four legs to two wheels

Bizarrely, every now and then, I bump into people within our industry who still remember Tangozebra. Splendid. Eight years is a long time in online speak, the equivalent of 56 land-based years; and if I follow that logic it would seem that I’ve been involved in rich media advertising for well over 100 years, which feels about right; a lot has happened.

Tangozebra was an 11-year adventure.  The energy and passion from a wonderful team created the first rich formats in the late 90s – a time of complex hand-stitched Java-based interactivity, zero bandwidth, melting data centres and vertical learnings. By 2007, 1,500 campaigns were live at any one time on our cloud-based rich media serving platform; the Tangozebra Flash components turned thousands of creative agency Flash installs into rich media authoring suites, and all scaled nicely.

Rich media’s journey from those early days is an interesting one. The advent of Flash and introduction of layered site delivery allowed all sorts of exploding formats to emerge, often to the detriment of the users’ experiences. Experimentation was the order of the day back then but within a few short years those uninitiated large screen overlays had lost favour within the industry due to understandable user kickback, and with a sense of relief the industry started to mature. By 2007 when Tangozebra was bought, intrusive forms of rich media were yesterday’s news. Or so it seemed.

It’s a bit like fashion and music. Not quite a twenty-year cycle; more like ten, but those exploding uninitiated formats have crept back – ‘high impact’ is the term used today, and for many who weren’t yet in the industry 10 years ago, these have been seen as exciting and new. Yet despite these and some other areas of concern, particularly around video distribution and transparency, I think the phase we’re entering as an industry, is particularly exciting.

There’s a lot of new stuff happening in online ad tech. Programmatic has opened up numerous opportunities for start-ups to find an avenue and opportunity; but where programmatic has caused real headaches is with expanding rich media. It’s just not as simple as it used to be, especially as to optimise programmatic and exploit what it’s really designed to do, a truly scalable approach is essential.

Scoota has been quite an adventure too. I had no plans to head back to a life of rich media. Granted, as Rockabox, we were delivering branded content into expanding ad formats, but in our mind, it was different. And then programmatic popped up just as we were beta testing our cloud-based distribution platform, and it was 1997 all over again – vertical learning, things melting and what looked like a whole heap of hand-stitching around the corner. For us to make branded content distribution work properly programmatically, we had to solve the expanding rich media issue and build a platform that would be ready for when we believed the market need would materialise.

That was early 2012. Since then we’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money evolving what we believe to be the definitive and genuinely scalable solution for programmatic expanding rich media. And I’m delighted to find myself back in this vertical with another brilliant team of people including a bunch of ex Tangozebra guys. Seeing our average engagement rate for 2015 at over 1,000% higher than the industry norm confirmed to me that what we set out to do all those years ago was working.

I’m indebted to our many partners on both sides of the RTB equation and to our fantastically supportive investors who’ve stayed with us as the world we sit in has moved around substantially beneath our feet forcing us to pivot in sometimes quite dramatic ways.

So, it’s this new broader focus that we’re celebrating with a name change. Scoota as a proposition is a natural extension of Tangozebra for me. Our values of honesty and transparency are the same; we care very much about the people we work for as we do that the Scoota experience is a delightful one for all. And we’re setting out to change the rich media market much in the way we forged it all those years ago.

Follow James on Twitter – @jamesbooth_uk