Display advertising is experiencing something of a resurgence at the moment as marketers become increasingly confident of the effectiveness of advertising on the internet. However, with spend on the up, advertisers are finding it more and more difficult to keep a track of their ad buying across the multiple ad exchanges and networks on offer. Enter Turn . The startup offers a ‘demand-side platform' (DSP) that plugs into ad exchanges, trading ad inventories in real time much like stocks are traded on the stock exchange and allowing advertisers to manage their ad buying via one platform. Having initially focused on the US, the firm is now turning its attention to Europe, with CEO Bill Demas confirming to StrategyEye that Turn has opened an office in London and a data centre in Amsterdam, though it has yet to announce its official presence on the continent.
¤ What makes Turn different from other digital ad platforms?
We're the only demand-side ad platform that offers an integrated end-to-end solution to help advertisers manage both their data and their media. So we offer the technology to enable real-time bidding and the software to enable advertisers to run their own campaigns. We aim to do two basic things; the first is we try to offer advertisers superior return on investment and secondly we try to help them find the right audience and build that audience at scale.
¤ What is your business model?
We sell access to our platform so marketers can manage the media and data of their campaigns. The model is flexible but typically is going to be a revenue share that we do with the advertiser. Our revenues are between doubling and tripling year over year, really closer to tripling. We've experienced phenomenal growth and basically we're building for the long term. Some quarters are profitable and some are not, but when we are profitable we put that back into the business, into the infrastructure and into the optimisation algorithms and client service.
¤ Who are your main competitors?
Our main competitor is also our main partner, and it's Google. On the one hand Google is our single largest source from an ad inventory perspective, but they are also our main competitor on the buying side. We do something different to them, and they are obviously bigger than us and have some assets that they can combine, but at the end of the day we really want to beat Google.
¤ What do you think is the biggest challenge you currently face?
The biggest challenge we face is how to successfully navigate a company like Turn when we're experiencing hyper growth. So how do we scale and how do you continue to build the company successfully and retain your culture and continue to grow and innovate when you're in essence tripling in size year over year.
¤ What do you think is the hottest trend in digital media right now?
The hottest trend by far is around data, and for all marketers and agencies the most valuable thing they have outside of their people is data. If you look at Apple and Google they had their hands slapped over location services - were they tracking people or not? And there are other large data companies where there have been violations around emails. I think the managing of the data, finding trends around the data and new ways to use data to help companies build their business and improve their marketing and target their users and target new clients of course is the single biggest trend that I see out there.
Display advertising is a booming market, with revenues hitting a record USD7.3bn in the first three months of the year in the US alone, and that figure is expected to continue rising. Turn is in a prime position to take advantage of this growth. While part of the growth is coming from sites such as YouTube and Google, an increasingly big driver are the DSPs. Current estimates suggest that these platforms account for 10% of US online ad spend, but that figure is expected to rise to 50% over the next few years.
In order to maintain its current growth, Turn will need to continue spending on its platform. It recently raised USD20m in funding, and Demas says much of that capital will be invested into developing its technology so it can begin expanding its offering across new platforms including video, mobile and social networking - three of the biggest growth areas in advertising at the moment. An early move into Europe is also key. While DSPs are already hugely popular in the US, they are yet to take off in the same way elsewhere, but Demas believes they will "become pretty big".
Turn already has more than 100 clients, and says it works with 50 of the Fortune 200 as well as two of the largest four agencies in the world. Demas is cagey on specific revenue or profit figures, simply saying that the firm is "doubling" every year. Its aspirations to become bigger than Google may seem farfetched, especially as Google is on track to pull in USD2.5bn in display ad revenues alone, but it is only by going up against the big guns that it can hope to turn a profit.
AT A GLANCE
CEO: Bill Demas
HQ: Redwood City, California
Commercial Launch: 2008
Funding to date: USD57m
Investors: Norwest Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, Trident Capital, Focus Ventures and Greenspring Associates
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