On The Precipice: AdLib's Pivot From MediaMath Spinoff To DSP Aggregator


When pioneering DSP MediaMath announced it was shutting down in late June of last year, no one was more surprised than Mike Hauptman, co-founder and CEO of startup programmatic ad buying platform AdLib Media Group.  

Hauptman was one of the first 100 employees at MediaMath, having joined in 2010. He was with the firm for over eight years in a variety of roles, lastly as vice president/technical business development.  



In 2015 Hauptman and another early MediaMath employee Dan Bougourd approached company management with the idea of developing a programmatic media buying arm for mid-sized agencies that would sit on MediaMath’s tech stack. The company backed the idea and provided seed money. AdLib incubated for three years before Hauptman left MediaMath in 2018 to run the startup full-time as CEO. Co-Founder Bougourd followed a couple of years later as chief technology officer. 

AdLib was firing on all cylinders as a MediaMath spinoff when the bottom fell out last June with the latter’s Chapter 11 filing.  

“We were just as suprised as everyone else,” Hauptman recounts. AdLib had to pivot quickly because all of its business was running through MediaMath. Over the ensuing couple of months the firm was able to move budgets to other top-tier DSPs such as Xander, Beeswax and Google’s DB360. “We actually didn’t have a zero dollar day,” he said. 

Within a relatively short time AdLib reached agreements to run inventory through a dozen major DSPs.  

“When we finally had a chance to breathe, we understood the feedback from the market,” he said. Running through all the top tier DSPs versus just MediaMath was a “far more powerful offering [with] way more value to be extracted out of the tool and the layer that we put on with these additional connections.” 

In effect the company has morphed from a MediaMath spinoff to what Hauptman calls a “self-service DSP aggregator.” 

While MediaMath’s downfall was potentially catastrophic for AdLib, the latter’s quick pivot put it in a better place. “I can say that now,” Hauptman says, noting that the interim months were fraught with tension and uncertainty. “It was really awful while we were going through that,” he said. 

In February the company regained access to some key MediaMath assets through a deal with adtech firm Infillion which acquired those assets late last year. In addition to enhanced first-party audience segmentation tools, the agreement provides users on the AdLib platform with access to CTV and mobile inventories and other benefits.  

Today, some 50 midsized agencies are using the AdLib platform.  

A major opportunity this year, Hauptman says, is helping agencies navigate political advertising channels. Compared to four years ago, a lot has changed in the space. “If you want to reach consumers who are watching TV you really need to be focusing on programmatic buying instead of buying local broadcast media,” he says. There’s more flexibility in the space, he notes, so that budgets can be redistributed quickly based on real-time analytics of what’s working, or not working.  

As a DSP aggregator, AdLib also streamlines contract and compliance issues so that agencies don’t have to negotiate with individual DSPs. “Usually there’s this whole back and forth at the DSP level” specific to political advertising, says Hauptman. “We automatically address those issues for them,” with technology tailored to navigate the guardrails in place for political ads.  

Separately, AdLib announced today a deal to add tools from software firm Ad Reform. The integration fully automates the proof of placement and campaign screenshot process for all campaigns running through AdLib, further helping agency clients save time and expense.  

The last eight months have been perhaps the most challenging time in AdLib’s nearly decade-long existence. MediaMath’s demise was a shock, but it put AdLib on a new and better course. “We’re in the best position we’ve ever been in,” says Hauptman.  



Next story loading loading..