‘Viewable Ads’ and Brand Dollars: We’ve Seen This Movie Before

Tom Shields, Yieldex Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer

(This article originally appeared on AdExchanger on 9/20/2012.  Click here to see the article)

Ever since my March column addressing viewable impressions, I’ve been tagged as “that anti-viewable impressions guy.” This misses the point. I’m not against viewable impressions. That’s like being against vegetables – they’re probably good for you. What I am against is the idea that if we can just move the standard to viewable impressions, we’ll unlock the flood of brand advertising dollars that are too afraid to move to online.  Thing is, we’ve seen this movie at least twice before.

Here’s what I mean:

Back in the mid to late ’90s, some advertisers started to realize that many impressions and clicks were being created by robots and spiders deployed by huge companies like Excite, Infoseek and Lycos. Industry experts predicted that if we could just make sure every impression was seen by a human, we’d get those brand dollars. Publishers worried that their impression counts and revenues would drop precipitously. With time and effort the industry adopted some standards that mostly solved the problem, but it didn’t unleash the flood of ad dollars.

Then in the early 2000′s, third-party ad servers really started to take off, and discrepancies began to arise. Advertisers started to insist on paying according to their numbers, not the publisher’s counts.  Again, industry experts predicted that using advertiser numbers would unleash brand dollars.  Again, publishers agonized over losing impressions and revenue. Now, the majority of premium ad buys are paid on third-party ad server numbers, and the money flood hasn’t materialized.

Here we are again.  Everyone knows measuring viewability — despite its obvious flaws — is better than just measuring delivery. Industry groups are pushing for it, because it wins elections as a small but marketable success. Publishers are dragging their feet because of the cost to deploy, and potential impact on revenue. Digital agencies see it as a bright shiny object they can use to prove they “get” digital to their clients. For companies in the space, it’s essential to support it – allowing clients to forecast viewability. But in the end, it won’t solve the real problems of brand advertisers online, so it’s more of a distraction than a panacea.

As I stated before, the real challenges we need to solve are laid out in the other four principles of Making Measurement Make Sense: rationalizing measurement across media, understanding online’s contribution to brand building, and generally making it easier to spend big budgets online and get ROI that makes sense. Let’s focus our efforts on thesechallenges, so we can grow the market to $200 billion for everyone.

The Future of Ad Tech? Look at What’s Happened to Financial Markets

Andy Nibley, Yieldex CEO

(This article originally appeared on AdAge on 8/28/2012.  Click here to see the article)

If you want to see the future of the ad-tech industry, look to the history of the financial- services industry.

Not so long ago, in the 1980s, financial markets were pretty much opaque. Very little information was shared openly and deals were largely based on cozy relationships between buyers and sellers.

Most deals were conducted by phone or by fax. Some deals were hatched at lunch with free-flowing wine. Country-club games like golf and tennis also provided backdrops for relationships that translated into strong trading partnerships.

Electronic financial information services began to change that by wiring up the various players in the market, providing them with data they never had before. It started with pricing data, where market participants began to share information with one another for the overall benefit and efficiency of the market.

Next, news and information that could move and influence those prices was layered on. Eventually, analytics that could help decipher and predict trends and patterns began to emerge on traders’ terminals. Companies like Bloomberg and Reuters — firms that developed financial news, analytics and transactional products –made a fortune.

Once the pricing data, news and analytics were in place, these terminals began to offer the ability for traders to conduct business with each other directly through these machines. The last piece to the puzzle was programmatic trading done by computers themselves. Today most of the trading in the financial markets is done by computers talking to computers, not humans trading with humans. These trading machines need data, third-party information and analytics to survive.

The entire revolutionary evolution of the financial-services industry took about 30 years.

Fast forward to today. The digital ad-tech industry is only starting to emerge from a decade of opaque, information-starved deal-making. A lot of the deals are still predicated on relationships. Media buyers are bribed with concert tickets, meals at fancy restaurants and other goodies. Real-time trading is still a tiny fraction of the market.

But in the last couple of years, data have started to become available on a large scale, even if fragmented and delivered by many different sources. It is safe to assume that eventually this data and other information will be aggregated and shared throughout the industry.

