The advertising sector has undergone a fundamental transformation over the last 10+ years. Starting with Google’s adwords to Facebook’s social network/ad platform to Criteo’s leadershing in retargeting, technology and innovation have completely changed the game in advertising. As with Finance, advertising is now moving into the machine-to-machine world, with decisions around media mix moving quickly moving towards automation. We are now in the thick of the real-time marketing revolution.
RadiumOne, which was started in 2009, has been at the forefront of this new trend, expanding quickly around the world. They launched in France and Southern Europe in 2012, where the business is led by Dailymotion veteran Frédéric Bellier. I caught up with Bellier recently after they participated in our Job Fair earlier this month to understand a bit more about what they do, where they’re going, and how the advent of automation is shaking up advertising.
Tell me about RadiumOne and what you do?
What we do is very much adtech, leveraging technology to drive decisions about ad spending. We even have two patents which you tend to find a lot on other areas of tech or real hard-core science, rather than adtech. But at the end of the day our job is to help brands push their message towards the right audience or right context to enable them to sell their products better.
We mix media and audience planning as much as we mix technology, machine learning and human interaction. Sure what we do is focused on real-time bidding, which relies heavily on machines and technology. But it also requires the input of people and the right type of skill set to pilot it. Right now real-time automation means faster marketing. There’s a massive acceleration. But like in Formula One you need to have a good car, and also a great driver to drive it.
What about your clients?
We have four types of clients:
- Advertisers in different sectors (e.g. FMCG companies)
- Ad agencies as they generally manage the media spend of most of the biggest advertisers (both large and smaller specialized agencies)
- Publishers/editors (i.e. Time, Conde Nast) who are trying to both sell lots of ad space to sell and figure out how to better monetize their audience. Publishers, in particular, have a lot to gain from real-time marketing
- Rights/content holders, including entertainment oriented companies such as the Premier League or Manchester United. They have huge audiences for their content, but could monetize that content better via their brand(s)
Although these clients seem quite different, they all have big issues around audience monetization. However you look at it, all of them have the challenge of how to connect with people and attract them to their brands. So our platform basically offers the ingredients that can be adapted or changed to each of these different client group’s needs and specific objectives.
I assume the market your in (i.e. real-time marketing) is a very competitive one?
It’s a very noisy space. Programmatic only started around 2007, and the ‘old players’ (those who started before 2010 when the market started to take-off) are in the process of pivoting as most of them had a DNA that was really adapted to the shift to real-time marketing. Then you have the pure-players such as RadiumOne. Similar to the mid-eighties where you had a financial big bang and everything changed, 2010/2011 was the big bang for advertising – the move towards machine-to-machine. So now you’ve had a lot of entrants and it’s a very crowded and noisy market. As a result, it’s difficult for those who have money (potential clients) and want to spend, to figure out who’s doing what and who they should work with. The brands often don’t do the right due diligence to figure out which companies are doing true tech-rooted programmatic advertising and the ones just claiming to.
How is the ad sector transforming?
Media has become very fragmented across many different screens. You don’t have all of the audience, like 20 years ago, focused on one screen (i.e. TV). So, it has been more challenging to reach the right audience in the right form. So our technology is all about being omnichannel and being agnostic and holistic in terms of device. Brands understand now that it’s not so easy to find all the people you want to reach engaging with only one medium at one point in time. With automation though, things are moving so fast now for marketers. They can’t think about media planning communication as they did before. They need, instead, to think about audience planning communication. Thinking just about media is too restrictive. It’s too siloed.
How do you communicate to marketers and other clients how things have now changed?
In the digital sector, we tend not to be very good at explaining things to those outside the sector. But, what we’ve done since the beginning is that, although we know ad technology is complex, we ask the client what the problem is that their trying to solve. We try to explain to our clients what we do in the context of the problems they’re trying to solve. We go further to explain that for advertising, audience, and inventory buying today, you have access to ad exchanges and that we have our own technology to access these exchanges. It’s kind of like an investor who say, has $10k and is looking for a ROI but has a certain risk profile. He then may have someone who invests on his behalf and then places his money in gold, shares or other financial vehicles to attempt to maximize his ROI, but respecting his level of risk. This analogy can be now the applied to what we do in the ad sector.
You run the southern Europe region for RadiumOne. Do you find there significant within this region or vs other regions/markets?
For sure if we take a classic split between the ‘latin’ and ‘anglo-saxon/northern europe’ worlds there are some differences, particularly in terms of the programmatic market where countries like the UK and Netherlands are very strong. That being said, France is a very active in this regard as it’s currently #2. France, Italy, Spain and other parts of S European tend to have the same types of market structuring – agencies have a lot of power, off-line media is very powerful – Italy and France are still very much TV markets. However in markets such as the UK, digital is the number one medium. On some aspects though, such as video or retargeting, S Europe (if we include France) is pretty dynamic and you actually have leaders, such as Criteo or Teads, in the sector.
How have things been developing in France. What’s next for RadiumOne?
We’ve moved very fast since launching here. We launched in March 2012 and we’re now 30 in France, but we’re looking to hire 7 more (in France), which we’ll welcome in our new offices in July. We very happy with how things have been developing for us here. But, as a company, our priorities are to make sure we keep growing in a market that’s increasingly crowded, continue to develop the product – this is why we investment so much in R&D – , and continue to expand in new markets; for example, we’ve expanded in Singapore, are looking a bringing people on-board across Asia-Pac, as mentioned, growing quickly in Southern Europe, and have expanded recently into Scandinavia and Northern Europe.