Ad Age: You guys started a business that, despite your
age, feels like one that should have been developed by ad
executives who've been in the trenches a while.
Mr. Turner: It's funny. We met with a VC, and he said
that "businesses like yours" are typically done by older people who
knew what they were doing prior to doing it. "Why don't you go
start the next Facebook?" is what he told us. But we had these
great advisers who were in this space who didn't have the energy
anymore to start their own thing. What we were lacking was the
industry knowledge. We knew nothing. But we knew how to build
things. We just needed a product to build. So a few key people
early on told us what was happening in display advertising --
basically how media buying was changing.
There were a couple of options. The sell side, the AdMelds of
the world; the buy side, which we ended up doing; the exchanges;
and the data side. And all those things were happening at once. We
decided to go on the buy side. We wanted to be close to where the
dollars are starting.
Ad Age: Were you aware that there were other players in
the space already?
Mr. Turner: MediaMath founded itself about six months
prior to us, but the term DSP [demand-side platform] didn't come
around for two years. We called it a universal buying platform.
Mr. Weinberg: But we were the only ones doing it as
software. The others used human agents to do all the buying. And it
was this very inefficient system. About 30% of every dollar spent
was lost in overhead.
Ad Age: You say that for a software solution to really
work, it has to plug into an exchange where people can bid on ad
inventory on the fly. These exchanges didn't exist when you
Mr. Turner: There were basically two exchanges when we
started. Neither of them were real time. So we had to make a bet
that the exchanges would go real time. In financial markets you
need an e-trade solution to access all the exchanges. In display,
as long as there are two exchanges, then you need something to talk
across them all. We felt that if Google does it, everyone else will
do it, and all of a sudden there was a need for a broker.
Ad Age: So what's the advantage of having a broker like
Mr. Turner: We only take a transaction fee. We're not
hiding what we're taking. It's an online brokerage system. ... Like
AdMeld -- they label themselves as optimizers for publishers, but
to us, they're just a supply source we can bid into. They look the
same as AdX.
Ad Age: So publisher optimizers like AdMeld or Rubicon
help publishers by allowing them to take the best bids on their
inventory in their exchange. How does Invite help advertisers?
Mr. Turner: One of the biggest things is that now it's
transparent. Now the advertisers can come in and say, "I can access
12 exchanges by creating one line item in Invite Media." Before,
they would have to make 30 phone calls, employ 20 people, emailing
ad tags back and forth. Asking, "How much inventory do you have?"
All this back and forth. In Invite, you just create a campaign, and
you can see what's available and press go and it's done.
More specifically, our system asks: What are your budgets?
What's your max bid? What's your targeting? What's your flight
dates? The system essentially looks at every exchange pretty much
in the same way. Looks at every impression regardless of where it's
coming from, and does it meet the criteria for the advertiser. If
it does, it bids on it. If it wins, it serves the ad. Simple as
Ad Age: Lately, a number of private ad exchanges have
emerged. How does that affect your business?
Mr. Turner: We already have a lot of private inventory,
through Google AdX, and we have private inventory with AdMeld.
Mr. Weinberg: It's not a separate exchange. Think of it
as restrictions. As a publisher, you have a piece of inventory you
want to sell, but restricted to a specific group.
Mr. Turner: For example, Forbes has inventory. They would
say, 'I only want the top 50 brands in the world to run ads on my
site.' They'll say to Invite, 'You're more than welcome to bid on
my inventory as long as it's one of these 50 people.' It's what
advertisers were doing before, saying they only want brand-safe
Ad Age: But aren't there are some exchanges like the one
formed by The New York Times Co. that are closed to other buying
systems like yours?
Mr. Turner: They have to have a real-time bidding system.
Companies like us may just not be able to bid today. But eventually
when they open up that system to allow companies like us to connect
in, then we'll integrate like we do with any other exchange.
Ad Age: What's the advantage of fixed price?
Mr. Turner: Let's say a year ago, if I'm AT&T, and I
want to go to a set of five publishers and purchase a million
impressions, I'd have to go to them and sign an I/O and then
whatever million they sent me, that's what I got. In the new
system, you may commit to a million impressions, but then you can
pick which million.
Ad Age: Which impressions?
Mr. Turner: Think of it as this impression was in
Florida; this was in Texas.
Ad Age: Isn't that how advertisers buy now?
Mr. Turner: A lot of them buy impressions that meet their
performance goals. An airline just wants to sell tickets on their
website. It's less like TV buying -- I want to buy ESPN because it
has males between 16 and 24. They want to buy any impression that
generates sales for them.
Ad Age: Google announced it will be including video into
AdX soon. Will other exchanges follow? And what's keeping video
from becoming as full-fledged as display advertising?
Mr. Turner: The way we think about Invite, we're not
specific to display. So if you have a video exchange, there will be
that for mobile and rich media, our vision is to enable those new
mediums in the same interface clients are using for display today.
The key is the exchanges have to be there. We don't go out and
procure that inventory.
Mr. Weinberg: There's a little more technology that has
to be built on both sides. It takes time for the engineering to
Mr. Turner: Invite has to build certain things. The
exchanges have to build certain things. A lot of it is the buyers
themselves. You have to have the buyers be ready to spend the money
on video. And they're getting there. You have to have the money to
spend, and then the publisher has to step up and say, "OK, I'll
sell my video inventory through exchanges.
Mr. Weinberg: We as an industry spent 2010 getting
display right. 2011 is about building infrastructure for video and
mobile and rich media. And then you'll start to see that type of
buying grow by end of this year, and 2012 is when it'll pick