ADOTAS – For many companies, expanding means aiming big, but online business intelligence provider BI Science has kicked off 2011 by going small… Or rather smaller. Having accumulated a high-profile list of enterprise-class clients, the developer of GeoSurf — a toolbar that allows advertisers and publishers to experience advertising in another country — among other online business intelligence products is setting its sights on small and medium players in the industry.
We sat down for a chat with Vice President of Business Development and cofounder Cameron Peron to discuss the importance of business intelligence for all players in online advertising as well as BI’s new focus on SMBs.
ADOTAS: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What inspired you to start BI Science?
PERON: I’ve worked in the online marketing industry for more than six years. During this time, I’ve found that the there is an enormous gap between interacting with real-time content in countries that one may have a position in and the actual decisions we would make in initiating media buys and selling inventory in those countries. In other words, without having a physical office in the countries where you may be publishing, advertising or mediating, you simply have little if no control over one’s online investments and work nearly in the dark. Together with the other founders in BI Science, we created GeoSurf, a tool that gives you the local user internet experience in high value countries and US metro areas.
Imagine you are a business development manager for an NYC based ad-network and you want to run a test pilot in the casual gaming (minclip)/Facebook application display channel in Spain. Generally speaking the media buyer would request a test budget from his manager, quickly search for advertisers/campaigns from their inventory or through a partner agency, and close pilot terms with selected publishers.
What’s missing here? Without GeoSurf, the media buyer cannot make an educated decision about the offers to run because he can’t actually see what creatives, landing pages and agencies are currently running on those publishers and countries. The test budget that he allocates will effectively tell him which offers to focus on and the value of this traffic based on the performance of those campaigns.
This has major implications on both the ROI potential of that test budget, relationship potential he has with those publishers, and the valuation of that publisher/vertical/geo for the next quarter.
With GeoSurf, the media buyer selects Spain and cruises MiniClip and Facebook. After spending just a few minutes, he prepares a list of targeted advertisers and campaigns to include in the pilot, based on those he saw running in real time.
He also notices that a few local agencies were behind some of the campaigns. Before he asks for authorization from the VP of Media, he gets pricing terms from some of the local advertisers and agencies directly and makes a proposal to his VP of Media, effectively saving $Ks in wasted test budgets. Now when they launch the pilot, they have a much better chance at measuring and scaling the potential of the vertical/audience.
Can you give a good example about how targeted advertising or social media and video content can contrast in various geo-locales?
Sure. Let’s look at two examples:
Facebook Ads. Display advertising through Facebook Ads on Facebook is now the largest single online advertising channel in the U.S. by volume. Facebook uses a variety of targeting parameters to target ads to their users, one of the primary being geo-location.
For instance, ads displayed to a user sitting in Los Angeles will be different than the same user viewing those ads in NYC, the same goes for countries. For an advertiser or agency to run an effective campaign on multiple geos, they will use GeoSurf to see what other campaigns are running per city or country, scope out new advertisers to run with, and adjust creatives based on those they see displayed.
Video overlays (pre-roll, post-roll, in-video, etc.). Video is a fast-growing channel and requires careful attention by advertisers and agencies to monetize as the ad formats are not standard, and the experience is much more interactive. Considering that the costs are much higher to operate when compared to other channels, it’s critical that the ad spots are properly monetized.
One of the main differentiators is that video will often times use triggers to display various ad formats and source inventory that changes from country to country. For instance, a video displayed over MetaCafe may source an ad-overlay for U.S. traffic but may display none at all for the same video when viewed in Italy depending on inventory. Our clients will use GeoSurf to analyze real time video ad spots.
How does GeoSurf differ from proxy services? It’s OK to say they’re better if you explain why.
There are definitely differences between GeoSurf and proxy services. I would say that we changed the game in terms of how people look, profile and act on global media, quite simply because, before GeoSurf those handling media within a publisher, advertiser or agency generally worked in the dark or used proxies, which were unreliable and unsecure.
Unreliable. Before GeoSurf, the industry standard was to use free proxies or shady paid proxies. Most of the time, these proxies run through rouge or hacked servers that take a long time to render, manipulate the headers and actual ads that are displayed, work for very short periods, or do not work at all. This has major time cost and opportunity cost implications, where a media buyer or sales person simply wastes time and gets frustrated with the process, and in turn, makes poorly calculated or blind decisions.
