He’s a gifted wordsmith who just happens to have a mind for abstract math.
He’s worked on Wall Street and boosted the fortunes of his father’s business.
He’s started six different companies and sold four of them.
He’s the former CEO of early e-commerce company Art.com, a former executive at advertising giant WPP, and founder of MediaCrossing, the world’s first digital media trading company.
He’s a husband, a father, and a collegiate professor with so much knowledge he’s rewriting a major text book in his field.
Now Bill Lederer brings his business savvy and latest venture to Tampa Bay.
He’s currently chairman and CEO of iSOCRATES, the leading end-to-end provider of what Lederer calls PRPE: Programmatic Resource Planning and Execution. With a specialization in data analytics, iSOCRATES looks to lead the way in marketing and media automation.
He already counts News Corporation and Proctor & Gamble among his clients, but after acquiring new office space at Rising Tide Innovation Center in downtown St. Petersburg, he believes he’s perfectly positioned to grow iSOCRATES into an even bigger company.
Lederer roots his confidence in an uncanny ability to forecast industry changes, and all of the experience he draws from his varied background.
“Everything I’m doing now, you could look at it and say it’s a version of what I’ve already done,” Lederer said.
Lederer recently spoke to us about iSOCRATES, the changing dynamics of media and marketing and what drives him to continue seeking success in the industry.
Tell me about your business. It sounds complex, but the complexities seem to simplify business for your clients.
Absolutely. My background and the background of my business partner (COO Michael Weaver) is that we’ve spent a long time, more than 20 years, in media and marketing. We’ve tended to work more on the data and advertising side of the industry than on the content and creation side. There is a tremendous movement within media and marketing towards automation. Michael and I have basically been riding this wave from Day 1. We have both been there for the creation and development of automated approaches to media and marketing services. It has been our experience that the market is looking for end-to-end resources that can provide consulting, managed services and business process outsourcing. All of these are essentially technology-enabled services of one kind or another.
What makes the Tampa Bay area fertile ground to grow your business?
This community has done extremely well over the years with a variety of different kinds of outsourcing, particularly around technology. There are a mixture of data, technology and people here. It’s a very common thing. In fact, if you look at the greatest job creation that has occurred in this market, it’s basically been related to outsourcing and managed services of various kinds. This is a community that has always been well known for that. Pinellas County and Hillsborough County are rich in data and analytics talent, as well. It’s also very strong in account management and in sales and marketing. When you put all those things together, it’s a rich stew that for us creates a critical mass in terms of talent and potentially other kinds of growth resources.
Many people come to Florida looking to make a lifestyle change, and then they’re hopeful that they can find appropriate work. In our case, we came here knowing we already had a good, successful, profitable business that was going to grow a lot. So, we’re about job creation.
In what areas does the community need to improve?
I wish there was mass transit. More than mass transit, I really wish the educational commitment was stronger in these communities. There is a palpable difference in terms of investment and the priority for education, which is disappointing for me.
How have you and your company helped News Corporation.
I’ve basically been doing strategic consulting, operational consulting, managed services and business process outsourcing for almost two years, and we’re growing and growing and growing with that client. What we do for them is we help them better monetize the ad inventory that they have. We allow them to understand audiences much better than they would otherwise. We get more effectiveness out of their existing labor, and they’re able to grow more profitable. We’ve significantly increased their revenue in a dramatic way. In the case of News Corp as in our other clients, we typically start building a relationship in the U.S., we continue to do that and at the same time we’re putting in people off shore, that do various work that candidly is less expensive than if they were hired to do the work in the U.S.
Are the media and marketing buys related to social media?
It’s related to trafficking adds, selling unsold ad inventory, doing data science — all kinds of modeling work associated with trying to figure out the value of the inventory. It’s planning and executing media buying of various kinds for a wide variety of different kinds of clients. It’s both business to consumer and business to business.
Do the media buys typically include Facebook, Google?
It’s typically digital and it’s all programmatic. Our expertise is programmatic media marketing. We say that we are the global leader in Programmatic Resource Planning and Execution.
Yes, PRPE. You’ve trademarked that.
Right. What’s happening in our industry, media and marketing, is very much like what’s happened in financial services and enterprise resource planning and corporate software. Essentially, advertising, whatever kind of advertising we’re talking about, is in the process of becoming commodified and commoditized. In that process, as we develop more and more standards and there’s more use of technology and cloud computing — various software, artificial intelligence, block chain — all those things are coming to bear on media and marketing. The clients don’t have enough resources in terms of talent to understand what all of this is, how to apply it, how to make the best use of it and how to sustain employment. What happens in these very hot areas is it’s hard to keep your people. They get some exposure and training, and they expect more compensation and off they go to the next place. We are a point of stability and continuity for a lot of these companies.
You handle a lot of different tasks for your clients.
It’s incredibly wide ranging. You’re going to see this company grow and grow and grow where we’re going to have all kinds of different capabilities, largely driven by our clients. This is a good example of a company where our clients are driving the show. they say to me, who’s our audience? Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Did we price this too high? Too low? I don’t have enough audience. I don’t have enough traffic. Can you help me?
Is that why we hear so much about data analytics, because it can be used as a guide to consumer behavior?
From a consumer standpoint, we’re getting more relevant messages. We care about that, right? We need to be careful, however, that we don’t abuse our privilege. Our clients need a great deal of guidance about what they can and can’t do, technically, procedurally, legally, and how to price it. I spend a lot of time training sales people on how to sell it. We’re end to end.
What advice would you give to start-up entrepreneurs who may find a home at Rising Tide?
Your time and reputation are precious. Especially when you are trying to get established. Be ruthless about your focus and prioritization. For start-up entrepreneurs, time literally is money. Make every minute and experience counts. How and where you organize yourself and your team is critical. The market for financial and human capital is really competitive and unforgiving. Conceive, Build, Test, Fail, Learn, Optimize…fast. Reduce your drag coefficient wherever you can. Follow Your Bliss.
What do you find appealing about Rising Tide?
Welcome, the waters here at Rising Tide are warm and fertile for personal and professional growth as is the community you will be joining. The esprit de corps here is relaxed, but mature and flexible. The vibe is positive, supportive and unpretentious. Management under promises and overdelivers. They care and are paying attention, so you can focus your time and attention on those things you value most. iSOCRATES is lucky and proud to be here.
You’ve enjoyed so much success. You could be out at Pass-A-Grille every day sticking your toes in the sand. What’s driving you?
I think the thing that’s driving me is that I have this vision of the way the world could be or should be, and I’m really interested in making that happen. I know my clients need help and I know that there are other companies out there that can use that help. Rightly or wrongly, I have this vision of the next 10 years and what the needs will be of the community I work in. I think I’m capable of building a substantial business that can systematically meet the needs of those companies. It’s not the same thing as saving kids from cancer, but it’s something within the realm of what I know how to do.
It sounds like you’re talking about your legacy. In 10 years, you’ll be able to point to the impact you’ve had on the automation of media and marketing.
I don’t think of it that way. But in the end, the only real thing that makes a difference is the impact on individual people. I’ve had the benefit of creating thousands of jobs where I can see what I’ve been able to do for people. That’s a lot more interesting to me than the companies.