What inspired the beginnings of eXelate?
EXelate’s founding was really driven by our belief that, simply put, “data is the next media”. Data has the power to create valuable relationships between consumers, advertisers and publishers by delivering a more powerful and effective advertising experience.
The information about a user is just as important as where that user is interacting with an ad, and therefore is on equal standing regarding impact and value as media. Our CEO and founder, Iri Zohar, saw this in 2006 after building and selling an ad network and realizing the gap between delivery and performance that data could fill. He, along with our CTO, Elad Efraim, have spent the last 2 years building out our patent-pending data segmentation system to put data on the same footing as media in the eyes of ad buyers and sellers.
What is your previous experience in the industry and what about it best appeals to what you are doing with eXelate?
I have been in the industry since the pre-pre bubble days (think Mosaic 1.0). I started off on the agency side working on some of the earliest personal online marketing efforts for players like Chase, Priceline and IBM, then moved to the web services segment in the early days of video streaming and finally ended up in the Network advertising business for the last few years. So over the last decade+ I have been on the buy, sell and deliver sides of the online media business. Because of this, I have a unique viewpoint of the demands of all of the players involved. The one thing that links all of them together is data, so being at eXelate is the perfect melding of all of my previous positions.
What is a Data eXchange and how do you provide value to your customers as a Data eXchange?
A data eXchange is essentially a marketplace for targeting information. Sellers of targeting data include top branded websites, social networks, widget and application companies. Buyers include top ad networks, agencies and advertising optimization engines. eXelate not only connects these buyers and sellers, we also add a layer of data segmentation and performance optimization, so that buyers and sellers both drive the highest ROIs from the transaction.
What is your position on behavioral targeting?
Behavioral targeting is much maligned, but mostly misunderstood. As long as it is addressed in a privacy-safe manner (no-PII, transparent and open agreements with data providers), BT can offer consumers, advertisers and publishers a richer online experience. In the challenging economic landscape, it also offers a welcome ROI lift for advertisers for whom the lift from contextual based advertising just doesn’t cut it.
Do you find challenges in protecting data ownership on an open marketplace?
When it comes to data ownership, our eXchange is based on two key tenets. The first is that managing user privacy is critical in both ensuring a good consumer experience and fostering industry growth. That’s why eXelate advocates higher standards of data protection such as never storing user profiles and allowing for centralized consumer “cookie” opt-out and management.
The second is that we believe that once the consumer has been treated with respect, the publisher is the ultimate owner of the user data and deserves to be compensated for that data. There are too many people playing in the fringes right now, taking user data from publishers without compensating them for it. eXelate’s eXchange is based on ensuring that the publishers are empowered members of the data community.
How do you ensure an escalation of ROI for networks that work with you?
The eXchange’s fortunes are solely based on whether or not the data provided by our sellers provides a performance lift for eXchange data buyers. Our role is to qualify, segment and optimize those data pools, so that we can maximize the ROI for the networks – allowing them to turn RON inventory to targeted impressions.
And now, with the launch of our Campaign Insight program, we can virtually guarantee success for Ad Networks. With eXelate Insight, data buyers get a snapshot of how different data pools enhance their advertising’s performance – before they pay for it. In this manner, they can find just the right targeting segments that create the optimal lift for their campaigns. So in essence we provide them with a 100% guarantee of data performance before they target (and pay for) a single BT based impression.
How do you make ads “more relevant and of interest to you,” as opposed to multiplying ads for your advertisers?
Behavioral targeting is based on the “less is more” concept, which in today’s economic climate is extremely timely. We provide targeting information that allows advertisers to deliver fewer impressions to greater effect. The end result for consumers in the long run is more relevancy and less clutter, driven by the need for less “shotgun saturation” of the user experience.
What is your opinion on the ad network and the growing numbers of them? Is the ad network still the “wave of the future” so to speak or will many drop off?
Ad networks definitely play an important role in the online advertising ecosystem, and generally don’t get enough credit for the “heavy lifting” that they do to keep that environment humming. For every publisher or advertiser that maligns them, there is another to whom they owe their livelihood. That being said, there will certainly be a leveling-off of the number of ad networks in the next 18 months.
Those who do not have some level of differentiation, either through partnerships with data companies like eXelate or other unique selling propositions will have a tough time. In true Darwinian style, the online ecosystem will definitely evolve in the near future.
How transparent is eXelate with users about the usage of cookies?
Has the business at eXelate been affected by the downturn in the economy?
Although the downturn as a whole doesn’t bode well in general for the industry, eXelate’s business continues to grow. As times get tough, advertisers will continue to put a greater focus on accountability, performance and maximizing eCPM. Publishers will be looking to extract the highest amount of return for their audience relationships. Data plays a huge role in this. The targeting solutions that our data eXchange generates result in more opportunities for ad networks to increase ROI and create a new revenue outlet for publishers.
What’s next on the books for eXelate?
In the coming 18 months, we’re going to focus on growing the depth and breadth of the eXchange’s data footprint well beyond the 80M Monthly UV and 15 targeting segments that we currently have as well as continue to leverage our Data Optimization Lab to provide increasingly refined, and effective targeting pools for our Network partners.
You talk a lot about data, yet a lot of people are afraid of data. Why are you focused on data, and how do you allay people’s fears?
We focus on data because data is the DNA of online marketing, the basic building block for creating online marketing campaigns. Beyond that, it’s also the purest and most transparent currency. Data is data – you can’t make it into something it’s not.
We allay people’s fears by being as transparent as possible about our use of data. For consumers, eXelate gives them centralized control over what data is collected on them and never work with personally identifiable data. For data sellers, we give them an interface into the eXchange (our teXi system) that allows them to see exactly what is happening with their data, how much revenue it is generating, and more. For data buyers, eXelate’s Campaign Insight program strips away the ambiguities of “black box” behavioral data targeting and opens up what the real targeting potential can be.
We believe that if the industry remains open and honest with the public regarding the targeting practices used, people will understand that there is nothing to worry about. This starts with how we treat our fellow business players in the BT chain – providers, advertisers and networks – and trickles down to consumers.