Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

GumGum’s Peter Wallace: “Contextual, attention and creativity work like a dating app”

On the back of the recent acquisitions of JustPremium and Playground XYZ, GumGum SVP of Sales, EMEA Peter Wallace sat down to discuss the roadmap for the US contextual intelligence company, why impactful advertising is like Tinder, and why future contextual won’t be constrained to a mobile or desktop.

GumGum has recently made a significant acquisition of high-impact digital marketplace JustPremium. What are you expecting from this new partnership in 2022?

The JustPremium acquisition is exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides immediate expansion across EMEA. This geographic expansion will continue at pace as we realise our global ambitions. Originally, GumGum’s offering has focused on contextual advertising, but this acquisition gives us significant clout in the creative space, too. Separately, our purchase of measurement agency Playground XYZ provides us with expertise in the attention area, and we’re finding this combination of contextual, plus creative and attention measurement is what advertisers are currently after as they plan for the cookieless future.

With these new acquisitions, how has your role changed over the last year?

I joined GumGum UK five-and-a-half years ago, when the company was very new to the EMEA market. Since then, we have been growing GumGum’s footprint across the UK, and today we’re the most scaled-up company of our kind. We have relationships across every agency group, direct clients and a variety of independent agencies in the UK, and historically my role has been to drive this growth. Today, my outlook has changed. I’m much more focused on the pan-European space – understanding the nuances of the different markets, and how we can continue to scale internationally.

How easily have marketers adopted terms like high impact and attention economy? Do they get it, do they understand it?

High impact digital has been present for many years so it’s easy for brands to understand this offering. What we have seen is much greater adoption of these formats because today digital is seen as a central branding platform. Funnily enough, the idea of the Attention Economy has helped to deliver some of this adoption and, while it’s still a new concept, brands are quickly embracing attention and the benefits it offers. Knowledge levels and understanding still varies by market and advertiser, but I fully expect this to become one of the key standards for digital measurement in the near future, particularly as traditional measurement becomes more challenging in the cookieless world. I’m positive we’ll soon see many more brands continue to make this core to their media planning.

Talk us through GumGum’s approach that unites contextual, attention and creativity under one umbrella philosophy.

I use a slightly crass dating app analogy to describe our joint solution. Say someone is using a dating app, swiping away left and right and doing their thing. For us, the users’ pictures represent the creative, and the subsequent conversation when two people match each other reflects the contextual element, the creative draws in the eye and the commonality in conversation creates a meaningful relationship. Finally, we can measure the long-term attention this commonality produces, and watch the relationship between users (or audience and brand, in our case) flourish and grow. It is really about creativity, contextual and attention working together to help businesses develop their brand and achieve their advertising goals.

There was so much M&A activity in the ad tech industry during 2021 – do you anticipate more of the same in 2022?

I think we’re going to see further large acquisitions as the year progresses. Emerging technologies are driving this – for example, large, established ad tech players want to play in the OTT, CTV space outside of desktop and mobile. The in-game space is also very exciting, one where contextual can play a key role too. Contextual doesn’t need to be constrained to a mobile or desktop.

But to answer your question, I think we’ll see a lot of smaller acquisitions that revolve around the purchase of technology that will take time to develop, with a smattering of other large, major acquisitions that will take place throughout the year.

What are you looking forward to over the next few months as the new partnership with JustPremium begins to grow and mature?

Business-wise, I’m really looking forward to entering a few new markets, getting the GumGum name out there in places like Germany, the Netherlands and the Nordics where people aren’t hugely aware of us. Being able to apply our technology across creativity, and being able to devise what that means in terms of performance is going to be really fun.

On an industry level, the move to a cookieless world will be interesting to witness, and from a privacy perspective the discussion of the validity of consent in today’s market, and what that will mean for the industry, is fascinating.

Finally, I’m also looking forward to carving our own, unique spot in the attention space, and how we can create an evolved dialogue around that. More brands are taking attention on, but we’re finding it’s not so evolved in the European markets. We’re determined to stand out in the attention space.