What We've Accomplished
Brian LesserDecember 17, 2015
With 2015 drawing to a close and a new global CEO in Brian Gleason set to take the reins, I wanted to reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past five years.
I am proud to say we have been at the center of a transformative shift in the nature of the advertising industry. When we launched Xaxis in 2011, the idea of buying ads based on audiences versus buying ads based on demographics or context was still a new concept for the vast majority of the ad world. In just a few years, this approach has become the fastest growing part of the industry and we’ve become its largest player with more than 2,800 clients and nearly $1 billion in revenue.
Xaxis has been referred to – both positively and negatively – as the 800 pound gorilla of programmatic. But at the beginning, our unique media model and focus on building proprietary technology were looked at as an odd way for WPP to start a “trade desk” – something that was never the point of Xaxis. Our mission then, as it is now, was to use data and technology to help advertisers more effectively engage with their audiences by making ads more relevant, more useful and more welcome to consumers. In the process we have built the world’s most influential programmatic media and technology company.
Our efforts and results have driven a massive surge in the type and quality of inventory that publishers have been eager to make available to us. With Xaxis TV we were the first to bring programmatic to premium video at scale, extending television audiences to digital video with a unified measurement standard. In fact, video is now the fastest growing part of our business, including traditional online video, the hotly contested mobile video category and the still nascent but extremely promising connected and addressable TV markets.
We were also the first global company to create premium programmatic inventory and private marketplaces; the first to reserve inventory via forward trading; the first to bring programmatic to digital radio and digital-out-of-home; and the first to guarantee viewability and 100% human traffic. Our Xaxis Sync product gained worldwide acclaim for its creative use of technology, allowing advertisers to sync second screen ads with TV ads in real time.
Not only did we create the industry’s first DMP, we built the first, next generation DMP with the launch of Turbine, which has set a new standard for advertising precision. More recently, the launch of Light Reaction has greatly expanded our performance marketing capabilities. Through Xaxis Ad Labs we have brought new technology to the creative part of the ad equation, developing frameworks that allow ads to self-assemble based on a multitude of intrinsic and real-time data inputs.
Xaxis was the first to bring fully-featured programmatic to China and the rest of the APAC region, literally building the market from the ground up. APAC is now a $200 million plus business for us, up from just $5 million in 2011.The more success we have achieved, the more the overall programmatic market has grown. What started as a specialist business for WPP has now grown to the point where our results are a major discussion point during quarterly earnings calls.
But firsts aren’t everything, particularly in a space as competitive as ours. So not only have we been first in pushing the capabilities of the industry to new heights, we have also been best. Best in technology, best in client service and best in performance. This is truly a testament to the skill, passion and desire to create that defines our amazing worldwide team. Ideas, as they say, are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution that matters and none of our success would be possible without the hard work of everyone working together to build something great.
We have had to make difficult decisions over the past five years. In 2012, we considered creating a disclosed media offering to complement our non-disclosed model. The industry was still trying to wrap its head around Xaxis and the easy solution would have been to develop something just to meet these short term expectations. In fact, this is an issue that has come up multiple times over the course of the past several years. However, we have always been steadfast in staying true to our strategy. Compromising the Xaxis approach would also compromise our reason for existing and our ability to provide unparalleled value and performance for clients.
The decision to stay the course has paid off. In just five years we have grown from 150 staff to more than 1,100; from 13 markets to 44 and from running a few hundred campaigns at launch to hundreds of thousands across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
In 2013 we announced our merger with 24/7 Media, a pioneer in the Internet ad industry. Xaxis itself has strong roots in 24/7 through the Media Innovation Group, a company that was spun off from 24/7 and became one of the foundational companies brought together to form Xaxis. The merger represented an exciting development for the market and something of a reunion for me with my former boss Dave Moore becoming the chairman of Xaxis. Since then we have made several strategic acquisitions, including Bannerconnect in 2014 and ActionX earlier this year. And we are poised to add Plista to the family in 2016, declaring our entry into the fast-growing native advertising space.
In 2014 we completed a deal to sell Open AdStream to AppNexus. It was a significant move for Xaxis and recognized within the industry as one of the most important ad tech deals to date. The transaction not only strengthened our key partner AppNexus as a media independent alternative to Google and Facebook, but has allowed us to intensify our focus on what we do best – developing data-driven, audience focused products which enhance the digital experience for consumers and deliver higher ROI for advertisers.
We have always said that we were going to define the future of the media business. With our success at Xaxis we are beginning to get our opportunity to do just that. My recent appointment to serve as CEO of GroupM North America and the promotion of some our colleagues to other GroupM positions, is just the start of a broader influence that we will have on the industry.
I look forward to watching Xaxis continue to prosper under the leadership of new global CEO, Brian Gleason. Brian joined us three years ago and has been a tireless and effective leader. He has found new ways to connect with clients, attracted great talent and spearheaded product innovation, most recently with the launch of Xaxis Triggers and Xaxis Politics, which debuts just in time for the US election season. Brian will continue to draw on the experience and intelligence of a world-class executive committee, and all of you. I know I am leaving Xaxis in expert hands.
While we can’t rest on our laurels, we can take pride in a job well done. When we began, programmatic was a $1 billion market. It’s now a $15 billion market in the U.S. alone and still the fastest growing part of the total ad industry. All of us have played a major role in the programmatic success story and I expect Xaxis to continue to lead the way both now and in the future.
Thanks everyone for all of your hard work over these past five years. I hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have.
Warmest regards and best wishes,