34. Andrew Casale – from Casale Media to Index Exchange

Andrew is the President and CEO of Index Exchange, a supply-side platform based in Toronto. Index itself was born in 2015 out of Casale Media, an ad network that Casale founded as a teenager around the turn of the millennium with some help from his father, an electrical engineer. Andrew was VP of Strategy at Casale Media from 2001-15. (The official date of Casale Media’s founding was 2003.)

As a kid in the ’90s, Andrew became a mini-publisher, building and hosting websites with a particular focus on reality television. As he tells Marty in this wide-ranging look-back, he developed relationships with editors at platforms like Yahoo and got links for breaking stories, which drove traffic to his sites — traffic he was learning how to monetize via early ad networks, such as ValueClick and Advertising.com. Thus did he sort of “fall into” ad tech.

As a publisher — and Andrew admits his “ethos” was always with the sell side, — he felt the buying tools, UX and reporting could be improved, and so he developed a spec for a “real business” in the early ’00s, using seed money from his reality TV-driven mini-publishing-empire that amounted to “believe it or not … the millions of dollars.”

Carving out some space in an office belonging to his father’s other business, consulting for e-commerce sites, Casale Media hired six engineers, built a “primitive ad server” and worked hard on a more publisher-friendly buying platform.

It was a slog from the outset, Andrew admits: “If you build it, they won’t come.” Despite what he felt was a compelling product and a penchant for openness in an increasingly mysterious business, he had to work on a network of indie pubs to take a chance and “add a button on their website” for the Casale Media network.

With the rise of agency trading desks, such as Xaxis and Vivaki’s Audience on Demand, Andrew recognized that ad networks would have to change. Inspired by some blunt feedback from AoD’s Kurt Unkel, he connected with Invite Media and got to work on a proto-OpenRTB spec, building a new Supply-Side Platform (SSP) to serve the sell side only, where he started.

Andrew Casale entertaining the Index Exchange troops

Over a delicate — and “very tricky,” he admits — period of years, Casale Media’s ad network was retired and the Index Exchange SSP was born. Andrew became its majordomo in 2015 and has remained in charge since, during a period of prolific change in the industry.

In recent years, Index Exchange has been instrumental in championing header bidding and post-cookie standards such as UID2.0. It remains a business champion for usability, transparency and the publishers’ yield interests.

“You know what’s funny?” Andrew reflects at the end of the conversation. “We started the company before the cookie was used in advertising, and we will [be in] a future with no cookie involved in our platform. We [will] outlive the cookie.”

Andrew and The Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green in 2018, discussing UID

Leave a Reply