Why Breaking Into Latin American CTV Starts With Mobile

The mobile marketing platform dubbed DigitalReef is new in name but not in build.

Three data platforms across the Western hemisphere – FlowSense in Brazil, IMOX in the US and the North American company Imagination Unwired (which includes the Brazilian company Mob Target) – were collaborating across the Latin American (LATAM) marketplace in a sisterhood of the traveling pants .

In June 2021, Imagination Unwired Co-Founder Maurizio Angelone made the summons to “join forces,” and the trio morphed together to become DigitalReef.

Under its new name, the combined company claims to reach 70% of mobile users in LATAM.

On Tuesday, DigitalReef acquired the North American connected TV platform Column6 to add CTV to its plate of offerings. The company declined to share a deal price.

Since last year’s rebrand, DigitalReef has been integrating its tech, including its marketing monetization software DR-ONE, which it rolled out last month. To help publish clients monetize, DigitalReef relies on first-party data from 400 million registered users and 200 million active users, Angelone told AdExchanger. It obtains this data through the SDKs in the mobile devices of its carrier partners, which it then aggregates to create audience segments that guide digital media buys.

DigitalReef’s technology also uses audience data to provide publishers with a better understanding of their audience through “churn analysis, user journey management and click analytics,” he said. Compared with five years ago, publishers are heavily shifting their focus from mergers and acquisitions to an “attention on retention, engagement and consumer understanding.”

With the acquisition, the company’s ambition is not only to expand into North America but to enter a new space, CTV, that’s becoming dominant in LATAM, Angelone said. For reference, programmatic CTV spend in the region exploded by more than 400% over the course of last year.

The CTV space is “superhot,” Angelone said, which makes this acquisition a “major step forward” for the company, which currently works with about 3,000 publishers and mobile carriers.

Column6, founded in 2018, is a CTV ad server and SSP that works primarily with app publishers through a combination of programmatic and managed service sales across North America, including LATAM. The company made a rendezvous with DigitalReef in the South American markets and quickly tied the knot because of their common goals to support the growth of streaming in LATAM.

“As a publisher-focused organization, we’re always looking for [more] inventory opportunities, and DigitalReef has a strong sales presence and [extensive] relationships across Latin America, ”Column6 CEO Mark Yackanich told AdExchanger. In tandem, the two are in a good position to help bolster the “streaming media ecosystem supply” in LATAM, he said.

The merger is a logical next step because, according to DigitalReef’s Angelone, smartphones are the “entry point for content consumption” in the LATAM region.

Starting mobile

Smartphones are everywhere. But in South America, mobile devices are the primary go-to for entertainment.

Most of the younger generations in the region “do not have a TV or a PC [desktop], ”Angelone said – but they do have smartphones. It’s why DigitalReef’s business model is primarily centered around mobile.

While mobile devices are the “first screen” in LATAM when it comes to media consumption, that’s expected to change – quickly. “The region has leapfrogged over the United States in its [pace] of getting connected TVs on the wall, ”he added.

So as CTV proliferates across the region, DigitalReef plans to tack CTV onto its mobile strategy. The two mediums use the same “pitching motion” needed to support both publishers and applications in South America, Yackanich said.

DigitalReef will use its experience in mobile marketing software development to implement the same “tools and capabilities” for mobile targeting into CTV.

Even though mobile and CTV are structurally very different technological mediums, they face a lot of the same problems, Yackanich said. “The challenges of pod and frequency management in CTV also exist in over-the-top (OTT) viewing on mobile devices,” giving stream management a lot in common across both mediums.

DigitalReef has access to handheld [devices] – and a lot of them – so [implementing] a combination of programmatic and managed service sales [in CTV] is the most effective way to fill [those gaps] in inventory, ”he said.

“With that understanding, I think it should be easy,” he added.

DigitalReef did not share concrete projections on combined audience or client overlap. The next step is capturing the “low-hanging fruit” of integrating the two companies’ technology, clients and personnel, Angelone said. It also plans to onboard more buy- and sell-side customers by offering CTV solutions for LATAM as viewership takes off.

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