Analytics, particularly for things like yield management, are still in their infancy in the ad-tech industry, but are starting to take hold. Forecasting and spotting future trends will become critically important to buyers and sellers. Eventually, it is reasonable to expect that computers, driven by data, information and analytics, will be doing most, if not all, of the trading.

It may be too early to tell exactly who the Bloombergs and Reuters of the ad-tech industry will be, but if the history of the financial-services industry is any indication, the future of the ad-tech industry should not be too difficult to map. We’ve seen the movie before.

The Publisher Impact Of Facebook Exchange And Ad Network

(Originally posted on AdExchanger, July 31 2012:  http://www.adexchanger.com/social-media/sell-side-facebook/ )

There’s been a lot of talk about about how a Facebook Exchange or a Facebook ad network will benefit buy-side interests looking for reach, frequency and better performance. But, what about publishers other than Facebook? – where will they stand as Facebook rolls out these new ad strategies? AdExchanger reached out to a selection of ad ecosystem executives for their opinions. We started with the following questions:

“What effect will the Facebook Exchange have on publishers? And, what if there’s a Facebook ad network – what’s the impact on publishers?”

Tom ShieldsYieldex

“The Facebook Exchange is a separate ocean from the current world of RTB exchanges, and as such, will likely have very little effect on most publishers. One way to think of it is as a really big private exchange, with a good underlying DMP. While it is possible that the sheer size of this pool will siphon off significant dollars from the rest of the RTB universe, my personal opinion is that marketers will use this as a way to increase their budgets. If so, the rising tide will lift all boats, and the actual effect will be minimal.


A Facebook ad network would likely affect publishers the same way Google AdSense does – as a source to get somewhat higher yield for remnant inventory. Publishers who traditionally get most of their revenue from ad networks and exchanges will find this a welcome addition. Marketers will likely put the FB ad network in the same bucket as the other large reach ad networks and exchanges, so I would think Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and AOL would be the most worried about losing budget dollars. Conversely, publishers who rely primarily on direct sales will probably feel little short-term impact.


One other area Facebook could make a significant impact is in ad effectiveness measurement, one of the most-cited problems of brand advertising. Facebook’s unique reach could enable it to compete aggressively with ComScore and Nielsen while deepening its relationships with brand advertisers.


The more interesting question is what publishers can do to prepare for the possibility of a Facebook ad network. Facebook could be a new source of high-quality data, and publishers should be prepared to take advantage by finding solutions, people, and processes to sell audiences and not just context. And if Facebook does start doing brand attribution measurement, publishers will need to incorporate that data into their yield optimization strategies.”


Facebook Could Hold Key To Success For Publishers

Ever since going public, Facebook has been challenged by the advertising and financial world to prove that it’s core business model – display advertising – can work.

Analysts keep comparing Facebook to Google, a company that succeeded financially early in its life.  The key difference, off course, is that Google developed and perfected a business model that caters to the direct marketing world – identify users’ purchase intent and match them up with a relevant offer. Facebook, on the other hand, knows virtually nothing about an individual’s purchase intent, but knows a lot about who the individual is. This lends itself to brand advertising.

The difference is simple and sheds a new light on one of the biggest challenges for the online advertising space.  Most brands still think that the Web only works for direct marketing, and not brand advertising.

Just look at the key metrics that most bands are forced to use to measure brand campaigns success – impressions, unique visitors and, yes, clicks. These metrics make sense as a way to measure reaction to a promotion, but not increased awareness. Brands complain that there aren’t any other, better, standardized metrics to gauge brand lift or engagement. For the time being, they are right.

The IAB has taken a stab at rectifying this, but hasn’t been able to get industry adoption so far.

This has had a significant impact on premium publishers that sell the promise of a high quality audience into which brand advertisers can tap.  As long as better brand metrics are not established, accepted and adopted, premium publishers will not be able to fully monetize their audience base.

But Facebook is now putting its full force behind proving to the world that display advertising works. It would not be a complete surprise then, if Facebook were to develop, and get industry adoption for, engagement metrics as a way to establish its business.

