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mporium Group: seizing the moment

On search engine rankings, you want to be number one when it really matters, and that’s what mporium's technology delivers

Search engine
Rather like a 1,500 metres race, it's about hitting the front at the right time

Life is unpredictable and lived in real time, which presents a challenge for advertisers - one that mporium Group’s technology can help them overcome.

Its proprietary technology enables advertisers to get more bang for their buck by allowing them to target consumers when live events stimulate consumer interest.

Whether it be the X Factor, England blowing another penalty shoot out, a “wardrobe malfunction” in the half-time show at the Super Bowl, an interesting or shocking news item, or a celebrity chef showing you how to cook a meal you are never going to eat (never mind cook), people now want to comment on it, or Google it or log on to a shopping site to buy something related to it. Or all three of those things (and more).

With smartphones and tablets so prevalent, responding to a live event is - quite literally in the case of The Great British Bake Off - a piece of cake, and marketing agencies want a slice of that cake for their clients.

The trouble is, apart from the bit about England losing in a penalty shoot-out, it is difficult to predict in advance what is going to get people talking and that makes a traditional “grab the Google adwords” campaign a hit or miss affair.

Something more reactive, nimble and fleet-footed is required; something, in fact, like mporium’s IMPACT technology.

It takes a range of data inputs, such as TV, news, weather, sports and social media feeds, analyses what’s hot and trending, and uses that to optimise an advertiser’s campaign, enabling them to bid higher or lower for keywords on the search engines, depending on the buzz surrounding those keywords.

The optimisation may only take place for a few minutes, capitalising on what advertising giant Google has called “micro-moments”, but the difference in effect is like the difference between a laser-guided rifle and a blunderbuss.

The technology operates as an overlay to existing digital advertising technologies and is integrated into both Google and Facebook. At the moment, those are the two big players who are slugging it out, but mporium is not taking sides, and does not care whether somebody else - Amazon, perhaps - gatecrashes the party.

Not surprisingly, it seems digital agencies can’t get enough of mporium’s wizardry, particularly now that most online content is accessed from a mobile device, rather than on a desktop computer with a big screen.

“On a smartphone, you can’t afford to be number three or four on a search query, because the reality is you don’t get seen,” explains Nelius De Groot, chief executive officer of mporium.

“You need to be number one, but you can only afford to be number one at certain times so you want to be number one when it really matters and that’s what we deliver.”

Smartphone users just won’t scroll down a search query results list ‘below the fold’: the results that initially appear on the screen. Hence the value in mporium’s technology: it gets products and brands up the top of the search rankings for search terms that users are inputting right this minute.

Among the headline commercial agreements the company has signed in the last year are one with Jellyfish, the world’s biggest boutique digital agency, and another with Essence, a global digital agency owned by media titan WPP.

mporium likes the fact the agencies are acting as evangelists for the technology.

“They have the relationships with the advertisers and they rightly guard those relationships jealously,” De Groot points out.

“The advantage to us is it gives us a leveraged sales model, so when you deliver value to an agency, then you achieve traction across their client base."

The combination of the patented technology and the business model is paying off.

In 2016, the second year after the new management team moved in to re-energise the company formerly known as MoPowered, revenue rose to £1.8m from £1.3m.

Like many technology companies, mporium is in the land-grab phase of its evolution, where increased revenue is more important than the bottom line.

Having said that, losses did narrow in 2016 to £3.9mln from £5.0mln the year before.

It has two successful fund-raising rounds under its belt, raising £3.1mln through a share placing at 2p in June 2016 (the shares now trade at 12.25p) and a further £3mln in March of this year.

Barry Moat, founder of UK shop-at-work retailer Premier Direct, recently moved up to executive chairman having been the chief executive since 2015, and he’s not short of ambition, as he once tried to buy Newcastle United off Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley.

CEO De Groot, meanwhile, came from a financial services background, having performed a number of senior roles over a long career at Deutsche Bank.

Dave Clarke, chief commercial officer, is another ex-Deutsche man with a derivatives trading background.

Their background in real-time information processing is significant, because it transfers across to mporium’s core competency of real-time responsiveness.

As such, though mporium’s technology is clearly one that traditional media agencies would like to replicate or emulate, De Groot is not too concerned about this threat.

“It’s complex technology to build and our experience is that agencies are willing to partner with technology firms that can deliver value to their clients,” he declares, adding that he believes the digital marketing world undergoing a similar technology-driven revolution that previously transformed the financial services world.

Simply put, under the old order, when an agency added a significant new account it had to take on additional resource to do all that Google AdWords bidding and so on, whereas with mporium’s IMPACT product, a lot of the work is done by computers and this gives agencies far greater scale.

Furthermore, the service overlays an agency’s existing technology stack, without the need for any technical integration: it is essentially “plug and play”, which brings smiles to the faces of the agency’s hard-pressed information technology support team.

mporium’s technology is scalable, while the leveraged business model that operates in partnership with agencies means there is no reason why the service should not be rolled out globally.

At present, the company is largely working with UK agencies but they have already executed campaigns in Continental Europe and North America is on the radar. 

Roll-out of the group's flagship IMPACT product accelerated significantly during the first half of 2017, building on the initial deployments in the final quartter of 2016, so the group moves pretty fast. 

The company would like to get moving on North American expansion by the end of this year.

“It’s challenging to guess time frames but we don’t have to hire a load of people in the US to start getting a footprint out there,” De Groot says.

“We need to put the right people on the ground that can leverageour agency relationships and we can build out from there. We will use the existing relationships as part of the intros into those markets.”

Half year results

Revenue in the first half of the year rose 21% to £1.05mln from £870,473 the year before, driven by an increase in Technology & Other Recurring Revenue.

The company is still very much in the “land grab” phase of its development, and like a lot of early stage technology companies, it currently makes a loss; having said that, the loss before tax narrowed to £2.42mln from £2.94mln the year before, despite a substantial increase in head count.

The group had cash reserves at the end of the half year of £1,641,643, having raised £3mln through a share placing back in March.

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