How's The Programmatic Sector Doing? Look At Its People, Not Its Machinery, To Find Out

After more than a decade of covering the industry’s leading programmatic ad-tech players, I can tell you it gets harder and harder to tell their technology apart. As it turns out, one of the best ways to measure their vitality is not by their investment in machines, but in the people who build and manage them. And by that measure, the marketplace is beginning to stratify, with the biggest companies getting bigger, and the smallest ones struggling to keep pace.

Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group who follows publicly traded media companies, including many in the programmatic sector, has been using data compiled from LinkedIn to measure the organizational growth -- or as the case may be, decline -- and has created a 46-company composite, comprised of more than 30,000 programmatic ad tech pros -- and found that while the sector’s overall rate of growth is slowing down, it is expanding fastest among its biggest players.

According to Wieser’s analysis, the fourth quarter marks a “continuing deceleration of growth for smaller companies.”

While the 46-company composite rose 9.3% year-over-year, the median growth was about half that (4.8%), “indicating that larger/more successful companies captured the bulk of the growth.”

Even more interesting is Wieser’s assessment of the vitality of different companies within the sub-sectors of the programmatic ad tech industry, especially the sweet spot demand, supply and exchange players.

“By far the fastest growing company in this group was The Trade Desk,” Wieser wrote, citing its 13% sequential and 68% annual rate of growth. By comparison, Wieser said most other companies in the supply-and-demand/exchange sector grew their headcounts by “low- to mid-single digit levels, including TubeMogul (-1%),  OpenX (+2%), Teads (+2%), Mediamath (-5%), DataXu (+3%), AppNexus (+2%), Videology (-1%), Turn (-4%) and Pubmatic (-8%). Wieser described Pubmatic’s lagging performance as “an outlier on the downside.”

Not surprisingly, given all the fear, angst and distrust the industry has expressed concerning viewability and ad fraud, some of the fastest-growing companies in the composite are in the viewability, “ad quality” or “insights” sector.

Market leader Moat expanded 29%, while Integral Ad Science rose 8% and DoubleVerify expanded 4%. And in a signal of how the industry’s attention is beginning to shift toward the programmatic TV marketplace, Samba TV’s organization expanded 30% sequentially and 133% annually.
2 comments about "How's The Programmatic Sector Doing? Look At Its People, Not Its Machinery, To Find Out".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, October 3, 2016 at 2:39 p.m.

    That Brian Wieser is one smart guy -- what an interesting way to identify growth and not hype 

  2. Jeff Hirsch from PubMatic, October 3, 2016 at 5:41 p.m.

    Certainly identifying employee counts is an interesting metric to use to understand how a company might be doing.  It’s helpful from an external standpoint as the information is readily available, for both public and private companies alike.  That said, it is only one metric.  A company’s profitability and sustainability is not measured by headcount.  PubMatic has publicly stated that we have been profitable on an EBITDA basis for three years running and, through thoughtful management of expenses such as personnel costs, is also cash flow positive.  In order to evaluate a company, its important to take a holistic viewpoint.  Let’s take a look at this same list of companies and look at cash flow and see how the landscape looks with that lens applied.

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