In the end, it may be Facebook that assumes the role of the eight hundred pound gorilla that finally brings the brand advertisers to display.

By Yael Avidan, VP Marketing










Yieldex’s Andy Nibley on Streamlining Ad Ops for Publishers

(This interview originally appeared on TheMakegood on 3/23/2012.  Click here to see the article)

Andy Nibley is the CEO of Yieldex, a company that enables online publishers to maximize advertising revenue. Previously, Andy has been a CEO in multiple media industries and has worked at four different media giants: WPP, Vivendi, Bertelsmann and Reuters. We recently spoke with Andy about his current role.

The Makegood: Andy, you are a true media veteran, having been a CEO in five different media industries — news, Internet, music, film and advertising. What would you say is the common thread among all of them?

AN: I would say that the one common element amongst these industries is creativity. Each one of these sectors is very different from the others. But each of these industries has very talented, very imaginative people working to create great things. Journalists, musicians, actors, copywriters and software coders share many common features. They tend to resist authority figures and consider themselves to be rugged individualists. They can be highly emotional and temperamental. And they tend to be motivated more by what they do than what they get paid. In short, they are rebels. But it is precisely because of these independent attributes that I find folks in these industries so creative and so interesting to work with.

The Makegood: Yieldex is the leading provider of inventory and revenue management solutions for digital publishers. Can you tell us about some of the top line benefits that publishers gain in working with Yieldex?

 AN: Probably, the biggest benefit is a significant uplift in revenue. Digital publishers who have used us for at least a year have experienced, on average, a 50 percent increase in revenue. Our system also eliminates many of the pain points that Ad Operations people face on a daily basis. Instead of spending days and even weeks working on reports, they can now produce these documents with the press of a button. This allows Ad Operations personnel to shift their focus from doing menial reporting tasks to concentrating on providing strategic guidance to their publishers on how to make more money.

The Makegood: In September of 2011, Yieldex announced a $10MM Series C round of funding, raised to accelerate development of new and existing products. What types of new products can we expect to see coming out next? 

AN: To date, a lot of our products and efforts have centered around Ad Operations. But we are now building out and will soon release products designed to help the Sales function. I think as we move forward we will also be developing new and innovative tools for the Finance, Editorial and C-Suite (CEO, CMO, CRO, CFO, etc.) groups at publishers. Stay tuned for the next phase of yield optimization. It’s going to be an exciting ride.

The Makegood:  Can you tell us about some recent successes your clients have seen?

AN: Aside from generating significantly more revenue, a number of our clients have found new and interesting ways to employ our solution to maximize their yields. They have found ways to dramatically cut under delivery, while eliminating over delivery as well. We have also been able to help our customers develop sustainable rate cards and eliminate revenue-draining practices like discounting. At the same time, our product team has been focused on building features based on our customer’s feedback. A recent example is developing APIs and plug-ins that allow our clients to import our data and use it within their existing tools and systems.

The Makegood: Thanks, Andy.

Yieldex Continues Building NYC Team With The Addition of Chief Revenue Officer and VP of Marketing

Hires DoubleClick/Google veteran, Andrew Rutledge as Chief Revenue Officer and Yael Avidan as Vice President of Marketing

New York, NY – April 30, 2012 – Yieldex, the leading provider of inventory and revenue management solutions for digital publishers, today announced a key addition to its management team with the hiring of DoubleClick/Google veteran Andrew Rutledge as Chief Revenue Officer and former Mediamind marketer, Yael Avidan as Vice President of Marketing.

Yieldex is focused on working with premium publishers looking to leverage the company’s platform to increase the value of their inventory by providing hyper-accurate inventory analysis, forecasting and pricing. The company is coming off a year of impressive growth and recently closed a $10 million Series C Round.

“We’re building a world-class sales organization and these are two critical hires as we continue to grow our customer base,” said Andy Nibley, CEO of Yieldex. “Andrew and Yael make a powerful combination and they will definitely take our sales and marketing to the next level,” according to Nibley.

Rutledge brings a strong background in global sales and account management to the growing Yieldex team. He previously served as General Manager and Vice President of Publisher Development at PubMatic. He was Vice President of Marketer Sales at DoubleClick and Director, Agency and Advertiser Sales at Google.

