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Q&A: Serial Entrepreneur & ‘Secret Millionaire’ John Ferber Discusses His New Native RTB Company

Written on
Feb 18, 2014 
Author
Richard L. Tso  |

ADOTAS – Last week, Advertising.com co-founder John Ferber (pictured) unveiled his new venture, Bidtellect – a native ad tech company that, according to the press release announcing its launch, is “committed to bringing the next generation of real-time bidding (RTB) and high-yield technology to Native Advertising in a scalable fashion.” I interpret this to mean that the company helps automate the delivery of native advertisements in contextually relevant places, finally addressing the industry’s biggest concern about native — that it simply doesn’t scale across publisher websites.

The company announced not only its entry to the estimated $5.4 billion marketplace, but also the appointment of new-media industry veteran and serial entrepreneur, Lon Otremba, as CEO.

The Bidtellect platform was built by a illustrious team of proven industry leaders and delivers the first-ever cross-channel bidding platform that combines direct demand-side platform access, direct sell-side platform access, and RTB capability, all featuring Native Ad formats. The platform, focused on the advertisers rather than the publishers, offers both managed service and self-service models to provide an efficient marketplace for high-yield Native advertising.

Among his other credits, Ferber has served as founder and CEO of the charitable donation platform, MicroGiving; co-founder and chairman of Domain Holdings Group; and a featured participant on the ABC reality series, “Secret Millionaire.”

We spoke with Ferber to learn more about Bidtellect and its genesis.

Q: Many are concerned about native being unable to scale. How does Bidtellect help resolve this and deliver programmatic native ads to audiences?

A: Every industry has skeptics and naysayers. The reality is Native is already a multi-billion dollar annually marketing channel globally and projected to grow by double digits annually for the foreseeable future. Overall, I think it’s time for the industry to move on from debating scale and start tackling more pertinent issues. If you think about Native Ads, the first thing that stands out is that virtually all of the different formats actually all have similar characteristics, i.e. they typically all have an image/video, some headline text, supporting text, hyperlink(s) and attribution urls. From an advertiser’s perspective, our platform enables advertisers to provide as many elements of a creative as they have, and our platform acts in the middle between publishers, whereby we take the creative elements and format them on the fly, based on the publisher’s specifications, all through a real-time bidding based process

Q: Why did you start Bidtellect?

A: It must have been something in the water at the Ferber household growing up! All kidding aside there is obviously a combination of passion and intrinsic interest in Internet marketing from both Scott [his brother and co-founder of Advertising.com] and myself. Most people don’t know, but our oldest brother Larry, a trained vascular and thoracic surgeon, largely left the medical profession and joined Videology last year. On a business note, I believe that native works for both advertisers and publishers, and from our experience in creating Advertising.com, facilitating billions of dollars of consumer transactions to advertisers that all backed into their ROI, and paying hundreds of millions and more to publishers, it’s great to be able to be in an industry and provide a service that provides such great value to customers. Meeting Lon Otremba and being able to have an opportunity to build and grow the company with someone as accomplished and genuinely awesome as he is and the rest of the team makes this a dream job for me.

Q: Talk about how the technology works, step by step from DSP to the publisher to the advertiser?

A: Conceptually it’s not unlike how traditional display or other DSPs work – from left to right on the Luma Charts. Advertisers create campaigns on our platform today via managed service, but shortly in a self-service model, [which gives them] the ability to set elements like flight dates, targeting attributes, bid prices, native supply types, etc. Then in the center is the Bidtellect exchange, which acts as an auction house for native ad suppliers and other demand-side platforms that we are integrated in with. The key element with native is to break down the elements of the creative, which occurs via the exchange, and then either we or the publisher format the ad to fit their specifications.

Q: Is the entire ad ecosystem headed towards the native model? How will it take shape in the coming 6 months/2 years?

A: Most opinions in the industry are fairly extremist one way or the other, I think native will continue to proliferate, become bigger, become a larger percentage of spend, but I also believe display and video and all the other formats and types of Internet marketing will continue to grow and all co-exist. Some sites or content you consume won’t lend themselves to native and others will. Same with video, or contextual, etc. I recall when Google AdSense was launched, understandably we had some concern at Advertising.com that it could be a display ad killer, but time has shown that companies like Advertising.com and display in general have grown tremendously, and so has AdSense. And I think publishers have learned over time which types of ads do well with their content, their audience, their site layout, etc.

Q:  What about the future of journalism – will it suffer as brands move towards a more advertorial model?

A: Overall I think it’s up to the publishers and brands to ensure that their audience knows that specific content is advertorial in nature. I believe much like the industry has self-propelled privacy disclosure, cookie opt-out, p3p cookies, the industry will create a platform in which sites can all universally differentiate native versus non-native content and ads.





Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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