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MediaMath is Re-Architecting Digital Marketing to Create Better Connections Between Marketers and Consumers

July 11, 2018 — by Joe Zawadzki

With great enthusiasm and pride, and also a sense of responsibility, I write to highlight the exciting initiatives and people that will build MediaMath’s bright future. We have led our industry for more than ten years, creating one of the largest, most respected independent digital marketing platforms in the world. We’ve done so by being restless innovators and committed collaborators—by constantly driving ourselves, our clients, and our partners toward a better vision of what marketing can and should be.

Today we begin to write our next chapter: a new technology architecture to connect marketers and consumers more effectively, promoting transparency, and preserving trust with measurable, meaningful experiences that are responsive to consumer needs and wants. Backed by $225 million in new financing, we are investing in the people, technology and relationships that will make this vision a reality.

Our vision is to make marketing everyone loves. That takes innovation, partnerships, new technology, and an empowered consumer. With the scale and financial resources commensurate of a publicly-traded company, we now have the means and teams to get it done. Indeed, we’re in an enviable position to be a catalyst for continuous innovation and a consolidator as our industry evolves.

And evolve it must. Our industry is confronting the structural limitations born of its technological progression over the last 20 years, which has for the most part been too reactive and too iterative. The principles we’ve always believed in — quantitative, outcomes-oriented, technology-powered marketing — are now acknowledged as fact. The palette with which we operate, the spectrum of digital devices, is ubiquitous, consuming more than half of our waking minutes. Digital marketing turns the crank of the global economy as a percentage of GDP. It funds the free internet, creates jobs, and sustains communities. And yet, you would be hard pressed to find anyone involved in the making or consumption of marketing that is completely… happy about it.

We’re going to do a crazy ambitious thing: bring our whole industry together around new technological standards, with modern terms of trade across old roles and new. Insisting, as we always have, upon shared goals, a commitment to ever-increasing transparency and control and an uncompromising respect for consumers’ privacy. We’re going to build a third decade of digital not for the next quarter, but for the next generation, so we can look back on this transformative time of punctuated equilibrium and know we made the right choices in this critical moment. We’re going to deliver marketing everyone truly loves — from consumers to advertisers to everyone in between.

We’re going to do the hard thing. Everyone means everyone; the right answer can’t be zero-sum. Marketing can be a force for good. It can create value, and when that value is shared instead of hoarded, marketing can fuel virtuous cycles of innovation—for consumers and brands, and for the agencies, consultants, media, technology, and data that connect them. Loves means loves. Not barely tolerates or occasionally appreciates. In short, we can and must do better. We will.

At the core of MediaMath’s vision is a strong belief in a “consumer-first” marketing future that respects and prioritizes the needs and rights of consumers. As exemplified recently by the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and its legislative investigations, concerns about the accumulation and dissemination of consumer data are on the rise, to put it mildly. MediaMath has consistently led the industry in responding to these concerns. For example, in 2016, we published self-regulatory standards that give consumers more control over their data and guarantee greater transparency in the use of that data.

We’ve bolstered our commitment to prioritize the consumer on several fronts. Danny Sepulveda, for example, spent the last two decades working with the U.S. Senate and representing America abroad on digital economy issues, including as an ambassador and as deputy assistant secretary at the State Department. He recently joined MediaMath as Vice President of Government Relations and is now helping to shape and communicate MediaMath’s policies and practices concerning privacy and consumer protection. As Vice President of Data Policy and Governance, Alice Lincoln, CIPP, defines our strategic policies around data privacy, has oversight of our global data footprints, and maintains strong connections to self-regulatory groups around the world. Over the last eighteen months, MediaMath has, under Lincoln’s direction, led the IAB EU working group that authored the Transparency & Consent Framework, a set of policy and technology standards developed in collaboration with IAB Tech Lab in preparation for the GDPR, which came into enforcement in Europe in May. In an expanded scope of responsibility, she has recently taken the helm as the leader of our Consumer First initiative. More generally, Sepulveda and Lincoln are helping us work with policymakers, industry colleagues, and thought leaders to modernize the legal and regulatory social contract for the digital age.

As to product development, we’re focusing on three core initiatives: open identity, reengineered infrastructure, and artificial intelligence. Because we recognize the importance of recruiting companies off the Lumascape to address the challenges in it, we’re partnering with the best of them on these initiatives — companies  like IBM, Akamai, and Oracle. We believe, for example, that IBM’s 107-year history of building enterprise-class technology and shepherding organizations through the disruptive changes that technology brings is a needed ingredient in this industry-wide re-architecture; that Akamai’s hundreds of thousands of servers powering a full quarter of the web’s content is a useful backbone to build off. We’ve put our best and our brightest team members behind these “Super Friend” partners, including Ellie Windle on Akamai, Al Gotbaum and Chris Victory on IBM, and Frith Fraser and Rebecca Spigner on Oracle.

