Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Do Analytics Companies Grow?

Some great data for those who are looking at advertising analytics and evaluating the size of the opportunity:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Inc. 200 for Mpire

Not that we're concerned with winning awards (we like winning business more), but our SaaS analytics company was recognized by Inc. Magazine as the #166 fastest growing private company in America today, which means we need to make room on the trophy shelf (scoot over Red Herring 100 and OnMedia 100). We're also #21 in our industry, and #5 in Seattle.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Compliance Dilemma

Most days at AdXpose we have positive, empowering conversations with prospects and clients. I feel good that no matter who we're talking to, we have the best interests of advertisers and the industry at whole in mind, and that we're powering positive media valuation and efficiency, not just playing the audit and collections game. Ad networks and publishers, to date, have largely embraced the platform because it actually helps them with yield and margin optimization by analyzing placements and performance.

But some days we get the knee jerk reaction from an ad network exec, usually when an agency client "requires" AdXpose on a buy. He is wary of us. He's worried about data usage, margin erosion, and make-goods on false positives. In his eyes all verification companies are a nuisance or worse. If he's already working with a competitor of ours, he feels like he already paid off the cops, and now here comes another cop asking for the envelope full of cash.

I have empathy. Anytime a conversation begins with the power dynamic skewed thusly, it's hard to get our pitch out from under the weight of the reaction - because we aren't initially perceived as adding value, we're perceived as extracting it, at a cost to the prospect. If that were the whole story, of course, we wouldn't have any clients nor a long term business prospect.

The unfortunate reality is that, while most ad networks see our service as a proactive tool for closing new business, increasing margin and client retention, adjusting the profile of their downstream traffic, or at least for managing their brand client placements, some are ardently against any move towards transparency.

In my experience, this is usually caused by one of the following situations: 1) The network is buying audience extension on indirect distribution, does not have adequate controls around the practice, and does not wish it to be known; 2) the network believes it is legally or strategically at risk because the third party verification provider may disclose or leverage the data it collect inappropriately; or 3) the network has its own technology solutions and practices for safety and quality control, and finds the business value proposition of a third party verification technology unworthy of investment.

In cases two and three, if we feel we've had a chance to show our stuff and it's still not a fit, I am happy to bow out. While we call ourselves "the Omniture of online ads" and feel we offer a robust analytics platform from which any network would benefit, we also realize that even Omniture does not have 100% market penetration. We can't help everyone.

But the first case is unnerving, because it affirms that our industry is still a long way from being transparent. I wouldn't argue all impressions should be transparent to the publisher level, this obviously runs afoul of some ad net contracts. But to actively omit the fact your traffic is a blend of direct and indirect? Well, that's why the IAB released guidelines. And it's why we offer a service to assist networks and exchanges in complying with those guidelines. The question remains, however, as to whether guidelines are enough - the list of nets who have committed to the IAB program is still very short.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trust and Verify

We applaud Google for the steps it's taking to improve transparency and safety on ADX. But buyers will still benefit from the specialized, robust, and most importantly independent 3rd party verification and analytics.

It also sounds like they don't approve of the blocking methodology of some AdXpose competitors...we'll see who's certified.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Market For Verification Still Early

I recently participated in a discussion thread about brand ads showing up on torrent sites. Yes, this is my sad life. But there was surprising incredulity that in this age of publicity around verification and transparency, brand ads could actually appear in inappropriate places - it's as though people expect that every ad impression online is being protected by a verifier/ad blocker. Here's my response to that way of thinking...

It's still very early. Market penetration of proactive ad blocking (note: big distinction between this and simple "verification" where an auditor is actually incentivized to wait until issues arise and chase down make-goods) is miniscule. General verification as a whole covers less than 100B impressions per month. While media buyers and networks alike are embracing the technology it will be another few quarters (at least) before ubiquitous verification starts putting the bad actors out of business.

But even then, 100% brand safety is simply unrealistic. It's the typical arms race scenario: As long as there are media dollars doled out to fly by night traffic aggregators, there will be incentive for nefarious behavior and technology implemented to enable it. In a world where this is the reality, your best bet is to find a real technology that addresses the issues honestly and transparently. Or stick to the WSJ homepage.

Media Buyers Are Getting Hooked On Verification

While I still believe that online advertising analytics is a business with a giant market opportunity, similar to Web analytics, and that ad verification is a product offering within that business, it is heartening to see the groundswell of adpotion and support of verification as a stand alone 3rd party solution. Witness...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Verifying the Verifier

Sure, it may remind you of an Elvis Costello song, but we're OK with that. After hearing clients and pundits alike express concern about data usage and privacy WRT analytics, we decided to get ahead of the issue by becoming the first provider in our space to become 3rd party certified.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Step on the Path to Ubiquity

More momentum for ad verification, via iMedia. Thanks to Josh Dreller for the diligence and inclusion. It is telling that the market still needs a "verification 101-style" introduction though, man is it early for this space.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Don't MediaMind if I Do

Decent IPO. But what is really impressive is the positioning shift. From ad server to integrated solutions platform in less than six months - that's fancy footwork. I wonder though if they actually meant to get thrown into the DSP bucket? That label undervalues MediaMind's real technology advantages and breadth of offering...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Be Big or Be Lunch

JEGI's Tolman Geffs makes an interesting analogy between the proliferation of online ad ecosystem innovators and the Cambrian explosion.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fearmongering Sells Newspapers

The Luddites are on the warpath. Legitimate marketers and online ad ecosystem players are scared to speak up, with good reason. Thank God for the IAB.

IASH Members To Choose Content Verification

We already knew AdXpose was on the short list - now we have been told IASH members will need to select an accredited supplier to implement by January 1 2011. With a strong presence in the UK already, AdXpose is positioned very well to capture this opportunity. Will the IAB follow the lead of IASH here and make accredited vendor selection mandatory for its members as well?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Web Crawling Is Not Disruptive Technology...

...Contrary to what SearchForecast claims. It appears they are systematically crawling the web to identify sites where AdSense is present, and thus recording the site URL and the publisherid found in the AdSense tag to compile a list of AdSense publisher sites. Which is what ad networks have done to each other for years in order to create lead lists to poach publishers.

Future of VC

Pretty thoughtful and right-minded stuff from Paul Graham. Focuses on early stage funding but I found some useful bits for even a C round entrepreneur.