ShowHeroes Group Acquires Union Media: Q&A with Ilhan Zengin and Steve Filler

Tim Cross 01 February, 2021 

European video production and solutions provider ShowHeroes has today announced the acquisition of Union Media, a joint venture which helps advertisers run contextually-targeted campaigns across local European publishers.

The move sees ShowHeroes formally enter the UK market for the first time. ShowHeroes, for those unfamiliar with the company, helps publishers large and small create and distribute original video content to help bulk up their video ad inventory. ShowHeroes also helps with monetisation by contextually matching video to content and then optimising yield.

VideoWeek spoke with Showheroes Group CEO Ilhan Zengin and Union Media managing director Steve Filler to hear what the deal means for the two companies, why the economics of video has historically proven difficult for publishers, and how local news publishers can rebuild their businesses after a tough ten years.

Congratulations on the acquisition. What are your ambitions for the UK market?

Ilhan Zengin: Thank you. Well, given the fact that the UK is by far the largest spending market in Europe and almost three times as big as Germany or France it goes without saying that our ambitions reflect exactly that.

The ShowHeroes Group has emerged to become Europe’s most innovative and fastest growing digital media group with a focus on video in less than five years. Our market leadership and strong presence in all other important European countries has been paving the way to officially launch in the UK and complete our presence in Europe’s key market’s. Sure, we have been active and successful on British soil for quite some time but the Union takeover and the establishment of a larger local office will be key for our local publisher, brand and agency partners to benefit from the full range of premium video ad, tech and content products right away.  

It’s no secret that local news has had a difficult time over the last ten years. How are those who make it work today surviving and how can we build that side of the industry back up again?

Steve Filler: Having previously worked at both the Guardian and the Telegraph this is a topic close to my heart.  News publishers have been hit hard by the often unsophisticated approach to brand safety taken by many brands.  Of course sensitive news content needs to be navigated carefully by certain brands but too often clients are blocking all ‘serious’ news and in recent times even politics.

However, there has been a lot of great progress made by the industry to educate buyers and find some balance and it’s important that these efforts continue.  Equally important is the strategy to support these publishers in the monetisation of their non-news content areas.  For most publishers these content areas are predominantly in text only due to the challenges in creating cost effective video in-house.  ShowHeroes looks to support these publishers through the provision of a library of brand safe video content covering topics such as food and drink, technology, fashion, health and many other content genres that are in high demand from advertisers and readers and viewers. 

Many publishers struggle with the economics of video – why is this usually the case?

It is no secret that good and engaging digital video content has been a scarcity from day one. The reasons for that are (at least) threefold:

1. Traditional media outlets are editorial experts but usually lack a strong video content strategy and resources.  This starts with asset production, licensing etc. and ends with providing video content to their audiences a) with relevance and b) at scale.

2. Social media (esp. industry giants like Google and Facebook) has disrupted the triangulation between content, reach and marketing (sales). Hence, publishers are not experiencing growth on their owned and operated platforms anymore (quantity) while CPMs are suffering due to the steadily increasing mobile web and app usage (quality).

3. (Especially for video) yield optimization has become more difficult in an almost fully programmatic world that is struggling over header bidding, exchange bidding and direct integration. At the same time we are witnessing a ‘comeback’ of relevance and context as the core drivers for user engagement and site stickiness – heavily accelerated by the death of the 3rd party cookie.

Facebook are currently trying to court publishers for Facebook News. How do you rate their chances of making it work?

If we are talking about Facebook news in particular I personally do not think that it is going to be another game changer. Facebook (the B2C brand) as a social media platform has reached its peak in EU and US for quite some time now and Google will always be at least one step ahead if it comes to aggregating news. I’m obviously not talking about the Facebook ad network, Whatsapp and Instagram. Facebook has a bright future in my opinion. This is just about Facebook news and the well-known B2C brand.    

When you place video content against editorial, how contextually accurate is it?  Does it match the story exactly or is it more that it matches the category of the story?

ShowHeroes’ SemanticHero semantically analyses the full article including meta tags and site categories, then the result is matched against IAB categories, also using historical data. Only then the engine starts comparing to tagged and categorised content within ShowHeroes’ video library before creating a match with an advertising campaign to complete the picture. In other words: the match quality does not only depend on the website but on a broad range of controls available to publishers and advertisers as well as on the availability of matching content in the right format. 

Have you seen brands paying more attention to the wider social impact of their ad spend when it comes to funding quality news sources, or are they mostly focused on commercial outcomes?

I think that most brands and agencies start out with good intentions to support quality publishers but then continue to over invest in the big social platforms due ease of activation.

With many publishers struggling to build significant video inventory, the planning and activation process can be challenging across a fragmented publisher landscape, even with the benefits of programmatic.  This is true for domestic campaigns but even tougher for pan-European planning and activation where it’s difficult for buyers to have a deep understanding of the local publisher eco-system outside of a handful of a few headline sites.  ShowHeroes provides buyers with an easy way to plan and activate programmatic video campaigns that ensures they are running on brand safe, relevant and genuine local market publishers, and because our core formats are pre- and mid-rolls we can also deliver results that are very favourable even against the most effective social platform, therefore eliminating any possible friction and enabling brands to support these valued and trusted editorial brands.


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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