
"We're looking at consumers in real-time, not [research] panels, and trying to determine who they are, where they are in the buying process and what are their interests," she said.
Other challenges are China's opaque media world -- it can be hard to tell who's getting rebates -- and inaccurate data. "There's a lot of fraud, data on customers isn't always accurate or real," Ms. Yang said.
UniQlick's first clients have been local companies like Suning Appliance Co., First Automobile Works and food-processing giant COFCO that often use online media as an e-commerce platform.
"As more and more budgets are going online, these companies want more return on investment and more accountability," said Ms. Yang, who grew up in the U.S. With a background in traditional advertising, she isn't your usual digital-company CEO. She doesn't know code, for instance, which "drives my engineers crazy. I have to talk in nontechnical terms."
Her next challenge is "finding clients who can take advantage of our technology. We were a little bit early in the market, but we're starting to make that turn and see big customers investing in technology, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble. It's a good sign for us."