How one data solutions startup wants to simplify the complex world of data sets across platforms

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March 3, 2022 by Michael Bürgi

In the very very crowded and increasingly complex space of data/ad-tech companies looking to serve up a fresh nuance for media buyers/planners and media sellers, particularly in the realm of TV currencies, one new entrant believes it may have a data-usage angle that sets it apart. 

Quietly launched a year ago by a trio of veteran media executives, datafuelX (yes, the casing is correct) is a media solutions company offering two specific products making use of the various oceans of data sets, from from Nielsen to VideoAmp to Roku to iSpot to LG, and on and on. Research veteran Howard Shimmel, of Turner Broadcasting and MTV Networks fame, heads strategy, while Michael Strober, founder and president of the Topwater Advisory Group and Dan Aversano, senior vp of data, analytics and advanced advertising at Univision Communications, serve as the two other board members. The company is self-funded at this early point in its life.

“We’re early on in a new wave of complexity that’s going to affect how agencies and advertisers reach consumers, and how media companies think about how they grow and monetize audiences,” said Shimmel, who said datafuelX is going public now in hopes of being used in the video upfront marketplace. “I’m concerned as an industry we’re not having a dialogue around what does currency need to morph into.”

datafuelX’s first product is a reach and frequency tool with cross-platform capability called precisionX that can calibrate against any number of the dozen or so data sets out there, making it “reusable” no matter the data set. Its value, explained Shimmel, is the ability to cut across linear, digital and streaming inputs, as a means to cross-platform activation. It models at an ID level who’s going to get reach and frequency and who gets none from a planned campaign. Then it lets users put the signals into their ad server and then suppress unwanted audiences, he added. 

The second tool datafuelX has launched is outcomeX, a predictive analytics modeling platform, mainly for media sellers/publishers. It builds forecasts of a sought-after activity, enabling sellers to build optimized schedules in dayparts where that activity is high.  

Given Aversano’s role as a co-founder, it’s no big surprise that Univision has signed up to both products. Brian Lin, Univision’s senior vp of product management & advanced advertising sales, said that after some internal alpha testing last year, the network in January partnered with search data provider EDO to use outcomeX’s modeling tool to optimize search activity for clients in the insurance, telco and beauty categories. 

“We saw really positive results, upwards of 20% lifts on top of, you know, what the brand did initially on their baseline plans,” said Lin. “It’s something that we think is going to be very sticky. We’re also continuing to explore a number of outcome based endpoints as well, things like web visitation and foot traffic with datafuelX.”

Lin attributed the precisionX tool to helping Univision accelerate its planning process in providing guarantees on data to buyers. 

One advanced TV executive at a major holding company media agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said datafuelX’s angle of reusability is a solid point of differentiation from many other data ad-tech firms out there. 

“Data is very expensive, and this might be a more cost-efficient, user-friendly, higher level of service” than the other guys. “They have the data scientists on their side, that know TV and how it’s transacted. They’re not the only game in town, but it’s an appealing plug-and-play option.”

The exec also cited datafuelX’s pure-play mission is singular in purpose, unlike many of the other data firms that are offering data services, but also selling media time and space, which could be seen as a conflict to some agencies or media sellers. “The way they’re approaching this in the market is unique. But it’s early yet,” said the exec. 

Shimmel said Jay Amato, former general manager of OpenAP, was brought on as the company’s president, while Horizon Media veteran Spencer Lambert heads the data science team as manager of product and partnership success. 

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