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Acquire Online and the high-growth world of programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising might not have the highest cool factor in the industry, but there’s no denying that it’s growing at a blistering rate. Acquire Online is but one example of that, which in the most recent edition of the Deloitte Fast 50 nabbed the spot as the 15th fastest-growing business in New Zealand. We chat to programmatic director Zane Furtado about how the company has managed to grow so quickly and what it will take to maintain this momentum in years to come.  

StopPress: How much have you guys grown in the last year (in terms of staff numbers and revenue)?

Zane Furtado: It’s been a managed growth and reflects the growth of the category. We achieved a 406 percent growth that helped us secure the number 15th slot in the Deloitte fastest 50 growing companies in NZ. The team’s doubled over the last 12 months, so we now have an amazingly vibrant, experienced and fun team of 19 programmatic champions.

What do you attribute this growth to?

A clear strategic direction that we all buy into for the company, huge focus on being first to market with innovation that gives us a competitive advantage, transparency, and market disruptions with improvements in third-party viewability measurement, along with passion and dedication from the ad ops team to consistently over deliver on campaigns with a clear focus on detailed reporting, insights and performance. Programmatic is a marriage of strategy, operations, technology, moment marketing and data. They all need to work together.

There are so many programmatic players in the market, so what is it that sets you apart?

We’ve been in business for over four years and have always wanted to be well ahead of the wave, we’re New Zealand-based which makes a huge difference for quickly servicing and answering questions our clients may have. Total commitment, passion, transparency and dedication like unconditional love, are a few virtues that set us apart. You’ve really got to love what you do to be successful at it. We always spend the clients budget as if it was our very own.  

Zane Furtado.

Do anticipate that this level of growth will continue? Or do you think that it will plateau at some stage?

Yes, we see growth continuing at this pace over the next three to four years, but inevitably online programmatic will start to plateau thereafter with big brands taking their buying in-house and smaller agencies up-skilling. In order to be at the top of your game, you need to constantly up-skill and invest in technology. As soon as you master one platform, you need to learn another one as the old one gets obsolete. Remember, there’s still a huge untapped market that are only just waking up to the benefits of programmatic. Also, with programmatic channels opening up for digital billboards, radio, television, OOH etc … we see little reason to think that growth will not continue apace. 

 There is a lot of consolidation happening in the programmatic space these days. Have any bigger players tried to buy you out? If so, what stopped you from going with them?

Yes, we’ve had a few approaches, but we haven’t felt they were the right partners and frankly, we felt it was too early in our growth curve. The programmatic space seems to be changing so quickly. So how do you stay relevant. How do you balance innovation while fulfilling your day job? Right investment in technology and choosing the right platforms. You’ve got to be a jack of all trades, constantly up-skilling and having processes in place to test, analyze and adopt platforms. The beauty of being independent is that we have the opportunity to move and embrace new technology and protocol at a much faster pace than the bigger agencies which sets us apart. 

Are you concerned about marketers taking programmatic in-house? How much of a risk is this to your business?

No, we’re not concerned at all. In fact, we embrace it. The risk of investing money, talent and time in building an in-house trading desk without any positive return on the investment is a scary thought for most CMO’s. Some will succeed and some will fail. It’s dependent on the driver in the company and the resources invested. But in the end specialists always survive. Taking programmatic in-house sounds good in theory but is messy in reality.

Any other thoughts on programmatic or where your business is going?

We are continuing to push boundaries and challenge the norm. We were the first company in New Zealand to bring in MOAT – an ad verification tool. We also now trade on human and viewable impressions. We believe that metrics like CPC and CPM are prehistoric, and that brands and agencies should measure campaign success on conversions, engagement, time on site, bounce rate, viewability, completion rate etc. We live in a world that is accepting and adopting programmatic at a very fast pace. We are excited to be a part of this journey and hopefully sometime very soon we get to trade radio, billboards, OOH, adshels and cinema advertising programmatically in New Zealand. In the meantime, we’ll get back to experimenting with beacons and DMPs.

This story first appeared at StopPress.
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