Since taking on the CEO role of Undertone in May, I’ve been asked several times if the transition is a signal of change in strategy for the company. Now that we have announced the acquisition of programmatic ad tech company Upfront Digital Media (formerly Legolas Media), I’m getting the same questions.
Simply put, the answer is no. This isn’t a change in direction, strategy or focus – nor are we planning one. Our focus on high quality, brand, creative, and strong service is foundational and allows Undertone to be one of the few differentiated companies in the crowded ad tech market. No matter how much automation is introduced via programmatic, creative will always have a human element. High impact ad formats are, and will still be, more useful in driving brand results digitally than standard ads, and brands will continue to grow in their usage of and experience in digital. And a high level of service will always be required.
However, programmatic is real and here to stay. Our goal is not to suddenly have Undertone play everyone’s game in programmatic – a game where many companies struggle to stand out and even fewer find success.
Programmatic will impact Undertone’s offerings in a few key ways, with a focus on inventory quality and high impact ad formats. We look forward to rolling out two in particular:
- Private marketplaces with differentiated inventory. Undertone invests significant time and money in curating publishers and audiences that are highly desirable for brands. These investments ensure appropriate placement, quality, human traffic, operational ad units, and more. With more brands seeking to transact programmatically, this is investment in bringing premium inventory to market via private marketplaces is needed more each day. It will give many clients access to our audiences and inventory in an automated way, something we get asked for daily.
- Programmatic access to high impact ad formats. This will start with the large, standard IAB Rising Stars units and grow from there. Of course, the automation of these units is a completely different challenge and process than standard display, but that is the kind of hard problem Undertone is uniquely qualified to attack.
You will see these launch over the next quarter, and can expect to see our offerings evolve and grow over time. Beyond these, I’m excited about the fact that the Upfront Digital Media team also has experience with creative. Their background with EyeBlaster and MediaMind means that we have a team that not only understands, but built the intersection of creative and automation. That is an area to watch from Undertone in the future.
At the same time, our focus is not fully on programmatic trading. We will continue to focus on market-leading, proprietary high impact ad units. You can expect to see our portfolio of high impact ad formats continue to grow through the rest of this year.
These investments, coupled with an investment we are making in a data (more on that another time), will result in the industry’s most complete technology stack for serving brands’ needs. It will allow them to reach desired audiences in high impact, creative-driven ways on quality inventory across digital screens.
I’m excited about where we are going and very excited about our growing team. I expect our customers will be similarly excited, too, as they see the results of our efforts come together and help them meet and exceed their goals.