AdExchanger: VideoAmp Hires First CTO, Former Googler Tony Fagan
TV measurement company VideoAmp is bringing on Tony Fagan, a former Google VP of ads data science and engineering, as its first chief technology officer.
Fagan joins a number of other C-level hires over the past year, as VideoAmp plots an expansion after a $75 million funding round in May.
Since 2020, former Comscore COO Cameron Meierhoefer joined as chief product officer, former Trade Desk exec Paul Ross as chief financial officer and former Comscore exec Josh Chasin as chief measurability officer.
VideoAmp has its sights set on being the next Nielsen or Comscore. It’s building cross-screen measurement capabilities as an alternative to legacy TV currency. The timing is ripe, as streaming and OTT fragment the viewing landscape.
Publishers are calling for solutions to measure how often people are viewing ads across linear, streaming and digital – and gain a unified view into how their ad spend is performing.
Fagan spent 15 years at Google, where he developed algorithms and products for ad planning, targeting, optimization and measurement. While there, he also worked with the World Federation of Advertisers [WFA] and the Association of National Advertisers [ANA] to develop cross-media measurement industry standards.
In the newly created role, Fagan will help VideoAmp bolster its product suite to capture a larger share of media measurement dollars in the $160 billion TV market – long dominated by Nielsen – which includes a proprietary data set that combines ACR and set-top box data across 28 million households.
VideoAmp will be the first measurement partner to integrate with NBCUniversal’s Audience Insights Hub later this year, a proprietary data clean room, so that marketers can bring their own data to One Platform.
AdExchanger spoke to Fagan.
AdExchanger: What made you decide to leave Google to join a tech startup?
TONY FAGAN: I think it’s the right time in the industry for an alternative currency in the market. Consumer trends are changing – everyone’s got a million devices – and with streaming, [the industry] is long overdue for changes in how content and ads are planned, measured and optimized.
Why did VideoAmp create the new role of CTO? What will you be building on the measurement front?
We’re putting together the right team to go after this aggressively. I think they were looking for someone who would lead the product development process for cross-screen measurement.
You want a product that’s going to work across screens and is going to cover the life cycle of planning, measurement and optimization. Advertisers are not distinguishing between, “Oh, I’m going to buy linear TV over here and I’m going to buy YouTube over there and Facebook there and so forth.”
And that’s basically the work that I did at Google for many years.
What are your immediate priorities?
VideoAmp is already known for innovating and speed, but I want to go even faster. There’s a big opportunity to do things in a different way in the market.
Everybody’s aligned on this – advertisers, agencies, publishers on the TV side, publishers on the digital side. The work that the ANA is doing is a good example of that. This can’t take years and years to get done.
How does VideoAmp see an alternative currency emerging, particularly in the wake of claims that Nielsen undercounted viewership during the pandemic?
VideoAmp is going after the large-scale data – set-top box data, smart TV data – and we’re focusing on the different devices in streaming and in linear, the different ways in which consumers are using content. I think that’s the right starting place.
One of the things I’ve learned at Google with YouTube is that you really needed what we call logs data in digital. You needed that large-scale data in order to understand at a granular level what was going on with content and ads, and to provide those insights back to advertisers. It really drives performance.
This is an advantage digital has had over TV historically, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think it’s a level playing field now.
What have you heard from brands and agencies around measurement in CTV during the recent upfronts? Was measurement a major demand among agencies due to issues such as frequency capping?
Prior to joining VideoAmp, large brand advertisers have told me that they’re looking for higher-quality ad campaigns. They want to know ads are going to run on brand-safe content, an understanding of the audiences they’re reaching – advanced audiences – and they want frequency capping.
They’re worried about the user experience and they don’t want their ads to be spammy. Frequency capping across media right now, across digital and TV, is difficult. These large-scale data sets allow you to do that much better.
What does identity look like on CTV? Is an IP address an okay form of targeting? And does TV targeting need to move from a household level to an individual level?
I represented Google in the WFA and ANA work around cross-media measurement to come up with this proposed new standard for the industry. And we talked quite a bit about this. Advertisers really need both is the thinking today.
However, when you get to sort of what we call outcome measurement – what is the impact of the ad campaign on sales, for example – often that’s done at the household level, say for CPG purchases.
You would like both in terms of your measurement and to optimize against both … but that puts you in a situation where you’re going to need individual-level targeting and household-level targeting. And when you have TVs, you obviously have shared viewing, or multiple people in front of the TV set. We’re going to be in a world for quite some time where both exist together.
Can Google still innovate the way it once did?
Google has a long, long history of innovation. There aren’t many companies that have the track record of innovating the way Google has.
But it obviously gets harder as the company gets bigger and as there’re more external pressures, whether it’s privacy or antitrust. I think that they’re working through that stuff. They’re not going to slow down, and I think the same is true for Facebook and Amazon, and some of these other companies.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.