Adro changes the Iranian online advertising landscape by becoming Iran’s first ad exchange. Iran’s ad tech scene started from almost nothing few years back, and local ad exchange could be considered a metric of growth of this industry, and possibly the most revolutionary thing that has happened to this industry. Ad tech companies have had jaw dropping growth in the past 2 to 3 years when Iranian brands realized the high impact their online advertising campaign has. The growth was that fast that the two founders Masoud Khosravi and Ali Jafari felt Iran is ready for its first ad exchange. We sat down and chatted with the two founders on their newly launched ad tech startup and Iran’s first ad exchange which launched 5 months ago.


But What Is an Ad Exchange?

An ad exchange is a technology platform and marketplace for online advertising inventories to be bought and sold from ad networks. With an ad exchange, advertisers can bid on inventory and impression prices with a technology-driven approach rather than an old school method of negotiating on advertising inventory by the company’s sales force.

To give a better examples, an ad network has an X amount of impressions. By connecting to an ad exchange those ad network get access to other inventory and impression from other ad networks, and can extend their reach depending on their need. As the co-founder and CEO of Adro puts it:” An ad exchange is a win-win platform for all the players in an online advertising industry”


Why Does Iran Need an Ad Exchange Anyway?

The question always remained that why Iran needs an ad exchange. It goes a long way from the time where advertisers spent millions on billboards and offline advertising. “3 years ago an estimate number of $1 billion has been spent on advertising in Iran, which obviously a very small percentage of it was in online advertising.” Said Masoud Khosravi. Though this number seems small compared to other parts of the world, and It is safe to mentioning that this number has been multiplied to a much bigger number as of 2016.

In an isolated sanctioned-economy with a 2 digit percentage growth rate seems like a place to double think when it comes to advertising. Ali Jafari talked about the history of Iran’s online advertising landscape and mentioned how fast it grew in only 3 years: “2 to 3 years ago many of the current ad networks we see today didn’t existed, the market was untapped and fresh. Honestly not much interest was in online advertising when we go back 4 to 5 years back.” expressed Ali on the history of Iran’s online advertising.

Ad networks started blooming and the market became highly competitive. 3 digit growth rates could be seen among Iranian ad tech startups as the market was fresh and ready. Adro actually started off by being a PPC (pay-per-click) ad network. “We saw the gap in the market at that time, and we realized there is a need of an ad company that could fulfill the market’s need as there were tons.” Expressed Ali Jafari on how Adro came to be what it is today. They launched the ad network in 2013 and continued to work as a PPC for 2 years. “It took us a year of research and planning to realize what the market is ready for an ad exchange, it was a risk we were willing to take as our ad network was generating good amount of revenue, and our brand was among the top 3 in online advertising. But we took the risk and we became Iran’s first ad exchange” He continued.

Ali Jafari answers the question “ We were in Iran’s online advertising industry for many years, we have witnessed the market needs, and what ad networks lacked as we ourselves were one of them. The market grew really fast and so did the ad networks. There were no technology infrastructure to fulfill the needs of ad networks. At the other hand: Sanctions!!! Iranian ad networks couldn’t connect to international ad networks because of the international sanctions on Iran”. He continued by telling us the 2 key words: “Local market need and sanctions” Said Ali. These two factors were the main reason the founders realized its time for an ad exchange to be created in Iran.


And Then Comes Adro, Iran’s First Ad Exchange

Adro alpha launched in May 2015 with an MVP (minimum valuable product) and worked with a local ad network to test and develop its product to perfection. They tested the newly developed ad exchange with their impressions on their own ad network and their partner’s. It was on 20th of August where Adro officially launched and an european ad network got connected to the Adro ad exchange.

In a matter of months Adro managed to get all major Iranian ad networks with a total of 16  connected to its ad exchange. Right now there are 21 Iranian and international ad networks and ad exchanges connected to Adro, in only 5 months from its launch. These metrics have made Adro into one Iran’s fastest growing ad tech companies.

In only 5 months of Adro’s launch, we have already witnessed the market changing with the coming of an ad exchange. “The most evident thing that has happened is that the size of the market has gotten bigger. Ad networks now can deliver their advertising campaigns easier and online advertising has gotten smarter and more targeted since we launched” Told us Masoud on what has changed since the arrival of Adro. There were also many ad publishing companies which had a great inventory of websites at their disposal. The one thing they didn’t have was advertising and impressions. Publishers now are earning tons by connecting to Adro. They provide their websites and Adro feeds them with impressions sold to advertisers.

