This past May was an exceptionally eventful month in Smaato’s Singapore office. Smaato CEO Ragnar Kruse made the trip to visit our team in the APAC office, and took part in the ever-growing business in our region. Not only was it the perfect opportunity for the different teams here in Singapore to catch up with Ragnar, we arranged 2 media interviews with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Marketing Magazine. We thought we’d share bits of these interviews here on Smaato’s blog.
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is a principal newspaper publisher in Singapore, and is also Asia’s leading media organization. Marketing Magazine is Asia’s leading source of advertising, marketing and media intelligence, and publishes editions in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Grace Chng from SPH was very eager to find out about recent technological advancements within Smaato, particularly the recent launch of our SPX platform and how our partners worldwide are benefiting from it. Ragnar was more than happy to share the latest news from within Smaato and our industry, as well as talk about possible plans for expansion.
Below is a brief snapshot of the interview between Grace Chng (G) and Ragnar (R):
G: Is there a name for this platform, and how long has it been available?
R: Smaato Publisher Platform. SPX. We did a soft launch in January and now we’re starting to market the platform. Already we have more than 5,000 publishers signed up, but we don’t allow everyone on the platform. There’s a vision that we are following to build a marketplace in which every app–every bit of content on the platform–is brand safe, legit and that it has viewable ads.
G: That’s interesting. What do you mean by viewable ads?
R: You might have seen websites and in ad tech where it says below the fold and above the fold. Above the fold is visible; only when you scroll down, you see the other ad. For ads, you want to make sure you only serve ads where they will be seen. That’s a big topic on mobile sites. On apps it’s normally not a topic because normally it’s right on that page, on this screen or on the iPad. We make sure that we’ve created a marketplace in which we only have ads that can be seen by users, and we also guarantee that advertisers only pay for ads which were also seen by consumers. That’s a very important topic in our industry. You might have read last year about fraud in advertising, digital advertising and so on and the effort we are taking as we create and accommodate an increasingly larger marketplace.
G: Do you do anything that’s digital? Both on video and mobile?
R: Yes, SPX is a mobile platform. Video also runs on mobile, so our platforms support video, native ads, display and rich media. “Display” is actually mobile display, so today we don’t do PC advertising so we always say mobile and digital. Of course mobile is also digital but digital is often seen as advertising on the PC.
It’s a mobile-first platform, and therefore with this set of functions, it’s truly the only mobile-first platform with this kind of functionality. That makes Smaato quite exciting. Because when you look at the ecosystem, there are different ways how you can divide it. You have what we always say: sell side and buy side. Sell-side means it basically comes from the publisher, who sells advertising and who wants to achieve the highest price and sell as much as possible, which is called yield.
On the buy side, normally from an advertiser, you want to buy at the lowest possible price, and the highest ROI as possible. It’s always important to know on which side you are on. Smaato is really on the sell side. We help app developers and publishers to make money by optimizing their monetization.
Then the question is, if it is a managed service or a self service platform: Does someone provide this as a managed service for the publisher, or is it a self-service platform? Platform means you actually provide the publisher with the technology, and they manage it themselves. In the past, our business was basically a managed service and with this new platform, it’s a self-service platform. That means that an app developer or a mobile publisher can run everything themselves and they have all the controls. They can choose to blacklist or whitelist any particular advertiser. They can also set a minimum price for every impression for every ad. It can be fully automated, but they can also set all those dials.
G: If you are going to do some development, would you increase the headcount here?
R: Yes, of course.
G: So you have 26 employees in Singapore now, how many do you expect that to grow to?
Next we spoke with Elizabeth Low from Marketing Magazine. Elizabeth was interested to find out about the local ad tech scene, as well as in developments for Smaato within the Asia Pacific region. An abstract of the interview below:
E: I have been hearing about Smaato for quite a bit, so, how long have you guys been set up in Singapore?
R: About 4 to 6 years.
E: So who are your biggest competitors here?
R: We always differentiate between pure mobile players and online players. Companies on the pure mobile front, like MoPub, got acquired by Twitter.; then in online, there’s Google, of course. To a certain extent, even Facebook. Then companies like Rubicon Project, OpenX…..these are some of the major companies.
E: So in Singapore, what do you guys find? I’m sure there is a global divide, and then there is Asia Pacific as well. In Asia Pacific, who is proving to be a stronger competitor for you?
R: Here we mostly have some local players. If we talk about competitors, we have to differentiate where each one is positioned. Reading your articles, you are probably much more advertiser-facing, which for us is called buy side. We are on the sell side, so we represent the publishers. And when you look at the ecosystem, everyone on the buy side might be an ad network, a media agency or a DSP; they are all on the buy side. They represent and help advertisers to achieve a better ROI. We, on the sell side, help app developers and mobile publishers make money, and ideally, get the best return on their content.
E: What are the plans going ahead for Singapore? Are you looking first more for a South East Asian or Asia Pacific way for the company?
R: First of all, Singapore is an ideal hub to be doing business; here we have great infrastructure, great possibilities to hire talent. The immigration laws are really good to bring talent to Singapore, and there’s a great internet infrastructure. Singapore makes it really easy to do business in the region, but by itself, of course, it’s a very small market. You have a population of close to 6 million, compared to 1.3 billion in China. China is becoming the second-largest advertising market in the world. For us it’s easy to operate from here. We have nearly 30 employees here in Singapore. Half of them speak Chinese and other Asian languages. We will hire some employees in other countries in the region, but we will continue to operate from here.
As you can see, we have some exciting developments within Smaato. With our SPX platform up and running and potential expansion on the horizon in the near future, we’re certain we’ll have more to report from Singapore and Asia-Pacific in this space shortly.