Joe Marino, Senior Vice President of Strategic Account Sales at Madhive, joins Cross Screen Media CEO Michael Beach to share his thoughts on the evolution of TV buying, the shift into buying digital video, and the challenges sellers face in this new environment. Watch our latest Screen Wars Thought Leader Interview here and read the full transcript below!
Michael Beach: Hey Joe, welcome to Screen Wars.
Joe Marino: Hi, Michael. Thanks for having me.
MB: Joe, you and I have known each other for a long time. I’ve always been impressed with your background. Would you mind giving our audience your background and how you got to where you are today?
JM: I started in the unwired TV network space at a company called ITN. I was really lucky in starting there, because it really set the stage for the change in mindset that was going to happen through what I jokingly call “The third renaissance of television.” Unwired networks run around and aggregate local avails, package them up and sell them nationally. They compete with syndication, cable, and broadcast. It was a really cool area to start.
After I did my stint there, I moved into working for Allen Media (known at the time as Entertainment Studios), and worked launching and selling their cable properties. I also assisted with the transformation of their properties into digital video properties, as well as the syndication. Once I moved on from there, I landed at Adobe, which was my first taste of ad tech. I was part of the advanced TV team there. I went from selling spots and dots and DRTV over to advanced linear programmatic TV offerings using digital data and overlaying it on linear television. And then, we started selling connected TV when it was still very much in its infancy, so it was predominantly Roku and a few other properties. That was my first taste of convergent TV, or advanced TV.
That ballooned really quickly and really well. It was really fun. I loved selling the ECPMs (Effective Cost Per Mille) associated with linear and things like that. Then, I moved over to MediaMath to focus more on programmatic connected TV, as I started to realize the industry was moving that way. Prior to that, I was very ignorant of the changes that were coming. But at Adobe, I was lucky to straddle both sides. I sat in the rooms with the media planners and buyers at holding companies, hearing the challenges, “Where are these budgets going to sit? How are they going to navigate?”
So I went over to MediaMath and started selling advanced TV and programmatic TV globally. I worked with that team and that organization. It was a phenomenal and great experience for me. I had never worked in the global marketplaces before, and had never worked with a team of that size, at that scale.
Finally, after a few years over there, I joined Madhive to launch their go-to-market strategy, their sales and their CS efforts. I’ve been there for about three years now. I’ve had a phenomenally fun time building that out and working closely with Adam Helfgott (CEO of Madhive), and Spencer Potts, (President of Madhive) to scale that business. Madhive’s core niche is in the local marketplace. We are working with broadcast TV station groups and building out the technology to bring them through that “Third renaissance of television.” I got lucky. I have gotten a taste of all different versions of TV. I have been in the general market, the DR market, the local market, and the national market. I just got really lucky along the way.
MB: You joined Adobe right as the TubeMogul acquisition was happening, correct?
JM: Yes. My boss at the time was Jes Santoro. I remember he called me and said, “We’re good to go, and I’ll send you paperwork.” I didn’t hear from him for a week or two, and I kept following up. He was like, “Give me another week, give me another week.” I had no idea that the acquisition was happening. I joined Adobe right after they acquired TubeMogul. They brought me in within a few weeks of the acquisition. If I had joined a month or two earlier, it might have been a different story, but I ended up joining as the first Adobe advanced TV hire.
MB: TubeMogul had a product called PTV (Programmatic TV) during the mid-2010’s. Way ahead of its time. We worked a lot with them at my old company, and then Adobe acquired them. A lot of the advanced TV product that came at Adobe was from TubeMogul. They created a lot of the things that we do and are more operational today. For example, ECPMs, and the idea for the linear inventory to be programmatic, something that we’re still waiting for. It was just a phenomenal company.
JM: Yes. What they were able to do was really cool. Todd Gordon was leading the change at TubeMogul; there were a lot of really smart people there. One of them was Matt Casey, who was the brains behind connecting everything. It’s funny how you don’t hear anymore about many of the things that you mentioned in those situations. We were leveraging the ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) datasets and marrying it to the Nielsen Fusion panel, doing all kind of rankers and more, while they were still trying to figure their way out. They built a really cool platform to be able to holistically look at your entire buy and plan across with one target audience in mind.
MB: Absolutely. You talked about the local broadcast groups. Do you mind giving our audience a little background on Madhive? Your products, the problem you solve, and your target customer base?
JM: For sure. At Madhive, we’re enterprise software technology. We partner with broadcast TV station groups to give them the tool set to compete with the likes of Hulu, Amazon, Google, or Trade Desk. To make it easy, let’s say a company like Fox is in the market selling their proprietary supply and market, including their digital video streaming platform and all of their other owned and operated. With Madhive, now they have the ability to put audiences against it, measure it, put frequency caps in place. They have all the power of programmatic applied to their proprietary supply, which is really their brand.