Open Identity

First and foremost, to enable meaningful conversations that are informative, entertaining, and worthy of advertising’s implicit bargain (e.g. free content, promotions, discounts, experiences, loyalty, a relationship worth having), a brand’s conversation with its consumer must span that consumer’s digital devices—laptops, mobile phones, connected TV’s, smart speakers, in-store beacons, and the growing range of IoT devices. Today’s world of closed graphs, regional differences, and misaligned consumer expectations doesn’t cut it. So, we’re taking a fundamentally different approach.

We’re creating a global, open, enterprise-class, pseudonymous identity solution, designed from the outset to put the consumer first. To that end, we announced earlier this year key moves like support for the IAB’s DigiTrust initiative, a non-profit organization focused on building shared identification infrastructure. And we formed a product development partnership with Oracle around cross-device recognition, measurement, and attribution.

Reengineered Infrastructure

MediaMath’s second product focus is reengineering the plumbing that connects consumer touchpoints to drive increasing efficiency and effectiveness. In the last year, we’ve kicked off several key initiatives under our Curated Markets product line to foster accountability in media procurement, optimize the number of “hops” between publishers and advertisers, and make the most premium advertising environments available to the most appropriate advertisers. In the coming year, we’re planning to roll out further innovations with partners across linear and connected TV, digital out of home, and audio, in particular, to bring the full power of programmatic marketing to these formats as well.

As Bill Wheaton, Akamai’s Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer and MediaMath Board Member, recently said: “solutions that drive better user experiences and better business outcomes for our publisher clients are critical, and our partnership with MediaMath is an important part of that effort.”

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the only way to create great marketing experiences that truly leverage the explosion in connected formats, devices, and data points across “paid, owned, and earned” activities.  AI is therefore our third area of focus. We’ve always brought “math” to “media,” by developing proprietary algorithms to optimize marketing activities, and more recently by opening our platform up for clients and partners to design their own algorithms. Now, we’re helping to bring the power of IBM’s pioneering Watson AI technology to all aspects of the advertising industry.

“Together, MediaMath and IBM are infusing AI into real-time marketing decisions, arming marketers with the insights needed to more effectively delight their customers,” says Inhi Cho Suh, General Manager, Watson Customer Engagement. “MediaMath’s focus on machine learning in the paid digital advertising sphere complements IBM’s leading-edge AI and cloud technology to enable brands to make the connection with consumers personal and meaningful.”

The incremental financing announced today, brings our total capital invested to over $500 million and provides ample resources to accelerate our next phase of growth. It was led by Searchlight Capital Partners, whose investments include Rackspace, PatientPoint, Ocean Outdoor, Octave Group, General Communication, Hemisphere Media, Liberty Cablevision Puerto Rico, and Global Eagle. With its investment in MediaMath, Searchlight joins existing shareholders Goldman Sachs, Santander Bank, Spring Lake Equity Partners, Safeguard Scientifics, Akamai, and Capital One Co-Founder Nigel Morris’s QED Capital. “MediaMath is uniquely positioned to architect and deliver the idealized version of the marketing stack of the future for brands and agencies,” says Darren Glatt, a Partner at Searchlight Capital.

As you know, MediaMath was recently selected by Dentsu Aegis Network to power its digital and programmatic business under Amnet’s Amnet Audience Center (“AAC”). Following a year-long deployment, a still-growing advertiser base of more than 600 advertisers in 30 global markets utilize AAC’s audience segmentation, analytics, and insights to deliver better business outcomes for its advertisers and partners.

“The industry has evolved together, with a class of consistent change-agents-for-the-better constantly redefining the status quo in pursuit of an idealized state of ‘better’ for people, for brands, for the ecosystem that connects them,” said Amnet’s Global President, Ashwini Karandikar. “We see ourselves as that, and we see great partners in the team at MediaMath.”

In addition to the personnel updates mentioned above, I wanted to highlight a few more recent executive appointments, including former Oracle exec Heather Blank, GM of Audiences; Anna Grodecka-Grad, SVP Global Head of Professional Services; Ross McNab, Managing Director of North America; Dave Reed, Managing Director, International Business Unit; Lewis Rothkopf, GM, Media and Growth Channels; and Leon Zemel, GM, Intelligence. Further reinforcing our bench strength, Franklin Rios, Global Head of Corporate Development joined the team this year following the promotion of Jenna Griffith as Chief Operating Officer, Dan Rosenberg as Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, and Daniel Bisgeier as Chief Financial Officer.

We truly believe that digital marketing is still in its adolescence and needs a host of supporting institutions as it matures. MathCapital, a MediaMath-affiliated venture capital fund focusing exclusively on this sector is on track to make a dozen investments this year, including our first formally incubated investment in Underscore CLT, a company that develops cryptographic ledger technologies (aka “Blockchain”) to power transactions in this category. MediaMath.org, and its mission of applying the power of programmatic not just to sell products but to fund charities and nonprofits; the work of the New Marketing Institute and the Marketing Engineer Program to bring new talent into the industry and support the careers of those in it: all of these vehicles designed to achieve the vision that we began pursuing ten years ago – a vision that is increasingly becoming a reality – and we look forward to writing the next chapter with our many great team members, clients, partners, investors, and friends.

As you’ve heard before: if not us, who? If not now, when?

Let’s do this.