Matthew Miller
Jan 27, 2015

Trio of Southeast Asia ad-tech companies unite to form CtrlShift

SINGAPORE - Programmatic media-trading platform AdzCentral, digital advertising services firm Better and ad-tech distribution company Asia Digital Ventures have announced their merger to form CtrlShift, a new company promising to help marketers in Southeast Asia leapfrog ahead in digital and programmatic marketing.

L-R: Reza Behnam, Rene Menezes
L-R: Reza Behnam, Rene Menezes

CtrlShift's founders believe the new company is poised to catch a wave of demand for automation in Southeast Asia. Its offering includes marketing strategy, media buying, system integration, ad-tech, analytics, data and advisory services. In addition, the company claims to have "one of the broadest inventory pools", including display, social, mobile, video, rich media and search.

Headquartered in Singapore, its staff of 130 employees in five markets in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.) includes consultants, media traders, data scientists, ad-tech product specialists and software engineers.

"The fact that we are a holistic solution provider and a trusted adviser for CMOs is a strong differentiator," Reza Behnam, the company's executive chairman, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. The founder and CEO of AdzCentral, Behnam is also a former vice-chairman of the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) in Singapore and a former managing director of Yahoo Southeast Asia. While the company has proprietary technology and products, it won't push any one flavour or technology down clients' throats, he said. "We are about finding solutions to the CMO's challenges when it comes to marketing in a digital era."  

Most companies in developed markets provide "point solutions" to niche problems, Behnam continued. "While this may work to some extent in developed markets where there's a deeper level of expertise, our experience tell us that in developing markets clients need end-to-end solutions," he said. 

Behnam argued that digital advertising in Asia, and especially in developing markets, is at an inflection point. Because consumers have embraced digital in a pervasive manner, marketers and publishers need digital to more effectively engage the audience, but the mechanisms to do so are lagging, he said. This creates a strong demand for automation and data-driven optimisation.

"In developing markets, ad-tech can provide a way to leapfrog legacy digital practices," he added. "This will help publishers and advertisers adopt programmatic 2.0 concepts and catch up with the developed digital advertising markets."

The company understands the complexities of executing digital programmes across markets, channels and languages thanks to deep understanding of each market, he added.

The deal is a non-cash merger. "The underlying motivation was a common vision, common goal and strength through complementary teams," Behnam said. "It was not for the immediate financial benefits. No one is the majority holder. The founders of the various companies all have equal say and equal voice on major company decisions."

CtrlShift's CEO is Rene Menezes, formerly the CEO of Better. He is a 15-year digital veteran who helped launch Malaysia's first ad network in 1999 and served twice as president of the Malaysian Digital Association.

"Better brings the strong relationship and service focus which they have developed over many years," Behnam said. "Better also brings strong relationships with marquee/premium publishers and their sizable footprint in markets such as Malaysia."

Peter Yoong, partner in Asia Digital Ventures, is CtrlShift's president. "ADV brings expertise and experience in ad-tech distribution and marketing for the ad-technology firms who need a strong partner in the region," Behnam said. "ADV's specialty is helping technology players grow in emerging markets."

The company cited MasterCard, Carlson Hotels, Hong Leong Bank and Allianz as clients and said it has publisher relationships and partnerships with LinkedIn, Spotify, MSN and ESPN, among others, as well as technology partnerships with Sizmek, Lotame, comScore, Phunware and AppNexus.


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