MediaMind: From Eyeblaster to Nervous System

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mediamindADOTAS – Following the dotcom crash 10 years ago, digital advertising technology companies like Eyeblaster (which rebranded on Tuesday as MediaMind) gave birth to rich media, designed to entice brands and advertisers into the online space by offering them something familiar from other mediums. The company name denoted its unique rich media offering: EyeBlaster, advertising that blasted across the page straight into the retina.

A decade later, there’s no need to coax brands online. “If I profiled every user of our system today, it’s gone way beyond that,” says Dean Donaldson, director of digital experience, as we sip on curiously strong mind erasers (equal parts vodka, Kahlua and tonic water) under the dim lights of the Howell Raines Law Room. The thinking behind the drinks is not to wipe clear Eyeblaster’s many accomplishments in digital advertising, but to refresh the viewscreen and offer an updated view of a company that initially made a name for itself in rich media.

“How does rich media integrate with standard advertising?” Donaldson postulates. “What about mobile and where that’s going? It’s much more intelligent, much more advanced; clients are looking at media-buying optimization, creative personalization.”

A few years ago, Eyeblaster breached the borders of rich media advertising to offer standard display and search. As the team melded and analyzed the data, the most important emerging factor was the interaction between display and search — mainly that the former stimulated the latter, a finding highlighted in research released earlier this year.

In 2005 Eyeblaster began developing the MediaMind platform with the goal of creating a consolidated platform to offer better campaign management. Its internal foundation had not been redesigned in 10 years as all products had sprung off legacy systems — MediaMind would be a reimagining from the bottom up. Over the three years of construction, the focus of MediaMind changed to a workflow management solution that stitched together data from a plethora of sources. The rebuilt platform was developed to be incredibly open and incorporate numerous data streams while providing and correlating multiple digital channels.

MediaMind the product had its official unveiling last September and quickly has been adopted by hundreds of agencies and advertisers worldwide as as their primary digital advertising vehicle. Soon after the launch came the realization that Eyeblaster had outgrown its brand — thus the brand makeover introduced on Tuesday, rechristening the independent digital advertising company under the name of its flagship product: MediaMind.

“We can’t have a brand that talks about creative formats — there’s so much more included in the whole process,” Donaldson says. “We felt MediaMind was more representative of the intelligent media space.” It signals the relevant advertising consumers are looking for today versus the pop-up banners that were apropos a decade ago.

Consider that it took from 1994 to 1999 to develop the rich media standard (remember your 14K modem?), broadband penetration has progressed advertising at something akin to warp speed. Eyeblaster launched its first “floating ad” unit in 2001, followed by its first use of repurposed TV creative as a 2 megabyte video ad in 2004.

Soon after came the introduction of video standards in all formats including the infamous pre-roll. Currently add social media video integration into the online portrait along with mobile rich media off to the side. Interestingly, mobile advertising has developed in a fraction of the time as online, showing that the development cycle is always shrinking.

“What’s more important is that we started to see the rise of smart advertising,” Donaldson says. “Take the microsite ad: rather than click-through to a website, you brought the website forward, offering a relevant consumer experience where they were.”

Consumers are demanding such intelligent advertising and seek targeting and personalization — they want technology to work around them, Donaldson notes. So advertisers are wising up, demanding far more than mass media buys. In essence, the desire goes beyond intelligent advertising to intelligent ad serving — potentially across all channels.

In a space is still incredibly fragmented where niche startups appear every day, Donaldson argues that agencies need a consolidated viewpoint. MediaMind aims to be a hub for campaign management, a nervous center that links to all the channels of the digital space, aiming to establish connections wherever consumers may be — via targeted, mobile, social media, etc. However, the chief benefit of a consolidated front is coordinating measurements across all elements and tying them together to see how they affect each other.

“Agencies are linking everything together — they’re much more holistic — and this is why we can’t talk about TV over here and mobile over there and exchanges right there, social media here,” Donaldson explains. “All of it must be encompassed in a campaign.”

“Agencies struggle to tackle different innovative approaches — just training people to be proficient with analytics, workflow tools and optimization,” chimes in Gal Trifon, MediaMind CEO and cofounder. “These are things that never existed offline — every dollar that moves online is suddenly so much more opportunistic…. With all these opportunities our clients are interested in — whether it’s exchange buys, creative optimization, emerging media on mobile and tablets — we always come up with a way to incorporate that into the framework of the platform.”

In particular, agency clients are excited about the potential behind buying audiences, optimizing and creating efficiency in their media buys. Donaldson notes the trend is already in action — Chanel did takeovers on the Microsoft Network last year. For such a huge luxury brand to move online beyond Vogue magazine is ludicrous, he says, but targeting opened up a test area for them that they would have never considered before.

However, such targeting shouldn’t be a separate objective from premium medium buys but an extension.

“They need to sit together,” Trifon comments. “If you do separate remnant and lower-quality inventory buys, you don’t know how to connect your users with the destinations you use on the premium side of the equation…. Running them side-by-side creates efficiency and establishes comfort in terms of audience.”

Exactly why MediaMind is a wide-open platform — to integrate its own developments with agencies, a conversation Donaldson can’t imagine having had two or three years ago. MediaMind allows clients to execute audience targeting campaigns through agencies’ internal DSPs and facilitate agreements with exchanges to increase frequency.

“Our vision for the future is that our platform provides its own targeting tools as well as open APIs for clients to choose whichever solutions they want,” Trifon adds. The consolidation continues!

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