Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The NDA Interview: Azerion UK Chief Executive Dominic Woolfe

“The perfect fit”, explains Azerion UK chief executive Dominic Woolfe as he talks through Azerion’s acquisition of digital brand specialist, Collective, from TI Media in March this year.

Collective had already been working with Azerion’s SSP ‘Improve Digital’ but as their partnership grew, it soon became apparent that the relationship between the two companies could be so much more.

Azerion is a European media and technology company that in the last few years has quickly grown into a €250m business by leveraging an ecosystem of advertising, technology, and content.

“I felt that they were Europe’s biggest secret”, says Woolfe, “even though they had been investing in diverse companies for the last few years including the SSP ‘Improve Digital’, mobile specialists ‘Widespace’, and video experts ‘Zoomin’ amongst others.”

“When the opportunity came up to meet with Azerion’s Board Member, Sebastiaan Moesman in Autumn 2019 to talk about their UK growth strategy, it was one I seized”, continued Woolfe as it became clear that TI Media would sell Collective as they themselves were acquired by Future Plc.

Games industry support key

A key factor for Woolfe and Collective was Azerion’s backing of the gaming industry. Having also acquired the likes of ‘Spil Games’ and ‘Game Distribution’, the company owns more than 16,000 online game titles and claims to attract over 80m monthly active users.

These games include the enormously popular ‘Governor of Poker’, life simulator and social game Hotel Hideaway, the relaunched Atari classics such as ‘Breakout’ and ‘Asteroids’ and a major licensing deal with Hasbro’s Monopoly has also been struck, which opens the door for continued US expansion in 2021.

“Gaming has been growing for years but it’s only recently that advertisers as diverse as supermarkets to luxury goods are beginning to understand the value of gaming content and gaming audiences”, explains Woolfe.

He goes on to describe that Azerion’s gaming content will complement the range of display and video advertising solutions Collective can offer their brand advertising partners.

However, it is not just about having great creative. “By owning the gaming content at source, Azerion have a wealth of first-party data that they leverage through their ad-tech, which will only increase in value for our advertising and publishing partners as the ‘cookie-less future’ looms.”

With new owners, a growing range of creative solutions, plus its own ad-tech, content and data, things are surely looking positive for Collective as it migrates into the Azerion ecosystem?

“The last year has been a roller-coaster”, explains Woolfe, “with its fair share of ups and downs” – like many businesses, Collective and Azerion have had to make some challenging but necessary decisions in the wake of the pandemic.

Brand advertising bouncing back

However, the value and investment in brand advertising seems to be returning. “We have worked incredibly hard to ensure September saw year-on-year growth and this trend has thankfully continued into Q4.” Nevertheless, it’s clear that like most media businesses, this is not the time to stand still.

Woolfe goes on to explain that all the creative, technology and data now at their disposal is of no real benefit unless you can prove “effective brand engagement” to the challenges of the advertiser and its audience.

Indeed, he goes on to cite independent research as being a “critical” element of brand advertising delivery with too many campaigns still judged on the success of “gimmick metrics and media owner interpretation”.

“Now is not the time to mark your own homework”, Woolfe summarises.

Azerion calls Amsterdam home for its headquarters but now has 19 locations across Europe, including Paris, Madrid, Istanbul, Milan, Lisbon, Berlin, Manchester, Stockholm and Helsinki.

So, will we see an ‘Azerion branded’ UK business in 2021?

“It’s a decision that we’ll make together, but Collective has always been an entrepreneurial brand that has adapted to market trends and the needs of our clients. Under Azerion, we have been supercharged with proprietary tech, data and content – it would be a shame if we didn’t take advantage of that”, Woolfe finishes with a smile.

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