Adro also alpha launched its Demand-Side Platform (DSP) for ad buyers and its Supply-Side Platform (SSP) for inventory suppliers. With these two technologies Adro has revolutionized Iran’s online advertising industry by providing easier and smarter ad inventory for suppliers. With Adro’s its Real-Time Bidding (RTB) technology down the road, advertisers will get a chance to bid and buy ads and impressions realtime.

In a matter of 5 months Adro managed to get access to 250 million daily impressions from its 21 ad networks and ad exchanges. This number of impressions is higher than the number of impressions of Iran’s largest ad network. This 250 million impressions are from Iranian/farsi sites in Iran which Adro managed to gather in one ad exchange.

With Adro’s 3 technologies (DSP, SSP, RTB), Iran’s online advertising landscape will get smarter, efficient and more targeted, which will please advertising agencies, brands and ad networks all together.

When a new concept and technology comes to town its also hard to find experts that actually know the subject. Because of the fact that no such thing as an ad exchange existed in Iran, there were also not many investors that knew about this. ”We pitched it here and there, but they didn’t understand what an exchange was.” Explained Masoud. “It was really important for us to get access to smart money, and investors that know the concept, the technology, market gaps and future market trends. That’s how we settled with Sarava Pars” Said Ali Jafar on the topic of their investment. Sarava Ventures is Iran’s leading venture capital which also invested in Anetwork one of the leading Iranian ad network and agency.

Adro also won the first prize of the best online advertising service of the year last week at Iran Web & Mobile Conference, the largest gathering of Iran’s startup community.


Iranian Ads on Non-Iranian Sites? Yes

As mentioned before Adro managed to connect with 3 international ad exchanges from Europe and Asia, and also 2 international ad networks outside of Iran. “An Ad Exchange is meant to be international” expressed Masoud Khosravi on the road map ad exchanges take. But what does this really mean?

By connecting to other international ad exchanges, Adro gets access to Iranian impressions on non-Iranian sites. By this, Iranian advertisers and brands can now advertise to Iranian users visiting non Iranian websites. Advertising agency can now run campaigns to have their ads in websites like LinkedIn and Yahoo to target Iranian users surfing there. This has never been happen before from a company based in Iran, and now we will see more of Iranian advertisements thanks to Adro.


Where Do Sanctions Come In?

One of the reasons that an ad exchange exist in Iran is the number of local ad networks and the fast growing online advertisement market. The other reason why Adro has been created is in fact the sanctions! Ad networks weren’t able to connect to international ad exchanges. This created the urging need for an ad exchange in Iran. But wait a minute, if ad networks couldn’t get connected to international ad exchanges because of the sanctions, how did Adro do it?!

Ali Jafari explains the difficulties before the sanctions were lifted on Jan 16th, 2016. Partnering up with international companies was a no-no for Iranian startups because of the sanctions. “We needed to partner up with foreign ad networks and ad exchanges, that’s why we opened an office outside of Iran to this legally” a solution explained by Ali Jafari. “Though we were able to connect with european and asian companies from our Tehran office, there are still problems with connecting to major ad exchanges, because the biggest ad exchanges are American, and the sanctions on Iran are still in place from the US side.” He continues.

According to Masoud, Adro is currently connected to ad exchange giants but indirectly. “What we plan in our next 6 months is to partner up with big international ad exchanges like DoubleClick directly” he said.

We asked them what would have happened if the sanctions were still in place? Would there be an Adro? Ali Jafari answered this question by saying “ Adro would still be the ad exchange you see today because of the local need, but it wouldn’t have been this big, and it would definitely not grow as fast as we are growing now.”


Iran’s Ad Tech Scene Leaping to the Next Stage and Connected to the World

Adro has taken Iran’s ad tech scene to the next level. There are still many parts of the online ad landscape that is still missing according to the founders, but its on the right track. Adro has also become the portal for ad networks to get access to borders beyond Iran.

Adro continues to get more international partners to further improve Iran’s online advertising industry and expand its reach. “From the first day we focused on creating technologies implementable for any foreign ad network or ad exchange to fit in” Said Ali one of the two co-founders of Adro.

Adro is getting great international recognition as many companies are interested in getting access to Iran’s advertising market. Adro could also be one of the first Iranian Ad tech companies to get offers on being acquired by a regional or international company.

We anticipate to see more action in Iran’s ad tech scene in the near future. “In this industry, Iran may be behind but its catching up quick” Said the Masoud, the CEO.

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