Their brand is really well-known, and they do really, really well in the market. But they’re traditionally a TV shop, and at times, they would be competing with platforms and digital teams. Ultimately, the goal was building the tool set that they needed so that they could understand it and leverage it.
As we began doing that, iterating on it, and working closely with them as partners, they gave us feedback. We built the products that supported them, and they would bring them to market.
We love it, and it’s been really beneficial for both sides. It’s a cool niche. It’s an underserved market. Most of the larger competitors didn’t even want to talk or think about local, until Madhive started to become more of a household name. People are starting to question what we’re doing, and how we did this. They’re trying to figure it out.
”Many of these traditional TV groups did not have people in place that understood the digital ecosystem.
MB: It’s a really smart idea. You’ve got these local broadcast sellers with huge sales forces. Sometimes with relationships that span decades, but are behind on investing in technology, especially on automated ad buying. And on day one, probably none of them has a revenue line large enough to justify building their own platform. I can see why that platform would be really appealing. I could see that having a bright future if you combine world-class technology with their sales teams.
JM: Yes. Some of these groups have 300 or 400 sellers in the market. So once they have something that they understand and mirrors how they sell their linear in a digital fashion, it’s easy for them to explain it and use it. They started flying with it. The hardest part was building it out and getting it off the ground. Many of these traditional TV groups did not have people in place that understood the digital ecosystem. That was another hurdle to get through. We were bringing digital technology to TV planners, buyers, sellers, and management, and trying to reassure them, like, “It’s okay, don’t worry. This is going to help you. It’s a good thing.”
MB: Absolutely. Last week we ran into each other at CES out in Las Vegas. Did anything stand out to you? Any new releases?
JM: The thing that popped out to me the most was Roku’s announcement around developing smart TVs. I think it’s a smart move on their part. I think that TV manufacturers will continue to become that new MVPD (Multichannel Video Programming Distributor) model.
I’m really curious to see the ripple effect of that. Where does it go? What happens with that? What share do they get? Especially knowing a lot of things are at play with the ACR data in market too.
MB: That’s an excellent point. I was on a panel at the Mediaocean summit. Even though it wasn’t any technological release, I brought Roku’s announcement as my big development as well. The thing I thought had the biggest impact on measurement and our industry, especially local, is that they’re taking the cable model, as you pointed. It’s probably fragmented in even more pieces.
Cable had trouble at local for such a long time because it was tough to aggregate inventory, and it was even harder for local marketers to buy. Resulting in rep groups like Ampersand popping up. Here you don’t have any geographic footprint to the TV. So you’ve got every single TV manufacturer in every single market, and they’re creating gateways for their data.
It’s going to be really interesting. But I agree. Seeing Roku and TiVo making a run into smart TV OS, along with further announcements from the other players, is what’s going to have the most immediate impact on our space for the next couple of years.
JM: Yes, I agree. It’s exciting and crazy and scary and fun all at the same time. We’ll see what happens.
MB: So, when your team works with an ad seller, like at a station group, or with the person selling the digital inventory, is that primarily a linear seller or is that a digital seller?
JM: It depends on the group. In some groups, it’s linear sellers. In some other groups, it’s digital sellers. With some groups it started as linear, and now they’re hiring digital sellers to help them, or SMEs (Subject-Matter Experts), to help them. The majority of it has been traditional linear sellers who are upselling into their current relationships and clients now, like connected TV, targeted video buys.
”Giving sellers the ability to sell the technology would make a big change in their mindset and in staffing.
MB: We ran into a similar issue. Are they selling to the digital buyer, or are they trying to upsell the linear buyer a larger package?
JM: The latter is what happens most of the time. I know that they are also talking to digital agencies, and sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. The biggest obstacle they run into is that a lot of these people want hands-on keys, which can be challenging because these offerings are of a managed service nature. They’re selling media, they’re not selling technology. I think that will be the big shift, and it’s a thing I’ve been pushing for. Giving sellers the ability to sell the technology would make a big change in their mindset and in staffing. Because then you have to understand how to sell a bid, or a device graph. “Why is this better than that?” So on and so forth.
MB: It’s interesting. From the buyer’s perspective, very rarely are the same media networks selling to both the digital and linear buyer. We see this with our customer base. Even with YouTube, something that’s got ubiquity. But one thing about your product is that, for coming from the linear side, it’s such a good offering. It’s a world-class digital offering that I could see that appealing to both groups.
JM: Yeah. We’re lucky in that sense. Savvy people in the digital ecosystem, and DSPs platforms, like the platform because we built it a few years ago, so everything is modern. It’s really fast, and it’s easy to use. And on the TV side, they like it because they could figure out how to use it really quickly. If you gave them hands-on keys, most of the time it’s going to take them weeks, if not months, to learn how to go from planning, all the way to measurement through that platform and optimizing and more.
