Emily Tan
Dec 16, 2014

Programmatic: You're doing it wrong, says Xaxis' APAC CEO

SINGAPORE - In an exclusive interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Michel de Rijk, who was promoted to CEO of Asia-Pacific today, discusses the WPP audience-buying arm’s plans for 2015 and its management reshuffle.

Michel de Rijk
Michel de Rijk

De Rijk has helmed Xaxis Asia-Pacific as managing director for a little over two years and is credited with building a team from just one person (himself) to a workforce of 220. He has also grown revenue in the region from about US$10 million to more than $150 million and launched 16 offices in 13 markets. Xaxis now also boasts close to 500 clients in the region.

Over the last two years, the company has also launched a new DMP for Xaxis and merged with 24/7 Media

Until now, de Rijk’s focus has been to roll out Xaxis in all of Asia-Pacific’s key markets while building strong local teams to support its proposition. Next year, however, the company will largely focus on “re-education”, he said.

“Too many advertisers are using programmatic in a way that does not utilise all the main benefits,” said de Rijk. “In the industry, programmatic is largely being used by ad networks or advertisers to buy inventory as cheaply as possible to spam and bombard and drop cookies everywhere in order to claim attribution to conversion. This method has nothing to do with tactics, or true capabilities.”

So for the next year and probably beyond, Xaxis APAC plans to conduct workshops and senior-level meetings with CEOs and CMOs to preach the importance of viewability and brand-safety metrics to guard against buying cheap inventory that isn’t being seen.

While the switch from MD to CEO sounds like a title change, de Rijk’s role as a manager is set to evolve considerably as it is coupled with a business restructure and a reshuffle of Xaxis’ management team.

While de Rijk was cagey about potential business restructures, he hinted that Asia-Pacific would likely align with global. A search on LinkedIn turned up a newly created role at Xaxis EMEA, a managing director of performance recruited from Amobee.

It's understood that the new management team restructure has been determined and announced internally, but the details are being witheld from the press at present. 

De Rijk added that the re-education process would see Xaxis bundling its services into “clearer products”. “It’s not a change of setup, but is rather a marketing tactic aimed at giving us more clarity with advertisers,” he said.

For example, there will a product for ‘branding advertisers’ that includes metrics around brand engagement and awareness. “We see too many brand advertisers looking at metrics like CTR [clickthrough rates]. This is more for direct-response advertisers or performance marketers.”

One thing de Rijk is vehement about: Xaxis has no plans to launch a second trading desk. “There have been rumours circulating on certain media outlets to that effect," he said. "It’s absolutely not true. The source of the misunderstanding could stem from client-specific trading desks, which are not new. We’ve run them for years. For example, RedFuse for Colgate has a trading desk named RedFuse trading desk.”

He added that there is a misconception that Xaxis is, in the first place, a trading desk. “We’re not and never have been," he said. "We’re in the product business. We create products that benefit our clients which they can choose to buy or not.”


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