Michael Connolly, CEO of Sonobi, was according to his own description, "always an entrepreneur in the business of finding creative opportunities" -- including his service in the Army as Battle Captain during the Iraq War in the aviation unit. He then built a private publishing network that garnered over 30 million viewers per month. But his mark on media has to be his concentration on building tech solutions to reach the individual user so advertisers can veer away from individual impressions based buying to individual consumer target buying. This major shift is what he has brought to Sonobi, an independent advertising technology developer.
Charlene Weisler: What sets Sonobi apart from others in the programmatic space?
Michael Connolly: We make people plan-able at Sonobi, which is different than impression-based buying. Our goal is to deliver guaranteed impressions against specific individuals. This is in contrast to the older, print-inspired model, where you use impressions as a proxy for people. In that case, you are buying ad space and not people. We want the metric to be cost per viewable person and not an impression metric. Digital now has the model to execute on this.
Charlene: So why is it not being done now?
Michael: Although technology and the data sources are getting to the place where they are reliable enough, the technology generally used now in the industry is just available to plan on audience. But we are beginning to see the adoption in companies such as Omnicom and Merkle, for example. We are now crossing into the capability to connect with the individual person. In the next decade we will see this as the standard.
Charlene: If Sonobi focuses on reaching the individual user instead of the individual impression, how do you comply with privacy?
Michael: We utilize data sources that buyers define. Then we connect a variety of data sources to individual people, with CRM data as the primary mode. As we connect brands to consumers we respect all consumer privacy rules. We take privacy seriously and are concerned with offering a better advertising experience. We bring the research to bear on end users for better experiences.
Charlene: How will the Internet of Things help connect brands to individuals?
Michael: Technology is now hard-wired into lifestyle from your computer to your auto to your Fitbit. It is all connected. Messages that are informed by data are meaningful to the consumer as a service rather than an intrusive ad. We will be able to bring it down to the individual experience to make it highly personal.
Charlene: Sonobi is in the programmatic space. What is your definition of programmatic?
Michael: Programmatic 1.0 is designed to auction off the remnant inventory that the publication could not sell directly. It is an impression-based marketplace where the sales team sold what inventory they could, and any inventory that remained was auctioned off to the highest bidder. It was great for publications because they were able to sell off what they could not sell directly. This grew to a $9 billion industry, not just because of the low price points for the publication. Not because of the buyer non-guaranteed environment. Not because of the three specific ad square sizes. It grew because the buyer could define their audience and make it meaningful.
Programmatic then took one big step forward. Instead of selling the stuff at the end of the chain, we wanted to look at all of the inventory and buy it at multiple price points. This resulted in header-based technology. But the low price didn't change. For Sonobi, header bidding was the launch pad that truly opened up the opportunity for a direct marketplace. Sonobi is at Programmatic 2.0 (though as a marketplace we are not quite there yet). Sales teams used to sell impressions. Now they are selling people. It will take time for the market to get there, but our tech is purpose-built for this type of selling and always has been.
Charlene: How does Connected TV fit with your business model?
Michael: The direct audience market is not just traditional or programmatic. All types of channels can benefit from TV, radio with digital and mobile. This is a natural extension. The end result for our JetStream platform is to make people plan-able across all platforms.
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