Avidan comes to Yieldex from DG MediaMind where she was responsible for the long-term vision of the company’s offering and rolling out new products and services globally. She previously worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading global management consulting company, where she consulted media companies. Avidan graduated from Columbia Business School with an MBA.

Can Brands Become Money-Making Publishers Themselves?

Major brands are slowly discovering that e-commerce may not be the only revenue stream the digital world has to offer them. There may be gold for them in advertising as well.

It has always been assumed by media industry pundits that brands could not become advertising-supported digital publishers because they did not reach enough eyeballs to make advertising financially meaningful to them. But that appears to be changing.

Take a look at the Comscore rankings for December 2011: Major brands are rapidly becoming publishers themselves. Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Sears, Target, Best Buy, and AT&T have all moved into the top 50 U.S. online publishers. Of those seven, Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Sears are already running ads on their websites.

It is true that these brands are nowhere close to the Facebooks, Googles, Microsofts and Yahoos of the world when it comes to advertising impressions and, no doubt, advertising revenue.

But these brands have been moving up the leaderboard for months and are now giving a number of other online publishers a serious run for their money, at least in terms of unique visitors and page views.

Consider that the seven brands listed above now represent 14 percent of the publishers in the top 50 publishers in the United States, and all of these brands were basically nowhere to be found in the rankings a year ago.

In December, each of them finished higher in the Comscore rankings than premium advertising sites like Yelp, Scripps, Fox News, The Washington Post, IGN and the NFL.

It may seem obvious at first blush, but it makes perfect sense for brands to leverage their massive audiences to become advertising-supported publishers. These brands have hundreds of millions, if not billions, of advertising opportunities on their webpages every month. Why not take advantage of those opportunities and pick up what could be found money?

Amazon, for example, has made a business out of listing and selling a wide range of products. Why shouldn’t it sell advertising on those same product pages? It would be kind of like those “end caps” at the supermarket: close to the context. Without the ad, maybe you wouldn’t have thought to buy that salsa otherwise. Let the best brands win, or at least, extract money from other brands to prominently advertise their wares.

And I’m sure that the big e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay and Orbitz have figured out that the margins on advertising are a whole lot healthier than the razor-thin margins they get from selling retail products.

It would be foolhardy to think that advertising revenue on e-commerce sites would replace the product revenue any time soon. But accepting advertising would provide these sites with another revenue stream and one with very high margins.

It is also worth pointing out that brands usually have a fair amount of first-party data about the visitors to their websites. Setting aside privacy issues, why wouldn’t Bank of America target Mercedes ads to its high-net-worth individuals and Kia ads to its savings account customers?

The democratizing force of the internet forced traditional publishers to scramble to compete online with new digital publishers who built their brands purely in cyberspace.

Yahoo owned the online news space more than a decade before The New York Times created digital subscriptions. The Huffington Post perfected the art of aggregation and community. (Some publishers would have other choice words for what Huffington did.) And Pandora flipped the iTunes revolution with the oldest broadcast medium that still exists, offering music lovers the chance to create “ideal” radio stations.

So here’s a fresh example of the internet’s law of unintended consequences: Corporations who never had an interest in publishing may find that there is money to be made by sharing their customers with other brands.

It’s not exactly Macy’s sending you to Gimbel’s, but it’s pretty damn close.

(This post was originally published in Wired Opinion on February 14, 2012)

By Andy Nibley, CEO Yieldex

Moving to “Viewable Impressions” Isn’t The Answer

I am biased, I’ll admit it.  I wrote the first technical impression counting standards for the IAB in 1998.  And I think that trying to move the industry to “viewable impressions” is a bad idea, for three reasons: it won’t make any difference to marketing ROI, it doesn’t help bring dollars online, and it will be expensive and confusing to adopt.

