The DSP Effect: Q&A with Erich Wasserman, GM, EMEA of MediaMath

This week, we caught up with Erich Wasserman, who co-founded MediaMath and led its sales and account teams as they built the first agency trading desks and incubated the DSP (demand-side platform) market. We asked him a few questions about automated media markets, especially how they’ve shaped the field for marketers on both the buy- and sell-sides.




MediaMath was top of the class in Forrester’s DSP Wave report, which many believe finally validated the sector. As a DSP, what was your biggest takeaway from the report? What do you think was missing and should be investigated next time? 

The automated media markets are growing rapidly. Some reports put RTB spend up more than double from 2010 to 2011 to $850MM and all signs point toward this trend continuing. With this growth comes the attention of venerable institutions like Forrester, which have now focused on the companies that are fuelling such massive growth.

Ad tech won when Forrester shone a light on this category and gave marketers a great deal of information with which to evaluate the technology offerings that will best grow their business.

The analysis was very comprehensive; it began with 36 companies, which claimed focus and expertise on demand side tools, and decided to focus on seven with a rigorous 48-dimension evaluation.

For next time? It might be fun to gain access to in-market activity – perhaps shadowing a few campaigns and reporting on how platforms enable users to respond to live business challenges.


How has the rise of DSPs and other targeting technology transformed the role of the marketing professional on both the buy side and supply side? 

On the buy side, the DSP places control in the hands of the marketer. The technology should allow marketers to plan, execute, optimise, and analyse marketing programmes across the digital spectrum, from a single and – ideally – intuitive platform. All of this is done across a great degree of media and data scale – this assures that media strategies are impactful and grow business.

On the supply side, SSPs are delivering tremendous value to publishers. Forrester (who published a Wave on SSPs after the one on DSPs) described one of SSP’s benefits well: Managing multiple indirect sales channels can be an operational nightmare.”

SSPs have empowered publishers to extract the most revenue and yield from their valuable inventory. It’s the same thesis behind the DSP, but applied to maximising publisher goals. And it’s best when these two entities remain independent, by the way, then each can focus on driving the most value for their constituency without conflict.

For both sides, strategically this means that the marketing professional can focus on growing business rather than process; tactically this means that marketers need to adopt and execute new tools. The digital media industry is optimising itself.


What are brands missing when it comes to audience targeting? How do you see them adapting their audience buying strategies this year? 

Multiple audience strategies are necessary to grow a brand’s business. From a technology perspective, the DSP should enable these. For example, to drive awareness, brands are finding audiences through contextualisation technologies like Peer39, which aligns a tailored creative message with a page’s content; it might also mean using valuable data sets from companies like BlueKai, eXelate, or Weborama to match known information about users with a brand’s message. It might also mean the targeting of specific sites given their audience make-up.

Once a user has engaged with a message, marketers can analyse commonalities and grow their business across users who have similar characteristics to those engaged. To that end, we provide our clients with algorithms to help them to do this at scale.

These are all audience strategies that work together to target an ever-increasing pool of likely customers at greater levels of efficiency.


How do you see the use of data evolving in 2012? 

It’s important to remember that digital marketing is using many of the same data techniques that offline marketers have been using for years. This data may be a marketer’s own, may be acquired from third parties, or may be a fusion of the two.

In the online world, data usage is about creating and building conversations with consumers who move across channels and media across the world. The usage of data sets online will undoubtedly continue to grow in volume and sophistication in the same way that its offline counterparts have done. Three significant factors are leading to increased usage of data online:

1) Automated technologies are making it easy to apply and measure the results of data sets to media strategies;

2) Data sets are immediately actionable at a great degree of scale across multiple digital media types; and

3) Smart applications of data lead to better results.


Do you expect to see consolidation in the DSP space this year? Who will buy whom? 

It would be folly to guess, but we see the DSP not as only an acquisition candidate but as an acquirer. For most technology solutions that marketing professionals need, we’ve built the piping to plug into the best technologies in the ecosystem. For other areas, such as dynamic creative, we’ve chosen to acquire the best.


Several DSPs have built out data management platforms – is MediaMath contemplating the same path?

Data management has always been central to our technology (and should be for any DSP). Our philosophy has always been that a good DSP has data management built in and tightly integrated with media execution. We built our DSP with that in mind, and we deliver best-in-class data management functionality for our clients. Data management alone isn’t enough – it has to be linked to media execution to act on opportunities in real time and deliver results.


How did you prepare for the May 26 UK Cookie Law enactment?

We have chosen several courses of action to ensure that we are compliant with industry and regulatory standards: First, we are participating in the W3C process and are part of the industry self-regulatory program. We anticipate that the EU Commission and/or individual EU state data protection authorities will use the W3C’s work as an input into e-Privacy compliance. Assuming further clarity here, we are confident that sufficient lead-time will be given to enable the industry to build and implement technology solutions for compliance.

Second, as part of our recently launched MediaMath Open program, we partner with companies like Evidon and work with the IAB to ensure we are providing consumers with the vital education, notice, and opt-out functionality they require to make informed decisions.