Simon Bailey takes helm of Telefónica-backed mobile ad exchange and closes in on publisher deals

Telefónica-backed mobile ad exchange Axonix has appointed Simon Bailey to the role of chief executive, replacing former boss Simon Birkenhead who has left the business.

Bailey was previously chief commercial officer of the company and will not be directly replaced, but his role will be split across four senior commercial directors.

Birkenhead, who joined the programmatic arm of Telefónica last April from his role as Telefónica’s director of global advertising sales, is understood to be leaving to explore screenwriting opportunities with a Hollywood-based production company.

Commenting on his departure Birkenhead said: “As we come up to Axonix’s first year anniversary, it was not an easy decision for me to leave a business that is in great shape with a strong pipeline of partners lined up. I'm very proud of what we have achieved at Axonix in such a short space of time. However, I have decided to explore a number of other very exciting opportunities, including a deeper involvement with the Hollywood-based production company who have optioned my award-winning movie screenplay, Zero Day."

Telefónica is currently in talks with a range of publishers in the UK and globally over white-label deals of its mobile ad exchange and will reveal its partners “in the coming weeks” according to Bailey.

He told The Drum white labelling its ad exchange is critical to Axonix diversifying its offering to ensure it can compete in a tech landscape dominated by the likes of Facebook and Google.

“There are lots of global ad tech providers in this space all trying to build brands, Facebook are moving into this space, Google have always been in it. Are we able to compete with those guys as Axonix? The answer is no – but we can bring on board lots of other companies to create these white label / private exchange solutions that can use our technology, so they can collectively compete with some of the bigger guys,” he said.

Publishers which opt to white label Axonix will be able to create their own bespoke private mobile marketplaces, with the view to better monetising their data. They will also be able to run auction-based deals as well as programmatic direct deals via the system. which plugs into hundreds of demand side platforms.

“It will mean publishers can create an environment that lets them sell their inventory and data programmatically in a way that gives them complete control – so reduces data leakage, maintains long-term commercial value, and we really hit a commercial nerve both with mobile operators which have significant data assets, and a lot of the publishers who are trying to find ways to maximise the value of their audiences through programmatic,” said Bailey.

Part of the reason behind its decision to white-label its mobile ad exchange stems from the need to "cut down on the middle men" in the programmatic trading value chain, according to Bailey.

"It is designed to be flexible and integrate with any other third party tech, and most importantly – the combination of those two things ensures the pubisher always has maximum control and the ability to get as close to the advertiser as possible, reducing the number of middle men that are taking cuts.

"There are of course concerns becuase there are ad servers, demand-side platforms (DSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), exchanges, supply side platforms (SSPs), ad networks all taking a cut from the publishers, and we are trying to provide the publisher with the tools to in effect replace the middle man and get closer to the advertisers themselves," he added.

Earlier this year at Mobile World Congress Telefónica's new global ad director Dan Rosen, who took over from Shaun Gregory, told The Drum it is eyeing ways to diversify its ad products which could see it open up “sponsored connectivity” packages for brand advertisers.

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Jessica Davies

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