Our previous moniker was that we were the simple solution for modern advertising. That still sticks with me today, because it was thanks to the fact that it was so easy to use that we got quick adoption, and that the TV people enjoyed what worked to build with them. Their sellers are in there pulling forecasts, and talking to clients in meetings. That really was the right move on Adam and Spencer’s part.
MB: Absolutely. Earlier in the conversation, we talked about TubeMogul bringing in ECPMs. This year, we’re coming up on 10 years from when they first released that product. How do you see today’s people valuing streaming video inventory, knowing that your customer base is probably more linear heavy, but straddles both sides of the fence? And how do you think it should be valued?
JM: A lot of our clients treat it and sell it the same way that they would sell their traditional linear, but without any kind of Nielsen metrics involved in the conversation. They still treat it as a CPM, thinking about the media, the quality of the media, and so on and so forth. That’s the way that they still look at it. For most of our clients, it is still heavily transacted on a branded medium, on a CPM level. They put a lot of weight behind VCR (Video completion rate).
How do I think it should be transacted? That’s a difficult question, especially with everything that’s happening today. I would say I like the way that the TV folks go to market. Focusing more on impression-based selling versus the Nielsen metrics would be better, especially with what’s been going on there. There’s a race for currency in trying to figure that out. To be completely honest with you, I don’t have much of a point of view on that yet. I think the best weight behind it right now is measuring it based on the outcomes that are set forth, such as making sure it’s VCR (Video Completion Rate), making sure you know exactly what you’re buying, and where you’re buying from.
MB: That’s always been a big question for us. With my old company, we launched our TV platform in 2014. We show all the video formats in GRPs, TPSs, (Targeted Rating Points), then we show all the inventory in CPMs and ECPMs. We had a worldview that CPMs and ECPMs were the most important metrics, and we just spent so much time arguing with people about whether that was right.
At the end of the day, the goal is to get people to plan and allocate resources across all these together, without creating these silos. It doesn’t really matter if they have the most up-to-date metric that you agree with.
So we went away with that and launched with both, and that’s been really good. I thought people would start off with the points and move to impressions, and probably they are stuck with the other for way longer because they’re just comfortable with that. Because there are so many other things for them to learn right now with streaming video and all these other new things popping up.
It’s a fascinating topic and something we’ve been asking this season, “Anyone on the buy side, how are you valuing inventory?” It’s interesting because these firms could look identical back to back, and the answer to the question is completely opposite.
JM: Yes. I mostly defer to the impression side. I know that there used to be the digital ad ratings that were the translation of a GRP into digital, but I haven’t seen that as something that got wildly adopted and became the main currency. I think looking at impressions is going to be great, especially in the local market, because when you look at linear on the local scale, it throws out the concept of GRPs a little bit differently. Because you are getting individual spots as opposed to a national unit that runs across the entire country, and trying to identify how many actual eyeballs saw that is more complicated.
MB: I agree 100%. Coming from a digital background, I’m like, “Why wouldn’t we do impressions?” That’s how we positioned it before, and it was fascinating how that was not the thing they were looking to move off of.
I have one question that we’re closing up this season with. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the local video space, what would it be?
JM: That’s a good question. My dream here at Madhive has been to educate TV sellers to be able to sell digital and technology. So I would love to have all these sellers at all these station groups that have been out there grinding for 30, 40 years, and give them the ability to say and sell against a platform when it comes up.
For example, a station group in Charleston. Sometimes, they’re selling against their competitive TV station, but other times they’re selling against companies like Symplify or Basis. And the pitches, where you’re selling media versus tech or a combination of both. That gets very difficult to navigate for some of them, because they’ve never had to do that until recently. There are probably around 3,000 TV sellers in the US today. My dream would be to arm them all with the ability to sell tech, and bidders, and device graphs, and ad servers, and understand how all that works.
MB: Making it seamless to their buy side customer as possible.
JM: Exactly. And get rid of this gap of knowledge that exists. I always jokingly say the local market is five years behind the national marketplace in regard to understanding change, like the tech, or the evolutions. If I could do that, and everybody understood it, the marketplace would become very interesting. And there’d be a lot less duping going on, which always happens everywhere.
People try, and test, and learn, and sometimes they have bad experiences, because they didn’t know better. That’s how they learn, but if I could arm them all with enough to know, that would be my magic wand wish.
MB: I love it. Well, Joe, I appreciate you taking the time. Definitely grateful for your time, and always enjoy talking to you, and I know our audience going to love this conversation.
JM: Thanks for having me. This has been really fun.
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Cross Screen Media is a leading CTV activation managed service for marketers and agencies, built on a proprietary technology platform that enables advertisers to plan and measure advertising across Connected TV and audience-driven Linear TV at the local level. We seamlessly fit into existing workflows to help agencies scale, differentiate and deliver high-impact campaigns for their clients. For more information, visit CrossScreenMedia.com.