Unsecure. Many of our clients are concerned about the data that might be comprised by using an external service. Imagine you are an affiliate network or ad network and are using GeoSurf to see what ads are displayed over your top 50 publishers. The last thing you want is to have a list of your 50 top publishers, and the frequency of your views on those publishers in the wrong hands.
Some free proxy services do exactly that. Many of our agency clients chose to work with us based on the security guarantee that we make – all sites, behavior, interaction, etc. that is initiated through GeoSurf is secured and not shared with anyone under any circumstances whatsoever (with the exception of government subpoenas).
Another key differentiator that we are focusing is the ease of interacting with our gateways – specifically with the toolbar. Rather than fuss with changing the configuration within the browser, we’ve built in an easy solution that’s adaptable to media a professional’s tool set. We do offer a VPN client for clients that interact with content outside of a browser (desktop apps, messenger applications, etc.), a mobile solution for iPhones/iPads and Smart Phones, and the ability to connect to our servers via API (advanced use with server to server applications).
What kind of advertisers and agencies is BI Science trying to attract? How do you market your services?
We are attracting a very wide range of advertisers, agencies and publishers. Some of our larger advertiser and agency clients include Epic Advertising, 888 and Wix. We’ve also have managed to address a growing interest from smaller agencies, affiliates, bloggers and others that may have smaller budgets, but still need to see how multichannel ads are displayed in countries important to them.
How can publishers take advantage of your offerings?
Publishers are some of our biggest clients because they are active in selling their media in different geos and have a brand to build and protect.
Imagine that you are sales manager with a top 500K Alexa publisher. Your responsibility is to sell ad space to advertisers in more than five countries. Sales managers will use GeoSurf to see what advertisers and campaigns are displayed on sites with similar audiences, thus generate leads for new advertisers and agencies to approach, as well a better understanding of the campaigns competing agencies are using in real time.
As for brand protection, imagine that you are a marketing manager and suddenly see that an illicit ad (gambling, adult, other sleazy ad) is displayed on an adspot on you index page. This can have tremendous implications on the loyalty of your users and brand association with the campaigns running on your site. Marketing managers will use GeoSurf to see what ads are running on their site and catch illicit and incompliant ads and stop them before they create further damage.
So how does a marketer use GeoSurf to determine optimal mixture per ad spot in a global campaign?
Let’s use the example of a NYC-based ad network. If his publisher account management team is managing an ad-spot on one of their top 20 publishers, they are under enormous pressure to increase the ECPM threshold for their publishers while still making a margin for themselves. It becomes more challenging when those ad spots are running on traffic outside of their country. Those people managing the ad spot need to find new campaigns or optimize the campaigns with their current advertisers in order to keep the ECPM consistent/growing.
By using GeoSurf toolbar, they can see what campaigns are active on those ad placements in the country that interests them, thus allowing them to source new creatives, landing pages and concepts to incorporate on similar offerings. All of the larger ad networks and publishers are doing this every day.
Are certain advertising verticals more motivated to use BI Science’s services? Why?
On a general level we are active with clients that operate in very specific verticals (travel, gaming, finance, etc.) as well as those that operate on a broader level (ad networks, RON oriented publishers). The value our clients place in operating on a geo-specific level is the fundamental pre-requisite. For instance, we’ve found that some of our agency clients have developed very strong positions on a geo-targeted and multi channel level (both country and U.S. metro level), they otherwise wouldn’t have by having the ability to see who is bidding on their ad-placements.
Why the added emphasis on small business? What’s changed at BI Science?
It’s really more a matter of addressing demand. We have a very strong value proposition to larger enterprise based clients, but are also addressing the needs of smaller clients, which variate primarily in use and country/city access. Sales cycle, interaction and service requires special attention to both.
How do business intelligence solutions for small businesses differ from one for the big boys?
I would say that large players are very enterprise oriented and not very accommodating for smaller clients. This is a tricky issue, as their needs are not as complex, but the value will be significantly lower. You can see that some BI solutions on the market place, primarily those that address the SEM channel are built for small clients, with smaller budgets and very narrow need set.
How are you approaching the social media market? How about social gaming?
Some of our best clients are active in this vertical. I would say that GeoSurf changes the picture in this sector as social oriented companies work in a very competitive environment and need to see geo-targeted content over channels that are require more bandwidth (Facebook, in-game, applications, etc.). GeoSurf gives companies working over social gaming the full interactive experience that the end player has.