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Interview: Rowly Bourne, Founder, Rezonence

By Laura Thomas  //  Thu 5th March 2015

What was your first job?

Washing up in the local pub. 

What made you want to pursue a career in this industry?
While working in technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) M&A at Citi, I saw the huge challenge faced by premium publishers such as the Financial Times and the MailOnline to monetise their online content. In spite of these two exampled businesses having contrarian business models they both have not cracked this massive problem. 

The print to digital cliff has crushed ARPUs (average revenue per user). Readers have moved with technology to a globally open access web (where it is hard to put in a paywall as everyone else is giving it away for free), and advertising spend has not moved to the digital assets of the once pre-requisited news and magazine publishers nearly as fast as the readers. 

I set about finding the solution and did what I knew best, got out and met people. After networking across all the start up forums and meet ups, I met my co-founder Prash and together we set off to save premium publishing on the web, while keeping it free for you all. 

Twelve months on, the opportunity / challenge is even bigger than we imagined, with mobile and social cliffs hitting publisher ARPU before the shift to digital has even finished. 

What is your favourite media / marketing resource?

The Rezonence weekly, it includes all the best articles trhat a media savvy player in the market must read (sign up by emailing

What is your favourite media / marketing campaign to date?
I love the below set of ad campaigns, because it shows how two fierce rivals can still have a bit of fun!


Who is your biggest inspiration?

Sir Martin Sorrell, buying a stake in Wire and Plastic Products Plc, a UK manufacturer of wire baskets, following his search for a public entity through which to build a worldwide marketing services company... hero.

If you didn't work in this industry, what do you think you'd be doing?
I would still be at Citi Group advising companies such as WWP, Vodafone, blinkx, Reed Elsevier, Pearson and Deutshe Telekom on murders and executions!

What is the best piece of career advice you've ever received?
It does not matter what you do in your twenties, as long by the time you are thirty, you know what you're going to be doing at forty... which is a more pragmatic way of saying your career is a marathon not a sprint!

Tell us something interesting about yourself.
Next week I am getting married at the Tower of London. Where heads used to roll, confetti will be thrown. There are three ways to get married in a Royal chapel; one be royalty (we are not), two fight for the military company that defends the chapel (again, nope) and finally, just ask nicely (not many people try number three).

How has FreeWall changed the way publishers, advertisers and readers look at advertising?

For Readers -
we are keeping premium publishing open access... yay no paywall
For Publishers - enabling their businesses to stay open, in spite of all the market challenges
For Advertisers - the chance to know that your ad was seen by a human, fully in view, and that they understood what you were 'selling' ...essentially, we're offering piece of mind / guaranteed ROI

What's your favourite restaurant?
Sushi cafe in Battersea, London. All you can eat Sushi for £14.99 is epic!

What piece of technology could you not live without?
Sky Go

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your current role?
There are so many opportunities available to us, making sure you invest in the right ones is today's and likely tomorrow's biggest challenge.

We all know Facebook, but who still uses Bebo, WAYN, MySpace, etc. All started the race, but only one looks set to finish it, so when did the management team pick the wrong opportunity, or not pick the right opportunities. 

What do you think the future holds for Rezonence?

The future will be programmatic...

Programmatic is as broad a term as advertising is. It is the automated trading of ad inventory. More sophisticated programmatic may include algorithms, but all this means is that there is a set of rules to follow when deciding an outcome. So for all the hype, it is just using computers for what people and phones previously did. 

Currently programmatic is seen as a method of buying and selling low value remnant inventory, but we see a future that holds a premium dimension to the programmatic play. 

Rezonence has a network of solely premium publishers that can reach +60% of the UK and we are launching programmatic across this network during Q2 & Q3, in two forms. 

1. The automation of direct deals, through deal IDs, enabling the advertiser to use their own DSP to 
pick its preferred audience. There is clearly benefit to the advertiser by controlling the targeting and for our repeat clients automation of the monthly IO instruction. 

2. The trusted market place enables premium publishers to enter the programmatic market whilst maintaining their brand is not degraded by setting floors on their inventory whilst ensuring that inappropriate advertising is prevented

Traditionally, programmatic has traded on CPM. FreeWall, the Rezonence ad-unit is leading the charge on Cost Per Engagement programmatic trading, which ultimately guarantees a return on the advertisers investment. 

We believe the ability for the advertiser to target their customers in premium environments, whilst publishers control their inventory will ensure positive long term brand development for both sides of the programmatic market. 

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