After years of some of Madison Avenue’s ugliest badmouthing, Donovan Data Systems and MediaBank are no more. Following the U.S. Department of Justice’s approval of their merger, Mediaocean launches today with a mission of integrating the best of each company’s data-processing and ad agency workflow management systems and software into what it claims will become the ad industry’s new “operating system.” Importantly, the new “Mediaocean OS” will take a page out of Silicon Valley, becoming an “open source” API, or application programming interface, that will enable agencies or other third-party developers to create applications that seamlessly plug into future generations of what is now the advertising world’s undisputed backbone for processing information related to advertising, media and paying its supply chain.
“That’s exactly right,” says Bill Wise, a digital native who is now CEO of the new organization, referring to Mediaocean’s mission to be open source and to allow third-parties – even companies it competes with – to plug into its API, so long as it’s what Mediaocean’s clients want them to develop. That’s a marked shift from the proprietary legacy systems that have ruled Madison Avenue for the past several decades, and which made Donovan and MediaBank the juggernauts they were. But Wise says the companies recognized the world has changed, and that the era of proprietary systems is over, mainly because it’s what their customers want.
Wise says it will take some time for the two organizations – about 950 people – and their systems to become truly integrated, and that they weren’t able to begin digging deep into each other’s systems, products, and client contracts until today, following regulatory approval of their merger agreement. He estimates the first fruit of the merger will be a new digital media processing system that will consolidate the best of the ones Donovan and MediaBank had been developing separately, and that it would likely be ready for release by this summer.
He says digital media has always been the big driver behind both company’s innovation, and has been the biggest source of complexity for their clients. If you want to think about that complexity, just do a Google search for the LUMAscapes chart on the display ad technology ecosystem, and you’ll get the idea. But Wise says the complexity will be magnified many times by the emergence of parallel systems for managing other rapidly emerging digital media processors and platforms including social, mobile, search, and whatever comes next, which is the main reason for the shift toward Mediaocean’s OS.
Wise says the OS will likely roll out immediately after the deployment of the company’s digital media processing system this summer, and he said it will include new service and support organizations to work with both agencies as well as third-party developers, to ensure they plug in and out of the operating system as efficiently as possible.
While Mediaocean’s API will be analogous to big consumer digital media platforms like Apple, Facebook and Google, Wise says it has some added complexity, mainly because it will also need to integrate with another key, but separate part of its ecosystem, the so-called “bill/pay” system that enable agencies to pay suppliers for media, and creative, as well as their own employees’ payrolls.
Wise says Mediaocean also will integrate and update those bill/pay systems and will take them global shortly after the launch of its new OS, mainly because the ad industry is shifting from a heavy emphasis on local to global media payments, which itself is being driven partly by the shift toward digital media.
Beyond that, he says Mediaocean will also move aggressively to develop new applications and ways of managing media and media-related data that will compete with the other third-party developers that will be building on top of its backbone. Among the first of these, he says, will be a “planning product, or an [request for proposal] automation product.”
Wise acknowledges there is “some risk” associated with opening Mediaocean’s API to third-party developers, but he says the company believes it will help spark innovation internally and externally throughout the industry, and that if Mediaocean doesn’t do it, someone else will. Some of Madison Avenue’s biggest media suppliers – companies like Google, and its DoubleClick and AdMeld units – already effectively compete in that space, so by making it easier for its agency clients to work with the tools they consider most productive for their own workflow management, Wise believes Mediaocean will win.
“There’s a lot of inefficiency in buying media today. And some of that has been caused by some of our systems. That needs to change,” he vows.