First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marco Kloots: We’re doing good, considering. With new regulations and travel restrictions, we are making the best of these times at home. Our friends and families are healthy, and that’s the most important thing right now. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of taking care of one another. It has truly put things into perspective.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Platform161.
Marco Kloots: I got started in the industry over 20 years ago. After establishing KLM/Martinair’s online marketing and advertising strategy, I moved on to work at Universal McCann, Mediacom, and Zenith Optimedia. After my first few years in the industry, I realized a market gap and decided to fill it. That’s when I co-founded ClickDistrict, an online advertising company that later evolved into Platform161 when programmatic gained popularity. We’ve recently been acquired by Media and Games Invest (MGI), so we are now part of Verve Group, alongside Applift, PubNative, and Verve. It’s a truly exciting time for us, and it’s been an incredible ride working with the Platform161 team to become a programmatic leader. I’m proud of our next chapter as part of the Verve Group.
How does Platform161 innovate?
Marco Kloots: We strongly believe in delivering to our clients; we adopt both a ‘one to one’ and ‘one to many’ approach. Our ‘one to one’ approach includes anticipating and listening to the client’s wishes. We essentially want to beat them to the punch and build features that they don’t yet know they need. For our ‘one to many’ approach, we look at the market and remain critical of our product. In the end, our product needs to have real-world impact, and we need to pave the way in ad tech. Our solution-oriented approach has helped us innovate regularly and get to where we are today. In recent years, we have noticed a need for a holistic offering. Clients would most benefit from the whole package in which DSPs and SSPs are under one umbrella. To make this happen, we sought out MGI and its media portfolio, Verve Group, for an acquisition — a group that strongly believes in innovation.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Platform161’s business, and how are you coping?
Marco Kloots: When the virus first hit Europe in March, some clients paused their campaigns. But the majority of campaigns continued to produce great results as online presence and engagement were at an all-time high. In May, things started to more-or-less return to normal. But this temporary loss in business was compensated by companies that reevaluated their media strategies during the pandemic — leading them to us.
Did you have to make difficult choices during the pandemic’s peak, and what are the lessons learned?
Marco Kloots: As with any company, we had to make difficult choices. Our number one priority was preserving the team and client partnerships. We remained flexible and allowed pauses of contracts, even though it negatively impacted our turnover. It’s not so much learned as being reminded that you can’t control the market and that you have to remain flexible, especially when you’re part of an ecosystem. Part of our flexible mindset was seeking out an acquisition by MGI and integrating it with the Verve Group.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, and how do you project yourself and Platform161 in the future?
Marco Kloots: We’re a strong team at Platform161, and we now have the support of MGI and Verve Group to keep us going. I imagine us fulfilling our mission of innovating and providing a holistic offering to our clients — from creative offering to matching the right SSP with the advertiser to reaching the best results with our strong, personalized algorithm.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marco Kloots: I would say our biggest competitor is Google. We believe our bidding algorithm is stronger than Google’s, but time will tell if we can beat them as the best all-round programmatic player. Also, Google’s offering is extremely standardized and aimed at commoditizing the market. We focus on bringing the best to every client, which can be different from client to client. On top of that, we provide expert knowledge and service.
Any final thoughts?
Marco Kloots: I would say I’m excited to see which innovations in the programmatic ecosystem the pandemic inspires in the coming months and years. I do hope everyone continues to be safe and remembers to take care of themselves and others. We are nothing without our health, our family, and our friends.
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