Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The Digital Voice Mic Drops: Onetag’s CEO on a new era of programmatic curation 

‘Mic Drops’ is a new series of industry interviews conducted by The Digital Voice.

Here, we meet Daniel Pirchio, Founder and CEO at Onetag, to learn the compelling origin story of the company, and how he is driving Onetag’s growth while supporting digital advertising for the open internet.

What is the background to your pioneering role in the adtech space?

At the age of 13 I launched my first website, driven by an early fascination with the internet and a passion for coding. Soon after, I found myself intrigued with the ad-supported model of the web, where website visits could translate into ad revenue for creators.

Determined to carve my niche, I embarked on the ambitious project of building my own ad network at the age of 18, offering free hosting services in exchange for ad monetisation.

Thanks to my self-taught coding skills, I built my first display and video ad server from scratch.

This was more than just a technical achievement – it was a realisation of my vision to automatically optimise the results of ad placements, using a dynamic allocation model based on derivative KPIs, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness for advertisers and publishers alike.

How did Onetag evolve from there? 

Our journey in adtech started in 2015, as a DSP partner to Dentsu, Publicis, Omnicom, GroupM and Havas in Italy. Between 2017 and 2019 we had the opportunity to service P&G Italy to fully replace Hawkeye by AudienceScience. It was during this partnership that we released the first version of our intelligent optimisation technology. In 2020, after three years servicing P&G, we started helping publishers and advertisers all over the world with our unique programmatic technology offering.

From the start there has been something poetic in us being able to innovate from Pisa, home to our engineering and data science teams. Not far from our offices, back in 1986, a team of researchers sent the very first internet packet all the way from Italy to the US, turning Pisa into the fourth European node of the internet. We have come so far since and it is an ever-evolving technological landscape that we are proud to be a part of. 

Describe the path to commercialising the Onetag solution as we know it today.

Despite the industry view that the open auction is a challenging environment in which to trade, and that standard PMPs are automatically a safer bet, we’ve always believed the open exchange can be managed effectively with the right approach. Thanks to new-generation AI, open inventory can now be curated at scale with fantastic results.

Our technology calls on an enormous pool of data, at a far deeper level than is usually available to DSPs, for example. This includes the impressions that a publisher sees, along with full analysis of each placement, which in turn allows for real-time, placement-level optimisation. Our technology removes the wastage and low-quality media to give brands the reassurance they need, and drives higher ROI using quality impressions.

Our curation platform provides open and direct access to our AI and supply-side infrastructure, putting the user in full and immediate control of deal creation. As the user, you directly apply the metrics and campaign controls that matter to you.  

How are you driving the growth of the company now? 

We are laser-focused on driving growth for the greater good as a leading AI-powered programmatic technology business. I’m currently guiding the company in the next phase of global expansion across Europe and the US, and our mission is shaping the future of programmatic to deliver effective digital advertising for the open internet in a cookieless world.

Our infrastructure is grounded in proprietary technology, and we also have 2,000 of the world’s leading publishers connected thanks to our simple, one-click integration so we can drive incremental demand for them pretty much immediately. Our DSP and advertiser partners are incredibly important to us and it’s fantastic to see how we are driving them a faster return on investment. This places us in a strong and unique intermediary position where we are driving value for all our partners.

What’s next for Onetag and programmatic curation?

Innovation and open-mindedness are a key part of our culture. We are open in everything we do, including our curation platform access, our interoperability within the wider ecosystem, our unique approach to the open auction and, fundamentally, our wider support for the open internet. We are also actively engaged with Google’s privacy sandbox, leaning in with constructive feedback to help ensure this will be a workable solution for all stakeholders.  

We strongly believe that a focus on positive and respectful user experiences can and should go hand in hand with supporting commercially successful advertising practices, and we are constantly evolving our solutions with those principles in mind. Our impression-level curation and optimisation technology doesn’t use cookies at all, and we’re also excited about the shift to contextual targeting given the deep semantic solution we offer via our knowledge graph.

For me, focusing on enabling the open internet to stay open for everyone, harnessing AI-powered technology to remove advertising waste and drive efficiency, is key to ensuring our solutions do good for the wider industry. We are enabling significant day-to-day operational efficiency for curators, who use our platform to create the programmatic deals they need at source on the supply-side. As this movement continues to accelerate, we are excited to see the benefits this will deliver for new curators as they realise the full and immediate control of this exciting opportunity.