Ebuzzing was originally founded at the end of 2007 by 12 year web veteran Bertrand Quesada, whose vision from the beginning focused on offering brands a platform to help scale their PR and ‘buzz’ on social media. Quesada joined forces with Kelkoo founder and serial entrepreneur Pierre Chappaz shortly thereafter with the objective of building Ebuzzing into a European and, ultimately, global leader in the social media and video advertising space. Needless to say, things have been going extremely well for them thus far, having hit a record $52 million in revenues last year.
It’s safe to say that if they keep it up, they’re well on their way to becoming France’s and Europe’s next big tech success story. I had the opportunity to catch-up with both Quesada and Chappaz to discuss Ebuzzing’s evolution and where their headed next.
How has Ebuzzing evolved since its founding?
Chappaz: At the time that Bertrand (Quesada) asked me to join in 2009 as chairman, I also had another startup called Wikio, a search and classification engine for blogs. We decided in 2009 to merge Wikio with Ebuzzing as we realized that Wikio’s technology would be a fantastic tool for ad campaign targeting within social networks. It also allowed us to create a campaign analysis reporting tool which far outpaced anything else available on the market. We could now tell our clients, not just how many people viewed their brand’s video, but also what they were saying about the video, how the share of voice of their brand evolved vs that of their competitors, etc. From that point on we could show the brands the real impact of their ad campaigns. Currently there’s virtually no one else in Europe or the US who can match this.
In terms of international development, we very much view ourselves as a European company (rather than a French company). As Europe is a diverse market, with different languages, laws, etc, the only thing that is consistent across these markets is the awareness of and respect for our differences. From my perspective, if you want to be strong in and expand across Europe, you can’t be afraid to make acquisitions, or rather mergers. What interests me most in a merger is the people and our work together (as a team), so we when we do a merger we generally do a straightforward exchange of shares. It’s in this way that we transformed Ebuzzing into a European company. More specifically, in addition to the 2009 Wikio merger, we did a series of mergers; one in Italy, one in Germany, a few additional technology companies in France (ie Overblog), and a merger last year with our largest competitor in France BeeAd.
How does Ebuzzing ‘work’? What makes you different vs other ad platforms?
Chappaz: It’s important to stress that we’re first and foremost a very technology-oriented company. For example, we’re 200 people at Ebuzzing and 50 of us are developers. It’s what allows us to deliver a good service and offers with a solid technological foundation.
As for how it works, it’s important to remember that most of the time when people think about video advertising they think Youtube and, specifically, ‘pre-roll’ ads. That’s not at all what we do. What we do is distribute video advertising outside of video feeds and, instead, in social or other content feeds. So, our primary distribution channels are social networks, which were the initial focus of Ebuzzing, and media sites, which were the initial focus of BeeAd. We’re capable of doing campaigns in 40 different countries and probably have the most powerful distribution network outside of Youtube (at the moment).
Another important point is that most video advertising is ‘forced advertising’, which, in my opinion, is not acceptable on the internet. Our technology, however, allows us not only to improve ad targeting based on users’ interests, but also allows us to give users a choice amongst several ads. So, for example, we could offer users free access to an article or service if they watch one of several video ads. So the user ultimately makes the choice, which drives engagement.
Do people respond well to this type of advertising?
Chappaz: Yes. What we find when we look at the behavior within social networks or blogs, for example, is that people don’t only view these ads, but they also share them.
Quesada: The thing to remember as well is that today, particularly in social networks, there is more and more content that is created with the objective that it be shared and commented on by users. Branded content is a reality now. There is also a value exchange between the user and the media, and the user expects to be exposed to advertising content. But the difference here is that they’re not forced to watch a particular ad, they have a choice between several ads via our video selector. Giving users choice helps improve ad campaign performance.
Where’s Ebuzzing heading next?
Quesada: We feel that the future of this sector is the enrichment of video itself. When a user watches an ad, they don’t simply watch the ad. They are also looking for an experience with the brand and, more specifically, an experience that is enriching that they want to continue. A good example is this ad I’m looking at now by Kia. I’m a big fan of what Kia’s doing here, namely the interactivity of the video; I can play with it, it’s fast, memorable, and leaves a positive impression. We work a lot in this direction. We want to enable creation of enriching video ads that will transform the experience for the user and, ultimately, improve the performance of ad campaigns.
Chappaz: In terms of our growth, 2013 is our US expansion year. We already have a presence there and have two colleagues, Frédéric Montagnon and Julien Romanetto, already in NYC growing the business and opening our office in Manhattan (this month) where we’re looking to recruit about 15 people. We know the US market quite well because Bertrand has been spending a good amount of time there building the business. We think that our offer focusing on video distribution via media sites will do well in the US market because it’s basically without equivalent there and creates a new way for media sites to monetize.
Quesada: We also have several clients in Asia and will continue to focus on serving clients there. However, for the moment, we’re not expanding operationally there. The focus right now is Europe, where we’ve built a solid business, and the US.
What about things like connected TV on the horizon, which I imagine will also be a big driver of interactive advertising. Is this an important development for you?
Chappaz: Yes, but still a ways off. For the moment TV advertising is still disconnected from the internet. It doesn’t even allow you to target consumers or programs as well as you can on the internet. In order for this to change, television needs to be able to support technologies such as HTML5. This would allow TV content (video) to be treated like ‘web objects’, enabling us to create a true interactive, engaging experience for the viewer. On the web, unlike TV, we can create a personalized, geolocalized, and interactive message and experience. This is the future and why at the moment we’re starting to see more and more shifting of ad spending from TV to the internet.
If you’re interested in keeping up with Ebuzzing check-out their corporate blog here in French and here in English (also available in German, Spanish, and Italian) . It’s one of the best corporate blogs I’ve seen and offers great insight on the social and online advertising space, info on how they’re evolving, etc, so definitely worth a look.