Denise Shrivell

Digital People - Benjamin Christie

Welcome to the 101st Digital People profile. Unlike many previous profiles Benjamin Christie from Gourmet Ads has a relatively short background in our industry but has channelled his career as a chef to build the world's largest food focused ad network. Benjamin shares his story, highlights RTB as his area to watch & also tells us of the major difference between the US & Aust digital media market

Benjamin ChristieName:  Benjamin Christie   
Works: Gourmet Ads 
Job Title: Founder and Managing Director

1. Please highlight your industry experience and how, where and when you came to digital media?

Actually prior to starting in the digital space, I was a professionally trained chef, managing the kitchen in hotels and resorts. My first digital roles were as commercial director of de Groots Best Restaurants of Australia and then various consulting roles with Wiliam Design working on projects like Big Brown Box, Yahoo Election Portal and many other client projects. 

2. Can you outline your role with GourmetAds - what do you actually do?

I oversee the entire company, global operations, marketing, strategy as well as growth of the company. I manage our 4 revenue pillars at Gourmet Ads which are broken out by Agency, Direct, Exchange (RTB - Real Time Bidding) and Data.

3. Please offer a brief insight into GourmetAds – your journey so far, current market position and forward plans?

Gourmet Ads reaches the Grocery Buyer online who is typically female, age 25-55 and cooks at home more than 4 times a week. We boast the world’s largest food-focused advertising network in servings in excess of 170 Million Ad Impressions across our 4 core countries of United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. Our network of 350+ food and recipe sites is made up of owned-and-operated sites like as well as third-party sites. Most of our advertisers are endemic food and wine advertisers as well as non-endemic advertisers in the automotive, lifestyle, and travel sectors.

When I started Gourmet Ads in early 2008, our plans were to build the company in Australia with no plans to do anything outside of Australia. These days 90% of the ads we run are outside of Australia.

Forward plans are to double in size by this time next year and we’re on track to increase by 20% by beginning of Q4 2012.

4. Share your views on the current state of the digital media market?

I think we’re only seeing the start of brick and mortar companies online. Supermarkets most recently have been dipping their toes into digital. Next I believe we’ll start to see food companies leaning on digital for their marketing and consumer education offerings.

One thing that has really been a kick starter for us has been Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules. Both these cooking show websites became extremely popular; as such food and kitchen brands really started to gravitate to digital food content and I think it’s only the beginning. 

5. Please offer some general views on the differences between the US and Australian digital markets?

There is the obvious answer like audience size which is true to much extent, the scale in America is massive. For example, the number of ads we serve in a whole month in Australia we serve in just 24 hours in America.

But the major difference between US and Australian digital markets is that a good proportion of advertisers in America are finally taking digital advertising seriously and seeing it as critical to the overall advertising budget. We see brands booking digital campaigns alongside their TV, outdoor and print campaigns. In Australia, many advertisers dabble here and there and, I believe, don’t treat online seriously just yet. We’ve got both regional and local supermarkets in the US that book their advertising for 12 months at time. Cereal companies that simply want to be in front of consumers any time they are online in the mornings to influence them before heading to the supermarket. Plus food brands that only want to advertise in contextual environments on a display basis to position their brands at the moment where they can influence the grocery buyer and get their brand onto the shopping list. I just don’t see that happening in Australia.  I can’t tell you how many times an agency here has done a digital RFP only to move the money to the back of buses or bus shelters a few days later.

6.  Is there any one person, digital business or sector you think we should be keeping an eye on?

Real Time Bidding (RTB). In the past 9 months RTB has exploded for us and as more companies start seeing the benefits of buying media through programmatic channels. I think if there was a company within this sector to watch it would be Appnexus. I’m told that for companies wanting to integrate with them, it can take 6 months as the demand is so high from companies.

We’re just about to embark on a testing of Beyond the Banner placements on a RTB basis, starting with Background Skins and Over the Page.

7.  What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?

As RTB and Programmatic buying starts to intensify, I think that some big brands will start to consider bringing media buying in house. We’ve already seen this in the US where some DSPs are effectively winning the media planning and buying element of a client, whilst the agency continues to do the creative and design. We are already talking to a major brand in the US that is planning on buying advertising like this in 2013.

As more and more companies start to go online, I believe that small- to medium-sized brands without agencies will want to start buying media outside of the typical self-service platforms of Google and Facebook. Will they adapt to DSP software in-house which can handle their branding campaigns and retargeting all together? Or will there be a platform that can facilitate buying media at scale? This will be interesting to watch as we roll into 2013. 

8. How do you see digital and other media evolving in the next 5+ years?

5 years is a long time in digital. I see a lot of consolidation and areas like social media will continue to drive change. That said, I’m a firm believer that the majority of traded media will be automated within the next few years.

Everything from 300x250s to background skins and other beyond-the-banner placements will be able to be purchased. The antiquated way it is still done today around the world, with signed fax orders, has to be something of the past. It’s our internal mandate to make as much of our inventory traded through real-time buying channels as we can and taking this view it will be really about who owns the publisher relationship, which is where we are also concentrating time and effort.

9. What does the digital/interactive industry need to do better right now? 

Education – the digital industry moves so fast, that today a concept can be a reality and in market next week. I’ve actually been at meetings with media buyers where I’ve had to explain the basics like what CPM means. I’ve often joked that if I had the time I’d write the Dummies guide to real time buying as there is such a need for it.

10. Where do you get your industry information from?

Talking to clients and inside information!

There’s a lot of hype in the advertising media space and most of it covers the majors -- Facebook, Microsoft. Yahoo and of course Google. I learnt years ago to simply scan the daily newsletters, as it’s really easy to get caught up in the hype of things like acquisitions and take your eye off your own company!


See an overview of all 100 Digital People profile articles here.

Thanks for your continued support and interest in Digital People.  If you have any comments please feel free to get in touch - or phone: 0424 100325.  I welcome your comments.


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Denise Shrivell MediaScope Denise Shrivell
Company: MediaScope
Position: Director
Founder of MediaScope - Australia's most up-to-date & evolving directory resource connecting agencies & marketers to more than 3,000 niche, alternative & emerging media options Read Denise's full bio

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