Let’s start with the argument that using “viewable impressions” improves marketing ROI.  Measurement vendors trumpet “CTRs are higher!” for the marketer, while “CPMs will rise! for the publisher.  Let’s do a little math.  C3 Metrics claims that CTRs are understated by 179% because so many ads aren’t in view.  Wow – CTRs will double!  Except, publishers will charge double the CPM for “viewable impressions”, so the CPC (and ROI) is actually the same.  On the publisher side, Magid Abraham presented to the IAB (PDF) an example of 35m premium impressions selling at $5 CPM netting $175k to the publisher.  However, only 75% of those are “viewable” according to ComScore, so the eCPM is “actually” $6.67.  Wow – CPMs will rise!  Except that the publisher can only charge that higher CPM (CPV, actually) for “viewable impressions”, so their revenue stays the same.   And somebody has to pay the measurement vendor.  This is progress?

These “increases” may improve the perception of online advertising, but marketers and publishers are smart enough to know they don’t make any real difference.  Yes, the current impression standard is flawed in many ways, but we have over a decade of experience in setting rate cards, negotiating deals, and measuring results with it.  A new standard will have new as-yet-unknown flaws.  More importantly, it means creating new rate cards for CPV, and then redefining CTR (should it be VCTR?) with viewable impression as the denominator, so people don’t compare apples and oranges when looking at historical data.  The cynic in me says that this apples/oranges comparison is the main reason this idea is getting traction, but I can’t imagine anyone I know falling for that.  Other cynical reasons for the excitement may be that many agencies see this new metric as just the ticket to demonstrate to their clients that they “get” digital, and a few technology vendors see this as their path to revenue.  But in my view, this metric just adds another tax without creating any real value.

The real challenges we need to solve are laid out in the other 4 principles of Making Measurement Make Sense: rationalizing measurement across media, understanding online’s contribution to brand building, and generally making it easier to spend big budgets online and get ROI that makes sense.  Let’s focus our efforts on these challenges, so we can grow the market to $200 billion for everyone.

(This article originally appeared in the AdExchanger.com The Sell-Sider” column on 3.29.2012)

Follow Tom Shields (@tshields), Yieldex (@yieldex) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger.com) on Twitter.

 By Tom Shields, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Yieldex

Join Yieldex and Google at the IAB Great Debate on Tuesday April 17th

The Great Debate: Who Owns the Data?

On April 17, join the Great Debate on “Who Owns the Data?” co-sponsored by YieldEx and Google. Hear industry luminaries take on this thorny subject in a spirited debate moderated by IAB COO Patrick Dolan. Featured guests will include Tom Shields, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, YieldEx, Jason Kelly, Chief Revenue Officer, Admeld, and John Montgomery, COO, GroupM Interaction. Refreshments will be provided. Seating is limited, so register now. There is no charge to attend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
6:30pm ET
IAB Ad Lab
116 E. 27th St. 8th Floor
New York City

Click here to register at the IAB site: http://www.iab.net/the_great_debate

For additional information, please contact Laura Baker at lbaker@iab.net.

PubMatic, Google and DoubleClick Veteran Andrew Rutledge Appointed Chief Revenue Officer at Yieldex

Yieldex has made a key addition to its management team with the hire of PubMatic, DoubleClick and Google veteran Andrew Rutledge as Chief Revenue Officer. In this role, Rutledge will lead the Yieldex sales organization and leverage his years of experience with premium publishers to increase the platform’s growing market share.

Yieldex is focused on working with premium publishers looking to leverage the company’s platform to increase the value of their inventory by providing hyper-accurate inventory analysis, forecasting and pricing. The company is coming off a year of impressive growth and recently closed a $10 million Series C Round.

“With the addition of Andrew to the Yieldex team, we are continuing to build an outstanding sales organization with a history of proven success in yield optimization,” said Andy Nibley, CEO of Yieldex. ”We are very excited to have someone with Andrew’s vast experience to lead our sales organization and help expand the Yieldex platform globally.”

Rutledge brings a strong background in global sales and account management to the growing Yieldex team. He previously served as General Manager and Vice President of Publisher Development at PubMatic. He was Vice President of Marketer Sales at DoubleClick and Director, Agency and Advertiser Sales at Google.

In addition, Yieldex announced it has promoted John Nives to Vice President of Strategic Accounts. Nives has been instrumental in doubling the Yieldex client roster and together with Rutledge creates one of the most senior and seasoned executive sales teams in
the industry.