U.S. programmatic firm Varick sets up Canadian office

Former Bell Media sales exec Gabe Dunlop appointed country lead

New York-based programmatic advertising company Varick Media Management has opened a Toronto office and appointed media sales and strategy veteran Gabe Dunlop as its country lead.

Canada represents the second international market for Varick, the programmatic arm of the MDC Partners-owned KBS network. The company opened a London office in October.

“I think it’s an opportunity to build something that’s unique to Canada, and regionalize something that’s [often] built in the U.S. and retro-fitted for Canada,” said Dunlop.

Dunlop arrives at Varick from Bell Media, where he has spent the past six years in increasingly senior roles, most recently as CGP lead, client strategy. His career has also included sales stints with Astral Out-of-Home and the Outdoor Broadcast Network.

Dunlop is charged with building new partnerships and overseeing Varick’s business development in Canada. Speaking with Marketing, he said that one of his primary objectives is obtaining feedback from “key partners” among both clients and agencies to determine where there are gaps in the market.

“A lot of clients haven’t even been educated on the opportunities programmatic presents,” said Dunlop, citing a recent meeting with a well-known tourism brand that has yet to incorporate programmatic in its marketing plan.

“Canada is a huge market for them, and they think there’s still room to grow, but they’ve been growing their business through traditional media,” said Dunlop. “A client like that is a priority for us to educate about programmatic.”

Dunlop also plans to hold meetings with representatives from the global media networks to determine a possible role for Varick as a support partner. “We want to make sure that if there’s an opportunity to partner, they think of us first,” he said.

Finally, he will be responsible for developing the Varick brand in Canada, seeking out sponsorship opportunities with the likes of the Canadian Marketing Association.

Varick represents Dunlop’s first role in the fast-growing programmatic space, but he said that many of the things he learned in previous positions are applicable to the position. “If you understand media planning, with the consumer or target demo at the centre of the plan, that comprehension [is applicable] to a lot of businesses,” he said. “It’s the tech part that’s the learning curve.”

Dunlop said his new role represents a major career opportunity, particularly as marketers continue to exert performance pressure on their media partners. “I was happy to make the switch from a traditional media company [which had] guaranteed audience metrics in place pre-buy, but not a lot of insight post-buy,” he said. “Now I have insights from the beginning to the end. It’s different, but it’s great.”

In the first comprehensive overview of the Canadian programmatic market last year, U.S. research firm eMarketer projected that advertisers would spend $881.8 million on programmatic digital display ads in 2015, a 62.4% increase from the previous year.

The company also predicted that 73% of all mobile display ad spending would come via programmatic next year, with advertiser investment surpassing $1 billion for the first time. “It’s not like I’m onto a trend that’s a secret,” said Dunlop. “It seems like it’s on a rocket-ship to the moon right now.

“It’s not poised to explode – it is exploding.”

Varick’s proprietary campaign management software, Alveo, offers a centralized platform for optimizing media buying strategies and aggregating reporting across more than 30 demand side platforms and over 100 publisher partners.

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