Following Tradedoubler’s below-par Q4 2012 results revealed earlier this year, in which it attributed a wedge of its losses to huge restructuring costs, we caught up with CEO Rob Wilson to find out what lies ahead in 2013.
At the central London office of the Swedish-founded internet marketing company, the soon to be father-of- three, Wilson, who made the move from head of UK operations to CEO in June last year, spoke candidly about the future of the firm.
Despite the fourth-quarter 2012 year-on-year net loss of 17%, Wilson said the vast amount of work done to restructure the business, including an extensive staffing reform, has put Tradedoubler in a strong position for the future.
Wilson was fully aware and open about past oversights, but stressed that ‘a negative change in revenue does not always mean a lost business’. In other words, yes, revenue may have been down in Q4 2012, but the changes made are set to put the company in the best possible position going forward.
New Scalable Structure & Securing Long-Term Deals
He also said that because the UK is the most developed market in Europe, the fact that it had not focused on performance/affiliate in this area, caused ‘a lot of pain’.
“It’s vital for us that we have now got that right, and actually now the benefit moving forward is that we now have a really scalable structure that means we can leverage across market very easily,” Wilson said.
In early 2012 the business also suffered at a corporate client level, when it lost the likes of lastminute.com. However, in an attempt to secure stability and the long term health of the business, Wilson said the company managed to renegotiate a lot of three to five year deals with some of its more important clients.
“We renegotiated at the end of 2011/start of 2012 with a lot of our bigger clients on long term deals, knowing that yes we will take a lower margin, but we’re basically insuring ourselves with those clients for a longer period of time. Is it a painful thing to do? Yes, but at the same time, it means we won’t have to go back and do those in the future,” Wilson added.
Ups and Downs of International Operations
After announcing last month that operations in Russia would cease, Wilson frankly admitted Tradedoubler may have been premature in entering that market, but says they have left the door open, allowing them to return in a few years.
As mentioned last week on A4u, Tradedoubler does have the US in its sights, and in 2013 Wilson is also looking at partnering up with a couple of different US publishers to see how they can help drive social in Europe.
When discussing other emerging markets, Wilson says there is without doubt plenty of opportunity in the hungry US performance marketing sector, and that although they have no presence in China, the business is working with advertisers and agencies based there.
New Acquisitions and Propositions
Wilson, who has also previously worked as chief revenue officer for Epic Advertising, in New York, and as regional US and UK manager for zanox, said he fully expects further consolidation across the performance marketing sector.
In the last six months three privately owned companies within the industry have approached Tradedoubler with offers.
Although Wilson clearly has his eye on international markets and may well be open to snapping up a couple of companies, he was quick to say that only when things at Tradedoubler have settled down, after such a ‘hefty restructure’, would such plans potentially advance.
“My view at the moment is that we need to get our operational structure right. I don’t think any of our competitors have,” Wilson begins.
“We took the five months at the end of last year, we will give it part of this year to bed in and then we’ll take a fresh look at things. I would rather have our operational structure right so that if we do make an acquisition, it’s easy to plug in.”
Best in Class & Full Steam Ahead
Going forward Wilson said the company will have more of a central focus on performance marketing, will look to be the ‘best in class’ when it comes to payment/billing options, and will focus on driving mobile differentiation.
Wilson said that although ‘the heavy lifting is done’ it is now about getting the execution right. He also thinks that competitors will soon have to go through a tricky restructure, just as they have.
The CEO says 2013 looks to be an exciting year and although revenue and gross product may not be back on track in line with the market until the second half of the year, he expects full year 2013 results to show solid growth.
“We are driving towards having full year growth - that is our aim, both on revenue and gross product. But I think the really interesting thing for me then, is that the profitability of the company will obviously be transformed,” Wilson added.
“All credit to the management team at the company as it’s pretty tough seeing your numbers not looking great, but knowing that you are trying to build something for the future.”