“Being agile and developing proprietary technology in-house is our competitive edge”

is a recently launched international digital advertising group bringing together companies including Mobusi, SunMedia and Lab Cave. In today’s interview, we speak to Antonio Figueroa, who has been the CFO of Mobusi since September 2015 and is now embracing new responsibilities after taking up the same role for holding company Fibonad. Arturo: How would you describe Fibonad in a few words?

Antonio: Fibonad is a brand-new project geared closely towards the needs of advertisers. It leverages the capabilities and experience of advertising companies that have been trailblazers in their respective sectors, like Mobusi on the performance-based advertising side and SunMedia for everything related to big-brand advertising.

In the coming years, we in advertising are going to face hitherto unimaginable challenges, driven not only by technological changes but also by shifting consumer habits. This is going to trigger significant upheaval in the advertising ecosystem, whereby companies with tried-and-tested knowledge, proprietary tools and expertise in a wide range of advertising fields will gain a major competitive advantage. That’s why we believe that consolidating several large companies into a single group, in which knowledge, opportunities and skills are shared, has the potential to create even more value for all concerned.

As well as the performance-based solutions you mentioned, you also offer pure branding solutions.

That’s right. Through the SunMedia business unit, we’re committed to delivering less intrusive video advertising formats, such as AVA (Always Visible Ads), which significantly boost viewability (the viewing experience for users) and are welcomed by major advertisers.

How do these units and your other companies like Lab Cave and Upplication feed into one another?

This interaction is basically another distinguishing factor, because we get a first-hand insight into publishers’ particularities and needs. That allows us to develop advertising solutions and technologies that are comprehensively tailored to the needs of each of the players involved in the advertising value chain.

What is your competitive edge?

One of our strengths is that we develop proprietary technology in-house and we’re extremely agile when it comes to undertaking new developments, so that we can meet each and every one of our clients’ needs in the future. For example, if a client has an app and asks us to drive not just installs, but quality installs of the app (ones that involve customers entering their credit card details, say, or making a first purchase), having dedicated technology enables us to cater to those specific needs and other such demands in the market.

Previously, each of the business units had its own independent finance function. How have the set-up and structure changed following the creation of the Fibonad group?

A distinction must be drawn here between strategic and operational finance. On the former front, each business is financially independent. In other words, branding and performance are two businesses with different risks and returns, and it’s up to each unit to take ownership in respect to that. If we were to lump everything together and treat it as a single unit, we could end up taking too much risk in pursuit of scant returns in a particular line of business, and vice versa.

What about the operational side?

Where operations are concerned, we strive for efficiency in terms of accounting, invoicing, payments, collections and FX risk management. As a result, we’ve centralised the accounting, treasury and tax teams at Fibonad by establishing a shared services centre that provides the various businesses with financial support.

Can you give us an example of an improvement you’ve made in terms of financial efficiency?

Take cash-flow management, for instance. We’ve got thousands of small publishers who make €100, €200 or €500 at a time, for whom getting paid weekly is of vital importance. We make 50,000 payments a year and many of those are made on the very same day in which we receive the corresponding invoice. That is extremely complex because it means checking the invoices, doing the accounting and paying out all on the same day. If we didn’t have rigorous procedures in place for all of that, it could descend into real operational mayhem.

These complex improvements don’t only benefit clients: they also give you a competitive advantage.

Of course. I’ll give you another example. Since we have dealings in more than 100 countries, right now we’re analysing in which cases it is advantageous to our clients to work in the local currency. You at Kantox do a very good job in this domain (FX risk management) because, since your platform is connected to our database, we’re able to automatically monitor our exposure in real time. That brings us another efficiency gain and therefore another advantage in relation to our competitors.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve come up against since joining Mobusi?

Over the last year and a half, the biggest challenge has been – and remains – managing to adapt to such a fast-changing sector. My previous experience was in more traditional sectors that are less dynamic than digital advertising. The market can change a great deal from one year to the next; you’re not done dealing with one challenge when two more emerge.

A couple of years ago, the landscape was such that every client was simply obsessed with racking up as many installs as possible (since their start-up’s valuation was determined by how many installs they had). That metric fell out of favour last year and instead the spend increased in order to target higher-quality users who interact, make in-app purchases, reach a certain level in a game and so on. That led to some significant, unforeseen investment in the technical side of our platform and new ways of organising our teams. This year we’ve launched Fibonad, through which we offer clients a more attractive branding, performance and publishing package, and that’s necessitated reorganising the company again in line with the new project. So things are constantly changing and you’ve got to adapt quickly.

Is the industry becoming increasingly consolidated?

My sense is that consolidation is taking place in the sector and I hope that, as we continue to grow, we can become an increasingly important player. We have already completed some smallish deals, such as last year’s acquisition of SunMedia, and we’re also assessing the advisability and feasibility of other, bigger transactions.

Are you directly in charge of overseeing M&As?

We approach M&As from two different angles at Fibonad. On the one hand, both Alberto Cenalmor, Fibonad’s chairman, and the group’s CEO, David García, work on identifying companies that we might potentially want to acquire, whereas I focus more on the financial side.

It’s up to me to ensure that, if and when the time comes, we have enough financial backing to make these transactions happen. In fact, we’re already working openly with financial institutions and funds to tell them about our business plan, our idea, our vision for the sector, so that when we’re ready to go through with a deal, we’ve got the financial backing in the bag. What we’re not going to do is rush into anything. It’s key for any company we acquire to have fantastic synergies with us, so that we can tap into them from the very first minute.

Is there room for new companies in the sector?

There will always be opportunities for small players if they are agile enough and able to create new technologies. However, like in many technology-intensive industries, it’s important to have a critical mass in relation to the market, especially if you want to invest in proprietary technology. You can rent existing market-specific software, platforms or ad servers, but ultimately that won’t give you a competitive edge. On paper, smaller companies have more limitations when it comes to investing in this in-house technology, because that requires a certain amount of financial muscle.

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