Mediaocean, the fast-growing middleman handling $130 billion of advertising industry spending each year, has grown up processing ad buys separately on both digital sites and apps and more traditional radio and television networks. Today it released its fancy new platform for merging buys across new and old media. But the underspin to the product news is what the company is saying about its momentum toward starting the IPO process in mid-2014.
“We are absolutely preparing ourselves for an IPO,” says CEO Bill Wise. “We know what we are going to do and how we are going to do it, and we are two quarters away from planning the IPO.”
The result of a 2012 merger between Donovan Data Systems and MediaBank, a company started by Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, Mediaocean was reportedly worth $1.5 billion last Feb. and has fee revenue of approximately $200 million, meaning a planned liquidity event could reach well over a billion and give a boost to other top tier ad-tech firms waiting to file to go public in 2014.
Mediaocean’s new Connect Partner Platform will sync up clients across its digital and traditional media clients, which it says totals 80,000 industry professionals. The new platform allows Mediaocean to show potential investors isn’t meant to go head-to-head with leading DSPs like Turn or ad tech platforms like AppNexus, the company says, but to encourage more partnerships and spending among the buyers and sellers already transacting through Mediaocean’s system. “We have the ‘Bloomberg terminal,’ with almost every buyer at every agency in the U.S. using our system to place campaigns, so we built a platform to enable a developer community on top of it.”
Ad servers like Atlas and Pointroll will be on Connect, as well as data providers like comScore and Visual IQ. On the supply side, companies like Pandora will make their inventory searchable on the platform as both a digital offering and as inventory in radio systems. Home buying platform ADstruc is an early Connect partner, as well as video offering FreeWheel and Comcast Ad Delivery.
Mediaocean is betting it can succeed where others like Google have failed–in streamlining the buying processes for television ads. “Google wanted to create an auction-based approach to buy and sell TV, but since we already own all the traditional demand and workflow, we don’t have to change the way TV buyers will buy,” Wise says.
The company already manages $72 billion of television spending. Wise says the market for video advertising could grow to $100 billion.
What Connect means for Mediaocean itself, however, isn’t so much about revenue right now–it’s about demonstrating another layer of opportunity before it tests the market for a 2014 IPO. The company will charge access to the APIs and workflow on the Connect platform, but suppliers can join free until they see higher revenues.
Mediaocean is signalling with the move that its ready to go public next year, likely in the spring. Wise says that the company won’t need a formal process of selecting banks and testing the waters, like another ad tech firm, The Rubicon Project is reportedly going through right now.
“My board, myself and our president [Nick Galassi] are talking to all people, so we don’t need a formal process like that,” Wise says. “This platform and a couple other initiatives to come will position ourselves really nicely.
The window is open for ad tech IPOs, with recent debuts Rocket Fuel and Criteo performing reasonably well in the market. While others like Tremor Video and YuMe went public in 2013 to more mixed results, there’s a cohort of billion-dollar players–Mediaocean, but also AppNexus, MediaMath and Turn–still waiting in the wings. If Mediaocean files in six months and goes public in about a year, it would likely hit the market second after Rubicon Project and could signal the green light for those still waiting to cash in.
“I think it’s a bit of a race right now to be positioned more strategically,” says AOL Networks CEO and industry veteran Bob Lord. “I was around in the old bubble, and now the timing is very hot for automated buying and selling. People want to place a bet and you are lucky if you get out there first.”
If Wall Street likes Mediaocean’s momentum with its new platform and its partner base next year, expect the internal clocks at the other large private ad tech companies to speed up a few ticks.