ADOTAS – Ad verifiers continue to extend the olive branch to the supply side — a month after AdSafe unveiled its Network Monitor, Mpire has partnered with independent ad network and tech platform ZEDO.
AdXpose campaign verification software will be integrated directly into ZEDO’s ad server, which will also give publishers access to real-time campaign data. In addition, Mpire is allowing ZEDO to resell AdXpose to its 1,000 publishers in what’s possibly the first-ever ad verification reseller program.
Ryan Polley, AdXpose senior vice president of strategic development, chatted with us about the ZEDO partnership, other recent Mpire developments and why the supply side is so wary of ad verification services.
ADOTAS: What factors led you to partner with ZEDO? Who approached whom?
POLLEY: Because of our unique technology approach, we were able to integrate natively within the largest global ad servers early in our product life cycle — in some cases, before we even had customers. ZEDO was one of those initial ad servers that opened their technology to us, and as the verification market matured, ZEDO saw an opportunity to create new revenue by offering publishers the ability to own verification themselves versus having it pushed down on them by agencies.
Have you always planned to offer a reseller program? How can publishers best take advantage of the offering?
Yes, a reseller strategy has always been key to our business. At the end of the day, we are a Software as a Service (SaaS) analytics solution – much like Omniture, but for ads. SaaS businesses generally start out with a lot of direct sales, but they scale on the back of strong VAR relationships. In our case, it is crucial to leverage the global sales forces of ad servers and ad networks to evangelize and co-market our solutions to marketers, agencies and publishers.
Do you think this deal has larger overtones for the display industry?
I think this and other relationships we have built in the infrastructure and supply side of display speak to the rapid evolution of verification. Looking back at how the verification space came about, advertisers were in some cases being taken to the cleaners by unsavory networks and publishers who hid their business practices behind an opaque curtain. Verification shined a bright light on the industry, enabling advertisers/agencies to gain the upper hand – to a fault.
We are now at the point where white-hat publishers and networks are being overly scrutinized and penalized, in many cases by entities who are not held accountable or even sharing the offending data with the publisher. The next job of verification is to create transparency by giving both sides access to the same data, as AdXpose does via a universal reporting dashboard for all parties. Transparency leads to efficiency, efficiency leads to trust, trust leads to growth, growth leads to prosperity…
You also recently partnered with CONTEXTWEB to offer verification services on its ad exchange — how do these partnerships fit in with your overall strategy?
Again, we have found that working with the intermediary layers of the market to monitor, optimize, and share their performance information simply makes sense: the intermediaries are often the entities who pay the bill, so it’s our view that they should be our partners, not our adversaries.
How does your ad verification differ from your top competitors? You can tell us why you think you’re better — we won’t call you out for boasting.
It is really about the technology, and the breadth of offering. While we do offer verification, we are a full blown ad analytics solution to boot. First, we have a lightweight and non-obtrusive technology, and a powerful reporting interface. We “ride shotgun” with every ad impression to collect information in real time, as opposed to using crawlers to guesstimate what occurred when the ad was served.
We are easy to implement, because we are natively embedded within all major ad servers. We also have a breadth of relationships with nearly every top 50 ad network, to the point where any advertiser can choose to create an account with us and immediately have access to universal reporting across all their campaigns, if their partner networks allow.
Also, we measure and report on media efficiency metrics such as in-ad engagement and time spent, true viewable impression and time viewable, and creative heatmapping, all at the impression level. This means we can power top-of-funnel performance analytics, by tying client conversion data to those display efficiency metrics. Finally, we focus on preventing make-goods, not creating them.
Grumbling about ad verification companies has become a national pastime of ad networks. Why they always be hatin’? What are their biggest concerns with services like AdXpose and how are you trying to quell their irritation?
Can you blame them? Imagine this scenario as a publisher or ad network:
- A verification company emails you apropos of nothing, and tells you that you owe $20,000 in make goods on a campaign you ran a month ago, or
- tells you the advertiser you have worked with for 10 years will stop advertising with you unless you pay an audit fee to that verification company, then,
- on the back of the audit fee YOU paid, that third party produces an opaque, non-standardized report that you NEVER SEE before it goes to YOUR ADVERTISER
- where it causes fire drills, heartburn, and in some cases millions of dollars in lost business, and the majority of the time this is due to FALSE POSITIVES or other errors…
Well, let’s just say we see this as a market opportunity. Agencies and networks and publishers are all partners. Creating friction and adversarial relationships is not in the long term interest of any players in the value chain, except certain verification companies.
Our approach is whoever is paying for the solution is our partner. We work with partners to collect data in real time, and monitor and optimize non-compliant traffic out of the mix before it can become statistically significant.
In fact, although we offer ad blocking, in most cases we recommend against using it until an initial optimization period has passed — otherwise, false positives can decimate a campaign and cause major issues with suppliers. Then we allow partners to create sub-account logins, so that their clients can view verification and performance data from the same trusted source as the partner does, ensuring seamless communication around a previously thorny issue.
How do you balance advertiser and publisher concerns?
For advertisers, it means protecting their brands, ensuring that they’re getting what they paid for and helping to optimize their creative and/or media buys. For publishers, we’re helping them protect and optimize their pricing and reputations, equipping them with the tools to own their data while still responding to the requirements of the market for verification, and broadcasting to the world that they’re a trusted partner.
The key is working with both sides to enable the relationships and business agreements to continue in a positive fashion. To borrow from the legal world, our approach is much more an arbitration model than a litigation model.
What was the significance of receiving the TRUSTe seal of approval?
There has been some concern in the industry around policing the practices of small private companies who create value for customers by helping manage their advertising information. We wanted to be proactive and transparent about the way we do business and use technology, so we became the first entity in our space to be vetted by a third party.
We know that TRUSTe is just a piece of the puzzle, and we are working with multiple industry initiatives around standardization of terms and practices regarding ad verification.
Has ad verification become a necessity in online advertising? Where do you see the space headed in the near term?
We recently conducted a survey of more than 200 agencies and networks, asking them about ad verification, and we’ll be releasing a white paper on the results. As a preview, I can tell you that nearly every respondent sees ad verification growing significantly in 2011, and that the category is here to stay.
Near term, we see ad verification becoming table stakes for the majority of networks and publishers selling high volume inventory, and growing from there. In terms of consolidation, there is certainly potential for technology-driven, scaled businesses to provide strategic value to a host of categories.
For our part, we look at the web analytics space as a good proxy for how ad analytics overall might mature, and obviously there was room for a few big players to create a lot of value as that space grew up. Again, we don’t see ad verification as an end in and of itself, rather a way to build relationships and create value for end users that we can expand to a broader analytics offering.
Who verifies the verifiers?
Whether it is IASH, the IAB, the MRC, TRUSTe or any other three letter acronym, the key is that verification and analytics providers should be held to the same standards as measurement companies and others who are critical drivers of valuation of inventory and confirmation of delivery in this online ecosystem.